Tag Archives: Doctor Who

Enclosures: “If the Sontarans Don’t Find You Handsome, They Should At Least Find You Handy” (2022)

A preamble on the enclosure backstories:

In the fall of 1989, much was made of the cancellation by the BBC of the classic science fiction television show Doctor Who. Buffeted by both governmental budget cuts aggravated by the rejection of an increase in British television license fees and an understanding that the show appeared cheesy and dated compared to theatrical and television imports from the United States, the BBC finally pulled the plug, much to the dismay of fans, cast, and production staff. Officially, aside from a television movie produced by the BBC and Universal Pictures in 1996, the show was gone until its revival in 2005. The real story, as in the case of the best conspiracy theories, was so much stranger.

A sudden benefactor appeared that allowed the show to continue. Immediately, issues with senior BBC executives threatened the whole project, mostly involving licensing and product marketing. Yes, the show would continue, with the basic concepts intact: an eccentric older man in a vehicle containing considerably more detritus than would appear from the outside, a cast of equally iconoclastic travel companions, weekly adventures stretching the limits of audience credulity, and regular life lessons for a wide and diverse audience. The catches, though, were that the title character could not be presented as an alien from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kastaborous, the vehicle no longer had the ability to travel to any point in time and space, the companions couldn’t be TOO bizarre, and the multitude of existential threats facing our cohort had to remain strictly terrestrial. No Daleks, no Cybermen, no Silurians: purely local content. The revived show turned out to be incredibly successful, and only ended when the BBC decided to bring back the “authentic” product under showrunner Russell T. Davies.

The entire look of the show changed, but the new producers hoped one day to remove the subterfuge. To that end, a cast and crew sworn to secrecy shot a demo pilot, using the new props and locations, which they then hid deep within the new production network’s archives. This way, no matter what, at least one copy would exist of their hard work, even if they were all fired immediately afterward. The work done was exceptional, including the cover story, and only vague rumors escaped of the alternate pilot in 2011. The only obvious hint was that the benefactor remained as an “in association with” credit in the 2005 revival, as an acknowledgement of everything it had done to keep Doctor Who from being cancelled forever.

That, my friends, is how the show moved to Canada. One day, that demo pilot will be discovered by a dedicated archivist at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and fan heads will explode.

Dimensions (diameter/height): 18″ x 24″ hexagon (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes “Bill Bailey”

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, recycled plastic, found items.

Price: $300US

Shirt Price: $250US

Have a Safe Weekend

It’s nearing the end of November, and it’s coming up on the 57th anniversary of THAT day. No, not the “back and to the left” day, although you’d think it was a holiday in Dallas. Maybe the next time Dallas gives itself a new holiday, we might involve a few more Cybermen and Silurians, just to be a little different?

A special day, a very eldritch day

For those who might note these things, a combination of interesting people that have only one thing in common: an appreciation of them and their works via the Triffid Ranch. Most famously, today is the birthday of one Howard Phillips Lovecraft of Providence, Rhode Island:

Today is also Sophie Aldred‘s 51st birthday:

And, in an effort to suggest that there might just be something to astrology after all, today is also the birthday of Steven Archer, musician par excellence via Ego Likeness and Hopeful Machines:

And for everyone else who has a birthday today, look at it this way: out of the 365 1/4 days comprising a typical orbit of our planet around our star, you were lucky enough to be born on this date in a long-dead year. Enjoy it. If I had been one more week premature, I would be, too.

Art imitating life

Just as a note to friends over the weekend, I know already that this Saturday’s new episode of Doctor Who features a big-game hunter named “Riddell”. With a title like “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship,” it’s hard not to see a potential connection. I mean, in the latest trailer, Matt Smith even pronounces the name correctly.

I assure you, though, that I’m certain that this is coincidence. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never met the writer, and I’m pretty certain as well that he wasn’t a regular reader of my old palaeontology columns, both in print in the Nineties and in blog form in the early Aughts. Besides, this character is nothing like me. For one thing, he’s not a complete and utter prat.

“If the Sontarans don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”

For the last several years, I’ve joked that my gardening style resembles a television show. Namely, an unspeakable Lovecraftian fusion of Doctor Who and The Red Green Show. This being Texas, this requires me to explain the metaphor in terms that don’t leave the listener, in the immortal words of fellow Lone Star transplant Bill Hicks, “looking like a dog being shown a card trick.” Stating “Lots of very alien-looking plants amid old planters” doesn’t come close to describing the aesthetic, and asking the listener to picture “Flying saucers on cinder blocks in the back yard” just gets them to call the police. The problem isn’t just that these two shows are sufficiently obscure to most Americans that explaining the connections would take all weekend. It’s that programs are, in reality, the same exact show.

For the card-trick folks, Doctor Who is a classic British science fiction show that, with the exception of a big gap between 1989 and 2005, ran pretty much continuously since the day after the Kennedy Assassination. The Red Green Show, on the other, is a similarly classic Canadian comedy series running between 1990 and 2006. The former chronicles the adventures of the Doctor, an enigmatic extraterrestrial who travels through time and space in a temporal vessel. The latter chronicles the adventures of Red Green, the head of the mythical Possum Lodge located somewhere within the wilds of eastern Canada. Other than that, they’re the same exact show.

For those familiar with both shows, the background. By the end of 1989, Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner had successfully driven the show into the ground, and the BBC decided that it was time to cut its losses and give the program a much-needed rest. Nathan-Turner, though, wouldn’t give it up, as witnessed with his constant attempts at a revival, and he tried to pitch a new show to American and Australian outlets without success. The Canadian Broadcasting Company, though, nibbled a bit, but with one big proviso. Since the funds for keeping Doctor Who alive came from the comedy budget, the show had to be retooled as a comedy. Since the available money was even smaller, no universe-spanning adventures. Since it was a CBC show, the talent had to be Canadian. Other than that, nothing changed at all.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the similarities. Both shows have a very distinct opening instrumental theme, recognizable by millions, but unlike just about anything else in the history of television.

Both shows are named after an older gentleman of bizarre dress and manners, who constantly interferes with the Powers That Be.

Both shows feature a gangly and rather dorky younger relative, who happens to be the only relation you ever see. Otherwise, you have hints and suggestions of a past history, but they’re all supposition.

Both title characters travel in a bizarre vehicle that holds considerably more crap on the inside than would appear to be possible from the outside.

Both characters have a tendency to attract a slew of very bizarre cohorts and companions.

Both characters have a propensity for tinkering, and are known for singular tools for getting the job done. (C’mon. You’d do anything to hear Peter Davison mutter “And now for the Time Lord’s secret weapon: duct tape.”)

Both shows have a thing about robots.

(go straight to 5:52)

And let’s not forget male sex symbols.

EDIT: And then there’s the slight change to the classic Possum Lodge motto. Apparently the original was “Quando omni flunkus, reingero”: “When all else fails, regenerate.”

The only major digression involves the villains. CBC budgets meant no Daleks, no Cybermen, no Movellans, none of that. This meant that the only one of the Doctor’s nemeses that made the transition was a famed megalomaniac obsessed with universal domination.

Again, between the budget and the comedy background, this meant the Master wasn’t quite up to his old tricks. It just meant that his new tricks were a bit more, er, subtle

Now that there’s context to my original metaphor, be afraid. If this doesn’t discourage random passersby from insisting they come by “to see the plants,” I don’t know what will.