31 March, 2008

Dr Who: Refresher Course 1.01

What with the new series of Dr Who just a few ordinary days away, some people might be wondering just what all the fuss is about. Just who is this Dr Who person anyway? And what should I know about his past that might make all of the show's constant in-jokes and back-references a bit easier to understand?

Fear not! A quick dip into the TV Cream Dr Who Matrix Databank will answer all such questions and tell you everything you need to know about this long-running (except when it was axed for 16 years) children's science fiction programme. And if there's anything you still don't know, why not email digicreamguide@tvcream.co.uk, and have it explained in this week's Dr Who special Creamguide mailout.

In the meantime...


1) WHAT IS DR WHO?
Created by Terry Nation in 1963 when his boiler broke down, Dr Who is the long-running BBCtv children's serial about a grumpy inventor who travels through time and space. The series originally ran for 26 years on television, latterly being popularised by Ian Levine. Dr Who is both the name of the show and the man himself, a bit like Cannon, MacGyver, ALF and Pob.


2) WHO HAS PLAYED DR WHO?
To date, Dr Who has been played by nine different actors, the role changing from person to person via a process which has become known within the series' own mythology as 're-casting'.

a) THE FIRST DR WHO was Dr Who William Hartnell - a confused old racist with blackened teeth and a penchant for thrashing teenage girls.

b) THE SECOND DR WHO was Dr Who Patrick Troughton - a piccolo playing Clive Dunn in baggy trousers and Tucker Jenkins haircut.

c) THE THIRD DR WHO was the best Dr Who Jon Pertwee - a satin-clad scientist seconded to the Government's Killing Aliens division where he acted as a kind of Nigel Hawthorne figure spouting nonsense simply to befuddle boss Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart. Later he starred as the unrelated Ailsa Stewart in Australian soap Home and Away.

d) THE FOURTH DR WHO was Dr Who Tom Baker - the cosmic boho. He was known for his enigmatic, wide-eyed, chocolate-voiced companion Adric.

e) THE FIFTH DR WHO was Dr Who Peter Davidson - the pleasant, open-faced, old-young incarnation was regularly demeaned by having to cook supper for The Doctor's Wife, Sandra Dickinson. Matthew Kelly accompanied him on some of his most memorable adventures.

f) THE SIXTH DR WHO was also the best Dr Who Colin Baker - he brought nostrils to the part and an essential 'Doctorishness' that he formulated with Frank Bough on the Breakfast Time sofa.

g) THE SEVENTH DR WHO was Crap Dr Who Sylvester McCoy - a diminutive Scots personality who took the character into uncharted waters by giving him a penchant for Knorr's stock cubes. Was accompanied by future game show host devotee Sophie Aldred.

h) THE EIGHTH DR WHO was Dr Who Christopher Eccleston - a supply teacher from Salford who got knifed by Robert Carlyle and played in a skiffle band with James Bond in Newcastle.

i) THE NINTH DR WHO is Pet Shop Boy David Tennant - he likes hanging out with divas of yesteryear like Dannii Minogue and Richard off Keeping Up Appearances. Looks a bit like Freddie off Freddie And The Dreamers.


3) UNOFFICAL DR WHOS
Over the years, other actors have taken on the role of the Time Lord from Gallifrey; none of these officially count as proper Dr Whos. All 'canon' Whos come into being in the presence of Production Manager Gary Downie who must formally anoint them with the phrase: "Let's make magic". As such, Paul McGann, Peter Cushing, Matt Baker, Nicholas Briggs and prematurely balding 27-year-olds in fan-produced videos don't count.


4) WHAT IS 'TARDIS'?
Tardis is the telephone box in which Dr Who travels around the south east of England and, latterly, Cardiff. Its name is an acronym, standing for 'Toward That Point I Guide My Flight!' Bigger on the inside than the out, this is due to the vehicle being 'dimensionally transcendental', a phrase which means it's bigger on the inside than the out.


5) WHAT'S INSIDE?
Tardis houses two central control rooms, a costume department, a machine dispensing bacon-and-egg cubes and Tegan's bedroom.


6) WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
Dr Who made it in his own backyard, and then travelled to 1960s London with his friend Susan who wanted to make use of Earth's hand-held radios and hooped sweater technology.


7) WHO WERE THE ASSISTANTS?
Throughout his travels, Dr Who was always accompanied by a vulnerable youth with a Dorothy Perkins loyalty card. Dramatically their function revolved around explaining the plot to all the dads looking in and having their name invoked by Dr Who at the end of part one, accompanied either side, by "no!" - eg. "No, Harry, no!"/"No, Victoria, no!"/"No, Peri, nooooOOOOO!" Actress Katy Manning (and she certainly has) is notable for provoking a "Yes, Katy, yes!" from three separate Dr Whos.


8) A GUIDE TO SOME OF THE BEST ASSISTANTS
- KAMELION was a jive-talking android.
- K-9 was a jive-talking android dog.


9) WHO WERE THE FOES?
Dr Who has faced many evil creatures in his time, usually derived from common or garden creatures and implements such as slugs, birds, the late Dave Allen, potatoes and encyclopaedias. They normally display bronchial problems and break Dr Who's name into its constituent syllables.


10) A GUIDE TO SOME OF THE BEST FOES

a) THE DALEKS were a race of Kit-Kat loving mechanoids who ran off static electricity. In the 22nd century they tried to revitalise Bedfordshire's mining industry.

b) THE MASTER was Dr Who's old enemy from school, a complex character who dressed as a gay and enjoyed the works of HG Wells and Oliver Postgate, he was notoriously careless with his Action Man collection.

c) THE ICE WARRIORS had only one directive: to turn Shepherd's Bush into an Ibiza foam party.

d) THE DRACONIANS were a race of 'people monsters' in half-masks created by Jon Pertwee.

e) GAVROCK was an evil Bullman intent on proving Sylvester McCoy couldn't do confrontation scenes.

f) KOQUILLION was a man in an elaborate hat.

g) THE MALUS is just the evil in all of us, isn't it?


11) WHAT ARE WHOVIANS?
Whovians is the given name for Dr Who fans. In order to be a true Whovian, enthusiasts must write at least one piece of Dr Who fan fiction in which they subvert the series' form to deal with a topical issue such as drugs, unemployment, child abuse or who would win out of the Daleks and the Cybermen. Ideally, all Whovians should also:

a) Come up with their own version of the Dr Who logo which they bandy about the internet on crap home-made wallpapers and use as Outpost Gallifrey avatars;

b) Be hugely insulting about anything new in the world of Dr Who (often declaring that they showed it to a 'non-fan' friend who also says it's crap) before re-evaluating their opinion when the next new thing comes along;

c) Display a penchant for hats, glasses, waistcoats, pretentious beards, Matrix-style leather trench coats and middle initials;

d) And attempt to show they possess a broad knowledge of art and culture within which Dr Who is only a small facet whilst drawing all their facts from things they learnt in their pursuit of the programme (which include details of all the BBC1 Controllers up to 1989, the french name for 'fish soup', a rudimentary understanding of the notion of entropy, a slight knowledge of Weetabix promotions during the 1970s and a vague grasp of what Cromer might look like).


12) THE SUPER-FANS
Super-fans are those who have reached a senior position within Whovian circles thanks to their knowledge of the programme or direct access to Colin Baker. Although they may occasionally consort with regular Whovians - or 'mongs' as they refer to them - they tend to gather in secret internet mailing forums, where they spend their time arranging to meet for drinks, reminding each other of their birthdays and covertly ruling the world of Dr Who with flippancy and genuine skill.


13) A GUIDE TO SOME OF THE BEST SUPER-FANS

a) IAN LEVINE saved early Dr Who video cassettes from being wiped before swearing to get vengeance against one 'Roger Barratt' in the early 1990s. As he hasn't been seen since, it has to be assumed he's still busying himself with this vendetta, spending his days placing dual telephone calls until he locates his quarry.

b) J JEREMY BENTHAM's sterling research work was the basis for Whovians' theories in the mid 1980s that there had been five Dr Whos so far. Later transformed into Andrew Pixley.

c) GARY RUSSELL was the inventor of Russell's Rateometer, which Whovians everywhere give five Tardises out of five.

d) PETER HAINING was the architect of all modern Dr Who knowledge. His sequel to 25 Glorious Years is keenly awaited.

e) SEBASTIAN J BROOK absolutely isn't. He really, really is not.


14) WHAT IS THE TV CREAM DR WHO MATRIX DATABANK?
The TV Cream Dr Who Matrix Databank is the internet's biggest holding bay for Dr Who facts and information, in that it lists all the actors who have played Dr Who and has that "No, I said I travel through space and time. I don't visit fantasy island" bit on it.


15) WHERE CAN IT BE FOUND?
Here.


16) AND FOR FURTHER QUESTIONS?
That address again : digicreamguide@tvcream.co.uk - or leave a comment below. It's really up to you.

30 March, 2008

Stilgoe Watch

Introducing a brand new feature...















...dedicated to noting all appearances by the great man in the public eye, be they online, on the radio, on telly, or wherever he Stilgoe's on.

First up, you've seven days to listen to this brilliant show from 1984, wherein Rich, accompanied by Emma Thompson, does skits, limericks and - most importantly - topical songs about health, exercise and stuff, including 'the F-Plan Diet' (replete with comical fart sound effect) and a delicate ode to that most mysterious (and therefore humorous) of objects, the jacuzzi:

"When on the news, it's Cruise
Or the bomb, or Greenham Common,
Though the unemployed are banging at my door
And the third world holds out its bowl for more;
To take the blame I refuse,
Don't shout at me J'accuse,
For I'll simply go and lie in the jacuzzi..."

In true BBC variety tradition there's an unrelated interlude from some musical guests, The Cambridge Buskers, and there's also a bit where he impersonates an Arab.

Meantime if you make any sightings of Stilgoe, shuttle them this way asap.

28 March, 2008

Photo clippage #35

Ken goes out and about on Euston Road to do a bit of Video Show promotion.



25 March, 2008

Facts amazing

Provisional plans for this week's Digi-Cream Times mailout, due on Thursday, including a free cover-mounted dreidel in the shape of Alan Sugar's face, have been completed junked.

Instead the issue will be devoted to the truth and nothing but. Yes, in an attempt to clear up suggestions of disingenuity and misdirection, the theme will be facts. No-nonsense, down-the-line facts. And lots of 'em.

Facts about next week's television. Facts about TV Cream. Facts about Creamguide. Heavens, perhaps even facts about Doctor Who.

Just what will these facts be? That's where you come in. This is your chance to minimise the amount of content dreamed up on somebody's joyless journey home from work and, in the process, devolve responsibility to the masses.

What facts do you want to know about TV Cream? What hot potatoes do you wish to be grasped? What lies do you want exposed? And what voracity deserves to be placed upon its inside knowledge of forthcoming children's science fiction programmes?

Remember: the less suggestions received, the more unfocussed self-penned drivel will be published instead.

Email your questions to digicreamguide@tvcream.co.uk, or leave a comment below.

22 March, 2008

Doctorin' the format

Given that David Tennant regenerates in the second of next year's special episodes, you'd think the hunt must be well under way for the next Doctor Who. In fact the decision has apparently been made, and the show's new boss, Steven Moffat - for it is he - is already busy piecing together an introductory story that promises to top the imagination, wit and excitement of 'The Christmas Invasion' *and* 'New Earth'. Should take him around 10 minutes, then.

Anyhow, word is the new Doctor Who is to be played by...erm, somebody whose name begins with the letter J. No, this isn't another attempt to string out an entry about Doctor Who on the flimsiest bit of irrelevance. J, you say? Jehoshaphat! Let's review the contenders...

James McAvoy
Scottish actor with a cheeky grin who's able to adopt English accents with ease and likes to play the fool. A shoo-in.

Jonathon Morris
"The entire fabric of space-time...hanging by a thread!"

John Simm
Worth it to see the uber-fans go completely unhinged.

James Nesbitt
Don't worry, it's not him.

Jack Davenport
"You don't want a relationship, Donna, you just want to cut my balls off."

Joe McFadden
Scottish actor with a cheeky grin who's able to etc.

Joel Hodgson
From Mystery Science Theatre 3000. This is more like it. Characters 'sitting' in silhouette at the bottom of the screen commenting on each episode ("Tsk, I see Rose is back from the dead - again")? Ratings gold!

Jon P'twee
A stunning CGI presentation, by those same people who turned David Tennant into Gollum. "What d'you think of m'new face, b'the way?"

20 March, 2008

Brian Wilde RIP

Sharing a bill with Paul Scofield. Or, as he would no doubt prefer it:

BRIAN WILDE
and Paul Scofield






15 March, 2008

"'Ere Doctor, ain't you never 'eard of Eurovision?"

As the new series of Doctor Who lumbers into view, talk falls once more to that ever-pertinent question: how will the schedulers deal with juggling episodes along with things like the FA Cup final and the Eurovision Song Contest?

Hitherto this subject has caused enormous vexation amongst the programme's army of devoted fans. But aside from these 239 people, mild consternation, or rather irritation, is also felt amongst the show's broader audience - albeit of a kind limited to parents going "Well, I'd got the tea ready, as usual, for 7pm, and now you tell me it's already been on?"

The way to avoid a repeat of all this hubbub, however, is simple: fold the events of this or that Saturday night into the storyline of the relevant episode, like they once did in Coronation Street on Christmas Day and EastEnders on New Year's Eve.

To wit:

Doctor Who is trying to fix the scanner in the console room when Catherine Tate comes in and changes the channel. A familiar trumpet-led fanfare rings out, followed by the soothing sounds of Irish brogue. "What the devil are you up to?" splutters the Doctor. "Ain't you never 'eard of Eurovision?" shouts Catherine. "All of them weird costumes, peculiar-looking foreigners and camp goings-on?" "I thought that was last week's adventure," grins the Doctor, stupidly. "Shurrup and feast yer eyes on this," orders Catherine, and the pair settle down to watch as our screen merges with the scanner and Lord Wogan's voice takes over.

Or:

Doctor Who has landed his TARDIS in Cardiff where there are problems with the Rift. While taking a breath of fresh air he notices the distant outline of the Millennium Stadium on the horizon. "Didn't they used to play the FA Cup final there?" he asks Catherine Tate, who is skulking a few paces behind looking petulant. "Doctor, you know nuthin," she snaps. "Wot's the matter wit yer? They do it at Wembley now. Y'know - Wem-ber-lee!" "Good gracious," the Doctor exclaims. "Do you know who's playing this year?" "Of course. It's [poorly overdubbed dialogue done in post-production to mask the fact the scene was recorded in mid-March], and kick off's just about to start." "Well, what are we waiting for," booms the Doctor, and heads back into the TARDIS where the sound of Gary Lineker can be heard...

13 March, 2008

Competition answers

For anyone still riled by last week's riddles:

1) Look, or rather point, West, for matters ship shape and bootlace fashion.
Shoestring

2) Two grumpy bastards are shouting for thirty minutes.
Steptoe And Son

3) Look to west land again, or rather Westland, for rubber-faced ribaldry.
Spitting Image

4) An Austen reliant from an age of a nautical prime.
Emma

5) What price a big fat Czech in 10 Downing Street?
Prime Ministers and Press Barons

Congratulations to the two - TWO! - people who took part, Miche Doherty and Paul Jones, both of whom will be receiving generous prizes.

11 March, 2008

"Well blow me down! Bootlace!"

Sunday's Shoestring retrospective on BBC4 was a useful reminder of how there's always been so much potential for a revival, were it not for Trevor Eve's constant reluctance to repeat himself (other than in a million episodes of Waking The Dead).

Even if it was just a one-off, the thing would be great.

Indeed, here's how it would be great. Eddie has decided to move back to Bristol after taking retirement from his job in London as a bloke helping to design maps for the Underground.

He's unnerved - and saddened - to find much of his erstwhile stamping ground is not what it was. His landlady Erica emigrated to Australia in the late 1980s, leaving behind a property empire run by her niece Juliet (played by Catherine Tate). A brassy matriach with a temper to match her shoes, Juliet allows Eddie to rent one of her holiday homes, so long as he...yup, helps her friend who runs the local radio station.

Eddie is shocked to find Radio West has now been renamed - for legal reasons - Radio Avonside, and is being run not by a blustering old cove but a go-getting businesswoman (played by Caroline Quentin) with a young husband (played by David Mitchell) who is regional co-ordinator for the Countryside Alliance.

In the course of his investigations he stumbles upon a maverick computer programmer (played by David Walliams) with whom Eddie has an affinity and who helps educate him about 21st century technology ("You're famous Shoestring! There's even a Facebook group about you!" "Good grief!")

Of course the whole thing would be full of Eddie looking mournful and drinking coffee out of a polystyrene cup and dossing down on benches and finding the wreck of his old houseboat ("I feel like I've lost an old friend") in a junkyard run by Phil Cornwell.

And it'd all be simultaneously promoted via a BBC4 tie-in documentary going behind the scenes of the new series and which would be called, naturally, Shoestring: Untied.












08 March, 2008

Carol Barnes RIP

It's 11th February 1982, and Princess Di drops into ITN to discuss the running order of News at 5.45.


07 March, 2008

Competition tiiiiiiiime

This week's mailout revolved around a quiz inviting you to identify the names of five programmes scheduled for transmission next week, from five less-than-cryptic riddles.

Lest anyone think it was all a bit of frippery, this is a real competition, with real prizes up for grabs - namely a selection of Creamy reading matter, courtesy of Creamguide reader John Rivers and the good folk at Harper Collins.

Anyway, here are the questions again. Simply identify the programme titles being clumsily disguised behind the following teasers and, if you're quick, a mini TV Cream book tower could be yours!

1) Look, or rather point, West, for matters ship shape and bootlace fashion.

2) Two grumpy bastards are shouting for thirty minutes.

3) Look to west land again, or rather Westland, for rubber-faced ribaldry.

4) An Austen reliant from an age of a nautical prime.

5) What price a big fat Czech in 10 Downing Street?

(Send in your answers by leaving a blog comment; they won't be published)

05 March, 2008

Photo clippage #34

Lew prepares for another quiet, unassuming day at the office.




02 March, 2008

In every house, again again

Graham Kibble-White has, perhaps in an effort to leaven the mood, suggested a trawl of title sequences that cheer you up. And by way of an opening gambit he offers Sir Bob, with Ted Bovis, doing his best received pronunciation and toffee-in-the-mouth chirruping:

01 March, 2008

I'm a little down, with a lifetime to go

Last year in one of the many non-TV-related editions of the Digi-Cream Times mailout (in other words, all of them) the suggestion was made that there's no such thing as a perfect album. One that has no weak links on it whatsover. One that, if a song were selected at random, or if you played it using the shuffle facility on a CD player, you wouldn't mind what track you heard.

This writer couldn't accept that such an album existed. Surely, on even the so-called masterpieces of popular music (Revolver, Pet Sounds, Dark Side Of The Moon, What's Going On, OK Computer), there's always one duff moment, one track to be tolerated rather than treasured?

An appeal was made for people to nominate examples that disputed such an assertion. Nobody replied. But then, where Digi-Cream Times is concerned, that's nothing new.

Anyway, I think I've found just such an album. In fact I know I have. I've owned it for around 10 years now, but only recently realised that, yeah, it doesn't matter where I join it, it's exceptional. It's faultless. All the way through. From start to finish.

It is Imperial Bedroom, by Elvis Costello and The Attractions, which is weird because it's not my favourite Costello album (which is Punch The Clock) nor his most consistent (which is Get Happy). Nonetheless it doesn't contain one song that is anything less than stunning and which, in and of themselves, are mini-masterpieces.

Anyway, the fact this album, hailing from 1982, has been sitting variously four inches, two metres and a corridor away from my nose for the last decade and not revealed itself in such a fashion to me until just the other week is a little disarming.

I might find myself warming to John Lennon's Imagine next.