...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Day 1968: Rational : INTEGRAL : Sterile : Eternal


"If you've done nothing wrong / You've got nothing to fear
"If you've something to hide / You shouldn't even be here"

That is the opening of the song INTEGRAL from the PET SHOP BOYS fabshious new album FUNDAMENTAL and Daddy Richard has had it on continuous loop since he first heard it.

Who would have thought that those icons of emotional minimalism and wry detachment would have had such a capacity for INCANDESCENT RAGE?! This is the blistering attack of a betrayed lover and you don't have to look very far to find the deserving object of the Boys' scorn.

The Project.

Conformity, uniformity, technology,
for your protection, for your own good,
like a self-programmed machine the New Labour Project is on a mission, almost a holy cause,
to improve you, to upgrade you,
for you own good,
whether you want it or not, whether you voted for it or not,
and they won't stop, they won't listen to you, they already know what is good for you,
and if you resist then you are a threat, a concern,
they are relentless, implacable, superior, empty,
they are CYBERMEN.

I can already see the video in my fluffy head – an endless stream of numbered plastic cards falls past the camera, each and every photograph the dead metal face of a Cyberman.

The only security that the Cybermen have to offer is the security of the dead, to be a corpse in a walking coffin with a cold metal heart.

Is this an exaggeration? Is this the extreme end point? Does anyone think that if Tony Blair took it into his head to upgrade the lot of us that isn't exactly what he would go and do?

Cybermen don't commit crime (unless you count genocide, of course) so that's the Home Office finally sorted.

Cybermen don't get sick, that's the NHS fixed.

Cybermen don't get old or die, pensions crisis avoided.

And Cybermen all do what the Cyber Controller tells them, well that's the end of back bench rebellions and embarrassing protests in parliament square.

No crime, no sickness, no death, no protests. You would have to be out of your mind not to want that.

Only Humans 2.0 deserve Human Rights.

Crikey, now I'm REALLY worried!

Go and BUY this song.

Find a place to stand one kilometre from PARLIAMENT.

Turn up the volume to VERY LOUD.

And press PLAY!

Day 1967: In their own words


Mr Richard Willis, defeated Conservatory candidate for the seat of Sutton and Cheam had this to say on Political Stirring dot com

Tuesday May 23rd, post 365

I would be delighted if the comments I have posted achieved wider circulation!

Oh, Okay then…

I would be delighted if the comments I have posted achieved wider circulation! People are already beginning to see the true nature of so-called Liberal Democracy and the more they see the less they seem to like. BTW who says I will be fighting S&C again, or any seat for that matter!? S&C has yet to select and they may want another candidate!

It is hugely entertaining to hear the justification for why grandpa Ming is doing so well with 20% - “an historically good poll rating” etc. Clearly the Tories are suffering on just - oh - about twice the figure!

Of course we want to be doing better than 38%. But it is all about progress and direction of travel (which is what the LDs used to tell us). Having for so long listened to Lib Dims drone on about their “decapitation strategy” it is massively entertaining to see them decapitate their own leader and then start digging the ground away from his successor. Maybe the Lib Dims have learned and copied from old Tory habits.

The LDs derived much of their support from being seen as the “nice party”. With events in the last few months they look like the nasty party while “nice” Dave Cameron sails steadily upwards in the polls.

I think it was the LD gloating for the last few years and their patronising, holier than thou posturing that kindled the fire of dislike in me towards them. It is also seeing what they are like as losers (at the Sutton count) that confirmed my suspicions that many of them are far from “nice”.

The fact of the matter (as confirmed by several polls now) is that the LDs under Ming the Useless are going backwards. Slowly backwards I grant, but backwards all the same. As others have posted, he was meant to steady the ship and be enjoying his honeymoon period but the best he can muster is 18-20% in the polls.

I can hear more gnashing of LD teeth as I write this!

ColinW please feel free to copy and disseminate.

There are several points that we should be learning from Mr Willis. (Wot Yo' Lookin' At Willis?)

The EASIEST thing to spot is that, Mr Balloon aside, some of the Conservatories are STILL not very NICE and even seem to think that this is something that they should be PROUD about.

That is the EASIEST thing to spot, but it's probably not the IMPORTANT thing. Conservatory HUBRIS not, actually, news.

No, the IMPORTANT point is this one: "People are already beginning to see the true nature of so-called Liberal Democracy ".

Obviously, Mr Willis means this as an insult but that is because he is a BITTER old reactionary who lost to the Liberals (even if he seems a bit – "seeing what they are like as losers (at the Sutton count)" – DELUSIONAL about this) , but in his cries of anger and shame he reveals some truth.

People ARE starting to see the true nature of Liberal Democracy and – the opposite of what Mr Willis thinks – they LIKE IT.

That is why Mr Willis HATES us so very much: people hate what they FEAR. That is why Mr Balloon and his nice Conservatories are trying to paint a picture of themselves as DEMOCRATIC and LIBERAL.

Mr Balloon does not go to Manchester because he likes the Coronation Street Scene. Or even the Canal Street Scene(!) He goes there to look like a cuddly toy and not an oily PR merchant.

[There is a scene in Doctor Who in a story called "The Ribos Invasion" where the Doctor points out a conman to Romana.

"Oh," says Romana, "but he had such an honest face."

"You can't be a conman with a DIS-honest face," the Doctor reminds her.]

Mr Willis calls us "patronizing" and "holier than thou" (would he rather be in a party that was "more SATANIC than thou"?!?!?!) which is more name calling – obviously – but it's too easy for us to give name-callers ammunition.

We don't want to be ATTACKING Conservatories.

There are people who are THINKING of voting Conservatory and we would like to be thinking about voting for us. Attacks on the Conservatories will make people like that think that we are attacking THEM. They have perfectly honest reasons for thinking about buying what Mr Balloon is selling – even if we don't trust his reasons for trying to sell it to them. Some people might actually WANT snake oil!

We do want to CHALLENGE Mr Balloon.

We want to know what his policies are. No, seriously, he must have SOME idea what he thinks would make people happier.

Saying "we shouldn't reveal our hand three years before the election" does NOT cut the mustard. Parsnips – as their former leader Mr Major would say – it does not butter. This is NOT a GAME OF POKER for fluffy's sake, this is "how do we make things better? how do we make things better TODAY?"

We want to know whether his party is authoritarian or liberal? Are they for central control or a locali freedom? Are they at the heart of Europe or in bed with Mr Bush? Are they attacking the Labour Government or attacking US?

Why is he trying to face in TWO DIRECTIONS? It is very hard to face in two directions.

[R: unless one has two faces]

Mocking Liberals for not overtaking the Conservatories may make Mr Willis feel more macho but it rather misses the point.

The COUNTRY needed SOMEONE to stand up to the government and the Conservatory Party were – quite frankly – not up to the job. Going along with everything Lord Blairimort wanted to do: favours for big business, lock people up without trial, invade middle eastern countries – Conservatory opposition was at best spineless and temporary and at worst utterly complicit.

The COUNTRY needed an OPPOSITION and since the Conservatories wouldn't or couldn't provide it WE HAD TO.

Of course, the Liberal Democrats also want to be FIRST. That kind of means we have to go through SECOND on the way. It shouldn't bother us if we overtake the Labour before we overtake the Conservatories.

In the meantime, the Conservatories ARE doing better in the polls – people who have had enough of Lord Blairimort and his gang are looking for an alternative and Mr Balloon is, well maybe not popular, but at least PALATABLE. So the Conservatories have found a way to lift themselves out of the "box" between 30% and 33% in which they were stuck for a decade.

But what does that mean?

For starters, that means that they are no longer going to be saying "well, we always ignore opinion polls; it's the election that counts"; they are going to be shouting those polls from the rooftops and sticking them on leaflets and saying "winning here" a lot. (Yes, the rotten copy-cats always complain when we Liberals do that – but you watch how fast they snatch our techniques.)

Under Mr Something of the Night, for every two people who voted Liberal Democrat there were three people who voted Conservatory. Mr Balloon's campaign to look nice – or "nice" as Mr Willis keeps putting it; does he have a problem with nice? – combined with Lord Blairimort's determined efforts to drive his government completely off the rails have changed that. Now, for every two people who say that they will vote for Sir Mr the Merciless, FOUR people say that they will vote the Conservatories.

So what do we know? We know that that fourth person is SOMEONE WHO WILL CHANGE THEIR MIND.

We CANNOT allow Mr Balloon to just Hoover up these voters.

The POINT is that these people KNOW that they are looking for SOMETHING, something that is the answer to all of the problems caused by Lord Blairimort and his CRUSADE.

People are reacting AGAINST an authoritarian New Labour Project; the natural opposition to that ought to be a LIBERAL party. In fact OUR Liberal Party. We EXIST to stand up to BULLIES, and the biggest bully around at the moment is Lord Blairimort's government.

We need them to know that we HAVE an answer, a BETTER ANSWER. A LIBERAL ANSWER.

Do you want Liberal? WE'VE got Liberal!

You want a party to stand up for you against an incompetent Home Office that wants to punch, stamp, file and I.D.iot card you? WE'VE got Liberal for you!

You want a party that wants your local school to become a good school and stands up for you against an Education Department that wants to close it down and open a City McAcademy? WE'VE got Liberal for you!

You want a party that supports fair taxation where you pay if you can afford to pay and stands up for you against a Treasury that wants more and more stealth taxes? WE'VE got Liberal for you!

You want someone who will stand up to the busy-bodies and the form-fillers and the target-setters?

You want LIBERAL, and BOY-OH-FLUFFY-BOY have we ever got LIBERAL FOR YOU!

Day 1966: Happiness is a Warm Balloon


I think that it was famously waspish commentator and former Conservatory MP Matthew Paris who said that you can measure the VACUOUSNESS VACUOUSMENT VACUITY of any political statement by considering how likely it is that someone would say the OPPOSITE.

Today, Mr Balloon announced that he would like people to be HAPPIER.

Think about it.

What we need is some PRACTICAL ideas that would improve happiness and Mr Balloon telling people "be happy" is not one of them. His suggestion that people should tell their bosses that they want more money for less time at work is not much of a goer either. Fluffy Mr Sir Alan has a reply to that sort of talk.

Anyway, Mr Balloon obviously needs HELP, and so I will try to help him out with some ideas and that will make HIM happier too.


Give out free sticky buns to everyone. Especially ELEPHANTS. People always like something for nothing, especially if it has sugar icing on top. This would improve happiness. Except for people with diabetes.

I'm sure that Mr Balloon and his other rich friends could not mind spending some of their own money on buying sticky buns for people. If they want to improve happiness.


A car that was not bad for the environment would be a good start, then people would have more CHOICE and could save the world and not melt the ice caps drowning all the husky dogs.

If you cannot invent anything yourself, Mr Balloon, maybe you could help out the clever people who do invent things. People like the world and probably don't want it to be destroyed so it would be a good happy making idea to support inventors and manufacturers that are good for the environment. Maybe by cutting their TAXES paid for by people who are BAD for the environment.


If people were not frightened of crime all the time then they would be happier and they could go out and enjoy the sunshine and the park more often. So Mr Balloon should tell his enemy friend Mr Davis David to stop banging on about how FERAL CHILDREN roam our streets in GANGS of two or one. Perhaps he could talk a bit more about how well behaved most young people are these days and aren't they all doing well at school. Assuming they still have a school and not a McAcademy.


Being in work makes people happy, believe it or not. Except that bit in the morning when Daddy has to get out of bed.

Money may not be very important to Mr Balloon, but there are some people who have to think twice before they buy a Howie's Tee-shirt or an Innocent smoothie. Like, maybe, will they feed the kids this week, instead.

They might be happier if they were not worried that the big company that they work for could take their job away if they spend more than twenty-nine seconds going to the toilet. That really cuts into the time you can spend on your lifestyle of hope and ethical consumerism. Packaging "getting the sack" as "greater job mobility" is NOT the way to greater happiness.

Mr Balloon ought to go into big supermarkets and give the managers a good talking to – like he did to his pals from media and technology at the Google Zeitgeist Europe conference 2006 – about how they should concentrate on their workers' happiness rather than on their productivity.

If only there was some way to give the workers a say in company behaviour. Mr Balloon would be sure to give his backing to that suggestion!


People are made UNHAPPY by seeing adverts all the time which are full of shiny beautiful people who are younger and richer and free-er to dance all night drinking sickly sweet flavoured rum drinks while roller-blading in first class with reclining vibro-massage beds. With very loud music. This makes people feel WORSE OFF than the rest of the world and so UNHAPPY.

If Mr Balloon had his chums in the PR business make all adverts be made by the MISERABLE PEOPLE from EastEnders then everyone would think that they were much BETTER OFF than the rest of the world and they would be much happier.

PEGGY: 'Ere, do you fancy a drink, Pauline? Try this alcopop stuff.

PAULINE (most miserable woman in the WORLD): Oh, all right. The sickly sugary tastes might offer some temporary distraction from the ongoing agony of Sonia's break up with Martin. Ta!

You see, you are happier already!


With these simple and practical suggestions I am certain that Mr Balloon could make lots of people happy.

It is a BIT of a pity though, that the FIRST person that Mr Balloon decided to make happy was Lord Blairimort by supporting him in his bid to INCREASE CHOICE by DENYING parents the, er, CHOICE of whether their children's school gets turned into a McAcadamy.

Oh well, you can't blame him for trying, I suppose.

Day 1965: Joel Schumacher


Mr Joel Schumacher is probably most famous as the man who drove the BATMAN movie franchise over a cliff without a paddle. Anyone who has seen BATMAN AND ROBIN knows what I mean. It is the only movie that Daddy Alex will not let Daddy Richard buy on DVD.

Many people heard how BAD this movie was but did not believe it so they went to see it to see if it could be true. It WAS!

People tend to forget that Mr Joel's first Batman movie – BATMAN FOREVER – was actually rather good campy fun and a bit of a change after the very, very DARK Mr Burton's BATMAN RETURNS. Batman Forever is a bright and colourful movie about two couples: Mr Riddler and Mr Two-Face are into dressing up in colourful costumes and playing with diamonds; Mr Batman and Master Robin like wearing rubber suits. It is a pair of Disco Bunnies meets a pair of Muscle Marys so OBVIOUSLY they aren't going to get along!

Batman and Robin on the other fluffy foot is a PILE of PANTS so huge even Albert the Butler would run away and hide.

So you can imagine the HORROR that went around my flat when, during the titles of the movie Daddy Alex had persuaded us to watch, there appeared the dreaded words: "Directed by Joel Schumacher".

Oh fluffy corks.

That movie was PHONE BOOTH – which is AMERICAN for TELEPHONE BOX – and it stared Mr Colin Farrell as a man in a telephone box.

It sounds a bit dull, doesn't it, but it was in fact very, very tense and dramatic.

No, that's not right: it was very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, VERY tense. And also dramatic.

And that was mainly because of the man on the other end of the telephone line.

The man on the other end of the telephone line was Mr Kiefer Sutherland. You may think that he saves the world twenty-four hours a day, but if you ever watch "Commander in Chief" you will realise that his dad is DARTH SIDIOUS.

Mr Kiefer is QUITE CROSS with Mr Colin because of the bad things that Mr Colin has done. Well, would LIKE to have done, anyway. Mr Colin wants to be rich and wants to have a girlfriend as well as his wife and wants people to think he is smart so he tells a lot of fibs. And Mr Kiefer has decided to punish him.

Mr Kiefer, basically, has a GUN. And is pointing it at Mr Colin.

We do not get to see Mr Kiefer (until the very very end).
We do not get to see Mr Kiefer's gun (until the very very end).

But we know he has a gun when he starts shooting.

And then all the COPS turn up and think that it is Mr Colin who is shooting! And if he moves THEY will shoot HIM! Did I mention it was tense?

The key to this is the performance, entirely by voice, of Mr Kiefer, whose malevolence and madness twist and turn and ensnare and beguile you.

Daddy Alex thinks about it for a while and then points out that Mr Keifer is playing an invisible bully in the sky who threatens sudden and violent punishment for wrong thinking. I wonder what Daddy means by this?

I thought this was a very cool movie, very restrained – even if it uses a whole New York city block it makes it seem like a minimalist theatre piece with only two main characters, one of whom we don't even see, and a couple of supporting characters to step on and off the stage. Very much the work of a man making up for horrible eye-popping excess, in fact. It unfolds pretty much in real time (a story in real time with Kiefer Sutherland… now THERE'S an idea!) and holds you gripped tightly throughout. Or Daddy Richard holds you gripped tightly throughout, if you are me.

I will not tell you how it ends but you will be relieved to know that at least I survived!

Well done, Mr Joel!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Day 1964: Doctor Who: THE AGE OF STEEL


I do NOT want handles sticking in my big, fluffy ears, so I will NOT be wearing earpods, thank you VERY much.

Here is what Daddy Richard has to say about "The Age of Steel":

Let's Let's get the badness over right away: that was a dreadfully lame way to resolve the stunning cliffhanger from last week. Suddenly, the Doctor is able to shoot golden fire from his fist! (Please, nobody think of the Peter Davison Easter Egg incident!) Worse than that it's all over in a blink-and-you-miss-it instant, surely anyone not following the Internet speculation would be left with a huge sense of "what the…?" And then there is no price to pay for this handy get out of mortal peril free.

How would I have done it?

Well firstly, just a moment for the Doctor to switch from panic to fury, maybe a chance to say "well I tried!" or even just "Sorry!" or to see him hit the thing in his hand (which turns out to be the TARDIS power cell) so that is discharges. Anything at all, really, to cue up that something was coming to make the transition just a bit less jarring.

And secondly, that should have discharged the power cell completely. The price for saving their lives should have been high, too high to let the Doctor do it again lightly – otherwise, why not carry it round all the time in case you need to disintegrate a marauding Dalek or rampaging Yeti?

So I would suggest that the scene in the aftermath in the Preachers' van should have gone:

RICKY: What was that thing?

THE DOCTOR: That was our trip home. The very last bit of the TARDIS. Useless now, all gone. Here you go, Mickey, souvenir for you. [Tosses dead power cell to Mickey]

RICKY: So now we're without a weapon…
[Continue as before]

Yes, that leaves them stranded in the alternative universe – that's kind of my point: the Doctor gives up the chance to get home tomorrow for the chance to keep fighting today – but I can still get them out of there. Roll forward to the moment where the Cybermen catch up with Ricky and kill him. Change that to them both being caught and electrocuted and falling to the ground.

Cut away to some other scenes with the Doctor and then when we cut back, Ricky and Mickey are sprawled on the ground side-by-side, but Mickey groans and sits up. He turns to Ricky to try and rouse him, only to roll him over and discover that he is indeed dead.

Then the later scene overlooking Battersea becomes…

JAKE: So how did YOU survive?

MICKEY: I dunno… but it might have had something to with this. [Takes out TARDIS power cell, now glowing faintly again]

ROSE: What, so the Cybermen recharged it?

THE DOCTOR: No, no not possible… I think… I think that's your life energy, Mickey.

Obviously, that needs a bit of polish but it would, I hope, have added a bit more point to the cliffhanger and the escape and the death of Ricky and even a little touch of poignancy to Mickey staying as he's giving a little of his life to save the Doctor and Rose. Plus the TARDIS seeming to have the power of death and life ties in a little with "The Parting of the Ways" and even the 1996 TV Movie.

Anyway, once you get past that first moment of "gnnng" – and one other little niggle, to which I’ll get back – this is generally pretty brilliant.

It goes like a rocket – I was astonished at how it seemed to blur past, and I wonder what it will be like to watch this and "Rise of the Cybermen" back to back.

Some very strong moments of psychological terror: Cyber-Jackie – it sounds like a camp joke, written down like that, but in the (absence of) flesh it was horrible, tuning the vibrant, charming, caustic, love-her-or-hate-her ALIVE Jackie Tyler into just another Cyberman. Yoicks! And then Sally the Cyberman, when the full horror of what has been done to these people is really brought home to you, so cruel and tragic and irreversible.

Still, if the mind shocks weren't enough for you, there was the screaming-abdab inducing view from the inside of the Cyber conversion, with the mask coming down on the camera at the end! And also the traditional horror movie moments of the dark tunnel full of Cybermen (a nod to "The Invasion" which was famous for "the Cybermen in the sewers".) And you just know that that army of Cybermen will be waking up sometime before the Doctor and Mrs Moore can reach the other end!

Mrs Moore – "ooh," says I the next day, "like, Mrs Moore is a pseudonym does that remind you of anything? "Attack of the Cybermen" perhaps?"

[MM: I have to say, Daddy Alex spotted this twelve hours earlier, like while the show was ON AIR. You will have to forgive Daddy Richard. He can be a bit SLOW.]

"My army awakes!" says the Cyber Leader in "Earthshock" – "Awaken the army" says the Cyber Leader in "The Age of Steel".

Lawrence Miles plays a game in his debut novel "Christmas on a Rational Planet" of referencing (allegedly) every single televised Doctor Who story. Rather less elegantly, John Peel does a similar trick for all the televised Dalek stories in BBC Eighth Doctor adventure "Retcon of the Daleks". I wonder if Tom MacRae has tried a similar trick with the Cybermen here.

Alex and I think we can find links – okay, some of them pretty tenuous ones – to all of them. How about you?

I worried a little bit about the continuity last time so I'll mention it again this. I was surprised at how far they went with the continuity references: mentioning the Cyberman head in Van Statten's museum ("Dalek") seemed a bit obscure to me. But the Doctor makes it clear that these Cybermen are completely separate from the original Cybermen in our universe, so there's no need to worry about any contradictions in origin story. Perhaps a little sadly, he also seems to rule out the possibility that I mentioned last week: that Lumic obtained his Cybertechnology from this universe’s "Invasion".

I mentioned another niggle, and I’m sorry but I’ve slightly got to go all accountant on you but if Lumic’s plan is to "upgrade" the entire population of London to Cybermen using his, er, "scoop and slam" technique, then how exactly does he come to have six million cybernetic bodies to hand? (Or indeed many more as he claims to have similar factories in many other cities.) That’s an awful lot of stock to be laying up. That’s a lot of steel to have bought, a lot of computers to assemble. I don’t think that there’s a company on Earth today that could afford to build, say, six million cars without selling a single one.

It’s very similar to the problem I have with the dramatic twist in "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones" – it’s a huge deal how hard it is to obtain this enormous army, and yet out of nowhere they suddenly have gunships and AT-PE walkers and Star Destroyers, for heavens sake! Seriously, soldiers are the easiest thing in the world to obtain – it’s the hardware that goes with them that is hard, and writers seem to forget or ignore that.

Alex had the same thought that about the Dalek fleet last year. All that fuss about making the Daleks out of recycled dead humans when apparently humanity was also throwing away a lot of tin cans. All in colour co-ordinated brass.

Anyway, accountant hat off again.

The conclusion at the end of the episode was much better handled than the resolution of the cliffhanger at the start. The Doctor uses his brains to work out how to destroy the Cybermen – and it's a very similar solution to "The Invasion" again, where emotion also destroys Cybermen, and of course this is where the similarities to "Spare Parts" comes in strongly, with the reason for the emotional inhibitor: people cannot survive the emotional trauma of being turned into a machine. Well, except for heartless Mr Lumic apparently.

Marvellously, Lumic manages to get his comeuppance not once but twice: first forcibly converted by his creations after Mr Crane the henchman turned to the good; and then dropped of a dirigible. "Bye bye" waved the kids of the BBC's Fear Forecast family, while we were reminded of the conclusion of Sir Ian McKellan's "Richard III". But will the Cyber Controller be back for a third time?

Of course, if you recorded the BBC's three minute season preview from the red button service, you can now play the game of spot-which-scenes-come-from-"Army of Ghosts".

And then, when you think it's all over, it suddenly turns into Mickey's leaving story. We can hope that whilst he was off recovering the Doctor's suit from the Tyler residence, Mickey took the time to drop in on his gran and make sure she hadn't (a) tripped on the stair carpet or (b) taken a one way walk to Battersea, before he drove off to Paris with his new boyfriend.

Ah, so were Jake and Ricky an item? It's hinted at rather than stated – Rickey's reaction to a hug from Rose, not so very positive, and Jake's mourning when it's Mickey who comes back alive – and both actors have said that it was played that way. So you can read it in if you want, ignore it if you don't. (But do try not to react with horror at the very idea as some online fans have done. Sad.) Personally, I rather like the idea, and I'm happier that Rose's alternative in this universe is a plucky freedom fighter and not a toy dog after all.

So, one duff note aside, Graham Harper really delivered the big-movie-adventure business. The script may not have topped "Dalek" or "The Empty Child" but no one's likely to overlook this one for its sheer visual impact.

And this year, the Doctor got to join in with Rose hanging off the bottom of a great big balloon over London!

Next time: The Doctor gets an 'ology.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Day 1963: Green Action


Daddy Alex has been full of helpful advice this week with several articles about how to "Vote Gold, Go Green"

(LOOK! Even I'M recycling! I've used some of Mr Balloon's old rubbish!)

Daddy Richard, on the other fluffy foot – or to give him his FULL title Beelzedaddy Richard – has been invoking the powers of the pumpkin of darkness and generally bringing on the APOCALYPSE! Yes, he’s been driving around like some kind of crazy person in PENFOLD, who is Daddy's HUGE LOVELY er VERY, VERY BAD 4x4 TANK! And no doubt trying to squash pretty flowers and cover small children in horrid fumes, to boot!

However, I have now pointed out to him that my flat is right next to the RIVER THAMES, so if Daddy is going to go around melting the ICE CAP then we will all be UNDER WATER, and unlike James Bond, Daddy cannot turn his car into a SUBMARINE.

Properly ASHAMED, Daddy has agreed to do something about it.

We have been downstairs to look at Penfold's milometer and it says that he has driven 22,943 miles which equals 36,923 kilometres (which is not so VERY much when you think that that is over the last seven years).

We checked out Penfold's carbon emissions from this website and learned that they are 265 g/km.

(Penfold is a Vauxhall Frontera, Sport RS, manual, petrol, 3 door estate, if you want to check.)

We have to admit that this is FAIRLY AWFUL. The government's current target for car emissions from company cars (which Daddy has to know because it is to do with TAX) is only 140 g/km. A top of the range Toyota Prius has emissions of 104 g/km.

36,923 kilometres TIMES 265 g/km EQUALS 9.785 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

And so Daddy went to this other website and has bought a Carbon Offset of 9.8 tonnes.

We looked quite closely at the website and decided to go for this one rather than a tree planting project because apparently tree planting is only a temporary solution as the carbon gets released again eventually. We are not sure about this and might buy some trees anyway.

If anyone knows of BETTER carbon offset programs then please let me know!

Also, if people are feeling HELPFUL, does anyone have any advice on which is the most ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY electricity company to switch to? Daddy Richard is quite tempted by the people from Ecotricity, but that is because he likes WINDMILLS. Does anyone know who the best green supplier might be?

I am a bit SURPRISED that people are not more excited about the opportunities that GREENING the energy supply will bring. In SCOTLAND, for example, there is a LOT of wind and plenty of access to sea water. Particularly on the ISLANDS. It would be a good idea to use the WIND ENERGY to separate the sea water into Oxygen and Hydrogen and then sell the Hydrogen for FUEL in new CARS.

(Daddy has tried looking at HYBRID motor cars, but they look horrid, so I hope that Hydrogen cars come in quickly and look NICE.)

If we look to the future, this hydrogen industry could replace the oil industry when the oil under the North Sea runs out!

I think that in making our own clean fuel from a limitless source we have a better answer than importing other countries' oil or gas or toxic, radioactive uranium that is going to run out sooner or later anyway.

I do not want Lord Blairimort building new nuclear power stations. I do not think he would be very good at it – everything ELSE he puts together ends up falling apart! – and he might put the Minister for Magical Accidents in charge!

And I particularly do not want him building a new nuclear power station if it is going to be where Mr Simon suggests in his book!

I do not think GLOWING is a good look for me!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Day 1962: Typical!


Daddy Alex and I have just been listening to the six o'clock headlines on the Today Programme.

Two political reports get slipped in just after the big stories:

Mr Balloon is to step up his PR campaign to be loved by people in the North of England where he STILL has no councillors. In spite of doing ever so well in the south east in the local elections, in the north Mr Balloon is still up to 10 points behind the Labour. Some local Conservatories though think that Mr Balloon is part of the problem because he is a bit Southern.

(So not because the Conservatories spent most of the Eighties obliterating the industrial and social base of life in the North of England, then.)

Also today, the Liberal Democrats have some policy announcement about how tax can help the environment. Ew tax boring… next!

Does anyone else get the feeling that something is a BIT SKEWED when a puff piece about Mr Balloon wish list (no policies) gets higher billing and twice the coverage as some actual practical ideas about the single greatest threat to the survival of the planet? No? Just me then?

It's half past six and they've just done it again!


Ooh ooh! They’ve done the seven o’clock news now and given a MUCH better piece for the Liberal Democrat environmental tax plans.

Mr Balloon still got to got first, but this time THAT was the shorter – almost dismissive – piece!

Day 1961: What EXACTLY is the problem?


Another EDIFYING day of squabbles about how many immigrants - legal, illegal or eddy the eagle - there are in the country, is capped by Newsnight with some woman from Wehateforeignerswatch saying "there could be almost ANY number of illegal immigrants!!!!"

Well, call me a silly fluffy thing but I do not think it could be ANY number. I think it is a bit UNLIKELY that there are, say, six BILLION illegal immigrants here – you know, I think we'd notice if the rest of the world was EMPTY!

But really, I do wonder why this is such a PROBLEM. If the country was going BANKRUPT with welfare payments then you might understand, but it is NOT.

(If anything is going to bankrupt the country it is Mr Frown's payments to "management consultants" but that is an entirely other diary.)

We are happy and wealthy and safe and healthy and unemployment is low and employment is high and apparently there are lots of hotel rooms available for the World Cup in Germany. So if there IS all this illegal immigration, it hardly seems to be undermining the FABRIC of our NATION or leading to starvation on our streets.

The age-old cry of "they're coming over here and taking our jobs" needs the answer of "No! They're doing the jobs that WE WON'T!"

For that matter, why are we not selling visas? People are going to pay ten thousand pounds to EVIL people traffickers just to get stuck in an airtight container lorry or selotaped to the underside of a Eurostar. Wouldn't we be better to let them pay that to HM Treasury for a three-year or five-year or ten-year visa and then we will KNOW when they are coming and they will be able to WORK for their upkeep – like they pretty much all want to – and we might put a crimp in the profits of those EVIL people traffickers. And after three or five or ten years if they ARE working and contributing then we can give them citizenship then. So it's an INCENTIVE.

There IS a separate problem about HOUSING, particularly in the South-East, and the British Nasty Party has taken advantage of this issue. And there is a BIT of a problem about there being more people than water in the South-East too.

But if we make it a bit more easy for LEGAL immigration then it might be a bit easier POLITELY to ask people moving to the country to consider living in the North where there are houses and also RAIN.

If people want to come and live here then GOOD. If they want to come here and build a PIPE for water from the North to the South then TERRIFIC!

We should stop waffling about "incompetence at the Home Office" – yes, the safety elephant was an incompetent buffoon but he's GONE now, and the next incompetent buffoon hasn't had time to get a grip yet, so leave it.

The Labour and the Conservatories are competing to be as NASTY as possible. Well BLEURGH to them.

We should have a BETTER ANSWER.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Day 1960: Mysteries of Doctor Who #2: Skaro's Neighbours From Hell


My Daddies have been watching GENESIS OF THE DALEKS on shiny DVD. As this is the most repeated Doctor Who story of all time you have probably seen it too. It is the one where the crippled genius in the wheelchair invents one of Dr Who's oldest enemies.

Anyway, it is set on the planet SKARO a long time ago in a galaxy far, far… no, that's "the Lion King". The Time Lords send the Doctor there to deal with the DALEKS before they are created. (Possibly due to some bad aiming, he arrives just AFTER Davros has switched the very first Dalek on.)

Skaro is a barren and desolate planet that has been reduced to scrub and stone by a thousand years of war. (Okay, it's a quarry. But it's a very GOOD quarry!) The Doctor and Harry and best-friend Sarah arrive in the no-mans-land (also bad aiming!) between the doomed domed cities of the THALS and the KALEDS.

So here is the big mystery of Skaro: how is it that these two pitiless enemies have been at war for a millennium(!) if they only live down the road from each other?

How far apart can they be?

Well, we get to see a map of the local area in General Ravon's headquarters, clearly made for him out of papier mache by the Kaled equivalent of BLUE PETER. (SINISTER-BLACK PETER probably.) Basically, there is a bit of a range of mountains down the middle and on the plains on one side is the Kaled dome and on the plains on the other side is the Thal dome. There isn't a useful scale, but some largish coloured blocks represent the two sides units or armies so it doesn't seem to be so VERY large.

We do not get to see very much of the Thal dome – a rocket silo, a command point and the traditional bit of corridor – and we see none of the inside of the Kaled dome at all, so we do not have any way to judge how big they might be.

It is possible that both cities are the size of LONDON (they are SUPPOSED to contain the entire surviving populations of their races, after all!) and so the domes are REALLY HUGE: twenty-five miles across or more. Then if General Ravon's toy map is at all to scale, there could be a hundred or more miles between the two domes – so a bit like the Thals living in London and the Kaleds living in Birmingham. Or the other way around if you think that that is offensive to Birmingham!

Or the domes could be a lot smaller and it could be more like the Thals living in the City of London and the Kaleds living in Westminster.

As the story goes along, the Doctor and Harry get taken to Davros' bunker which we learn is three or four miles from the Kaled dome. Sarah accidentally crosses the lines and gets caught by the Thals (which sounds nasty) and taken to their city. Harry and the Doctor escape from the bunker and get to the Kaled dome and then, with help, cross to the Thal dome to try and rescue Sarah. On arriving, they discover that Davros and his chief goose-stepper Nyder have got there first in order to sell out their own side.

Of course, we do not ENTIRELY know how long it can have taken to do this travelling or indeed how they got there – several scenes in the wasteland imply that everyone is walking everywhere but there could be a day's travel in a HELICOPTER, all off screen, for all we know.

It certainly seems unlikely that Davros in his Mark One Travel Machine (i.e. wheelchair) could trundle across the quarry and up to the Thal Dome without some kind of, er, travel machine. Mind you, we later learn [R: "Revelation of the Daleks"] that Davros chair can float, even fly, so it might have been trickier going for Nyder! Actually, that raises the whole sticky question of how exactly does the supreme leader of the hated enemy wander up to the Thal Dome and get let in? But we'll skate over that – maybe Davros has been passing information to the Thals for years and so they've been EXPECTING him to defect sooner or later. It would certainly be in character for him to have set that up.

Anyway, there is one rather crude measure of time and that is how long Sarah and her Muto chum Severin spend loading the Thal's rocket. We (and they) are told that the warhead is to be packed with DYSTRONIC EXPLOSIVE (well it IS a Terry Nation script!) and that exposure to this horrid stuff will give you DYSTRONIC TOXAEMIA and, more importantly, KILL YOU after a few HOURS of exposure.

When the Doctor and Harry arrive to save them, Sarah and Severin are NOT DEAD – which seems to suggest that this is (in the traditional form) later that same day.

Good news for Sarah, but bad news for the scale of the Domes and the distance between them.

So it would seem that the Domes are not hundreds of miles apart; in fact they're probably less than ten miles apart.

So the question then is why is the rest of Skaro in ruins? Surely the Thals and the Kaleds can't have only just figured out that the easiest way to attack the enemy is straight down the road? Have they spent a thousand years under the mistaken impression that they lived at opposite ends of a flat planet and only recently discovered that actually they'd been going the long way around all this time? Did nobody think to turn left instead of right when marching off to war?

Well, perhaps there is a clue in Davros speech to the Kaled elite in part six: history will show, he says, that co-operation between different races is impossible…

Of course, he's just using that as an excuse for saying that the Daleks need to be in charge, but is it significant that he says "races" rather than "our two races"? Is it possible that in the history to which he refers, there were MORE than two races on Skaro?

Thinking again about the Thals and the Kaleds, some of their differences seem a bit ODD. The Kaleds are markedly scientific, in fact that's not out of step with the original Dalek story where the Thals enemy (although called the Dals) were thought to be scientists and teachers. The Thals, on the other fluffy foot, are SOLDIERS and pretty brutal too. The Kaleds idea to end the war is to give all their resources to their very best scientists to think up a technological solution; the Thals answer is to build a GREAT BIG ROCKET. It is intellect versus brute force.

Why don't the Thals have scientists? And why don't the Kaleds have a better army?

Well, it's just a THOUGHT, but suppose that the Thals ARE the Kaleds' army.

Suppose that a thousand years ago, the war started and the Thals and Kaleds were on the SAME SIDE against some OTHER PEOPLE. The Thals provide the troops who all go off to fight the war, while the Kaleds stay at home and develop weapons and defences and ways of growing food from artificial sunlight and all the things that an army needs to support it. Together, Thal strength and Kaled science is unbeatable and, one by one, all of their enemies in the war are defeated and destroyed.

BUT the planet is wrecked in the process.

When the Thal army comes home, there's no longer enough stuff to go around. They've just won the war: they want to reap the benefits. The Kaleds think THEY'VE done all the hard work AND borne most of the hardship, they're certainly not going on LOWER rations to feed these thickos… oh very fluffy dear.

Maybe the Thal/Kaled war is only the VERY LAST war of all the wars that between them have lasted a thousand years and ruined Skaro. That is the history that Davros thinks proves his case: co-operation between races did turn out to be impossible. But it also utterly disproves his case: this hypothetical Thal/Kaled alliance tried to end the war by the application of superior force and in the end had to settle IT'S OWN differences by force.

Davros solution DOES NOT WORK; you only end up killing EVERYONE.

Of course, the OTHER possibility is that, like all Doctor Who monsters, the Thals and the Kaleds have REALLY BAD AIM.

[Stylish cross wipe to…
Star Wars : Episode IV : A New Hope

Scene: EXT Desert, ruined sandcrawler, dead Jawas everywhere

OBI WAN KENOBI: Look at these blast points, Luke: only Imperial Troops are so accurate!

LUKE: But it's as big as a barn!

OBI WAN: Of course! How do you think they managed to hit it?

Look, you'll never see them shoot anyone ever. Suppose you end up on a giant battle station facing thousands of these jokers: who do you think is going to get shot? The untrained farmboy or the cream of the Emperor's soldiery? Seriously, they've bugger all chance of hitting you. Statistically, you're in more danger crossing the road…]

Day 1959: Dead Ringers


It is a new series of impressionist comedy from the DEAD RINGERS and this means that they have got to try out their new PARTY LEADERS.

It sometimes seems that the public pay more attention to comedians than they do to politicians: how many politicians catch phrases catch on? How many of those catch phrases are ACTUALLY comedians DOING the politicians? (Who remembers Mr Major saying "I'm still here!")

Mr Ian Hislop often says that Lady Thatcher was HELPED by the way comedians and cartoonists characterised her as STRONG or HARD or MANLY. It was only when they started to suggest that she was POTTY that they did her any damage.

Comedians often have to keep a closer eye on public mood than politicians because if they are out of touch they will not be FUNNY! And they will only be funny if there is an element elephant of TRUTH in what they say.

Mr Culshaw does a very good Lord Blairimort (this week sharing the bunker with Adolf Hitler and Lady Thatcher). "People of Britain… who hate me…" hurt expression; haunted eyes; Gordon's-stabbed-me-in-the-back shoulders…

Unfortunately their new leaders were, um, not so very good.

Sir Mr the Merciless was done as an old man sat in the corner waiting for the nurse to vacuum around him. I do not think we would have guessed it was him if he had not introduced himself. In fact, in many ways, it was their same portrayal as Mr CK1 Kennedy. Only in a CARDIGAN.

I think that this must be because Sir Mr the Merciless has not made a big enough impact with the public yet.

WE all know that he is rather less this and rather more this.

But he has clearly not done anything OUTRAGEOUS enough to stick in the public mind yet. Maybe he should use his RED LIGHTSABRE to decapitate ALISTAIR DARLING at question time. Or would nobody notice?

Mr Balloon was portrayed as a breathless PR man writing down on is flip board any policy that he was sent by people who phoned in just to have something to support. We could tell it was him because he was joined by Mr Culshaw as Mr William Vague.

This is probably rather MORE disappointing for Mr Balloon who has had a lot longer as leader than Sir Mr the Merciless, plus all the free publicity that shiny-headed Nick Mate-of-Dave Robinson could get him and STILL he doesn't seem to have made enough of an impact to have a proper caricature yet.

Because the Liberal Democrats depend quite a lot on the leader to get ANY media coverage at all, it does not HELP our cause very much for Sir Mr the Merciless to be just an old man sat in the corner. BUT because we are ALSO very much into local campaigning this does not HURT us so very much either.

On the other fluffy foot, the Conservatories are generally seen as EVIL and rely RATHER A LOT on Mr Balloon's media image to make them seem even remotely palatable, so it is probably much the worse for them if he's being seen as a bit of a PHONEY.

Professor Robert Winston's Life on Mars was funny, though.

Day 1958: No Elephants were harmed in the making of…


More exciting television tonight as we watched HANNIBAL with SPECIAL ELEPHANT GUEST STARS (oh and that chap from DEEP SPACE NINE again).

This was the story of the FAMOUS general Hannibal – who we known from DOCTOR WHO – during the PUNIC WARS which were fought between Rome and Carthage. Half documentary, half adventure story, half an excuse to use the BBC's CGI box to make great big battles… that adds up to television-and-a-half! (Minus marks for no CARS though.)

Hannibal was also known as Hannibal Barca. Daddy Richard’s Mummy was known as Miss Barker before she was married. I am saying nothing.

At the time when all this started, and Hannibal's Daddy was in charge of the army of Carthage, Rome was in fact not very important at all and Carthage was the most rich and powerful city in the Mediterranean World.

Which is worth thinking about.

We watched some of the extra features too and learned that Carthage had had a very powerful NAVY made up of big boats with oars. However, one of their boats crash landed in ITALY and the Romans found it and took it all to pieces so that they learned how they could build boats like that too! Then the Romans built lots of their own ships and took control of the sea away from Carthage.

This is why Hannibal had to do his famous crossing of the ALPS so that he could get an army into Italy, because they could no longer get there by going across the sea to Sicily. Hannibal's attack took the Romans completely by surprise and he kept on surprising them, and BEATING them!

On the Roman side was SCIPIO who was played by ROSE TYLER'S DAD! Like they had done with the BOATS earlier, Scipio learned Hannibal's and used them against him, first outflanking him on the sea to attack Carthaginian lands in Spain, and then to invade North Africa and attack Carthage itself.

(He wasn't half helped by the Senator in Carthage, though, who didn't like Hannibal and so made him stay in Italy unable to win against the Roman defences there and unable to come and save Carthage either!)

I am not sure what happened to the ELEPHANTS in the FINAL BATTLE because Daddy covered my eyes so that I could not see. However, the titles at the end started by saying that no elephants were harmed, so I ASSUME that all the Elephants got away safely and lived happily ever after.

[R: and don't ANYONE tell him otherwise!]

Monday, May 15, 2006

Day 1957: Doctor Who: RISE OF THE CYBERMEN


This week Doctor Who was back to being frightening. Which is a GOOD thing, because I get MORE CUDDLES and not soggy from Daddy sobbing into my back!

Here is what he thought of it then:

This was Doctor Who of the 'Old School', but the 'old school' that was "The Caves of Androzani" not "Timelash"!

For a change, this week I read the opinions on the Outpost Gallifrey forums before writing my own review but, in spite of one or two nice observations from the keen eyed – see Pete Tyler's hair loss – opinion there does not seem to have been very inspired: dividing into the love it/hate it camps without much by way of critical analysis unfortunately.

A lot of the critics felt that it was slow; I felt that there was a terrific sense of gathering pace to it, an increasing tempo that marked the approaching march of the Cybermen and keeping time with the repeated glimpses of their new metal forms until the symbolic crash of their entrance.

Most weeks the complaint is that the story is too rushed, taking no time to develop the latest world in which the Doctor finds himself. This story took that time, and it was well used. It was about time that Mickey had more to his backstory than "boyfriend of Rose", and I put my hands up – like the Doctor it hadn't occurred to me to ask before.

And it was a useful way to illustrate some of the shortcomings of this alternative England: not just zeppelins, but curfew and soldiers on the street and homeless starving in the industrial wastelands as though Thatcherism never ended.

I like too that although the audience obviously know that they are in for a Cyberman story, for most of the episode David Tennant plays the Doctor as thinking that he's in an "alternative universe" story, leading to a terrific sense of the Doctor's horror at the climax that he's made all the wrong assumptions about this world.

It is true that the scene with the President meeting Lumic for the first time is not completely necessary from a plot point of view, but it does the Chekhov's gun set up for the "Cybus sales pitch" which the Doctor discovers later on Pete's laptop and hence discovers the real monsters of this piece. And it does establish the President, world weary and with a sad wisdom, played by the ever wonderful Don Warrington. Of course, there's more to this President than his superficial "good" character suggests: after all, his government presides over those curfews and homeless that we saw earlier. (Unless he's an honorary President, and there is a Prime Minister too – though that is not the inference I draw from him forbidding Lumic's experiment on the government's behalf.)

I'm clearly out-of-step with the pack because I also really enjoyed Roger Lloyd-Pack's meaty turn as villainous loon John Lumic head of Cybus Industries. "Skin of metal," he says with such perverse relish, "and a body that will never age…" he's clearly in love with his creations and not just in a platonic way(!) Also, it's clear that he brings Lumic a sense of humour – there's a great moment when he's speaking to the President: "I suppose a remark about crashing the party would be appropriate" and then he laughs but it seems more that he's laughing at his own remark rather than because of it: laughing at the preposterousness of being the stereotypical villain even as he relishes the role.

Two particularly noteworthy moments of direction: the deeply traumatic Cyber-conversion not quite muffled by the upbeat tones of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"; and, though the commentary says it was just a stroke of fortune from the weather, the scenes in the dark and mist with apparently limitless (though in fact ten very well directed) Cybermen looming out of the night on all sides were exceptionally fine.

I'll just pause to give due credit to the Cyber-choreographer. Just as last week with the clockwork robots, the body language of Doctor Who monsters is a crucial, and often overlooked, element in selling their "reality". As Doctor Who Confidential made clear, the current production team are well aware of this and have been willing to go that extra mile to make use that these Cybermen look and more importantly march as though they mean it.

To touch briefly on the deadly question of continuity: the story is generally pitched as an "origin of the Cybermen" story and you can read it as Lumic inventing them. There is enough wiggle room for the dedicated fanboy to infer that Lumic acquired the remains of the Cybermen from Pat Troughton adventure "The Invasion" (by buying up International Electromatics, the Cybermen's front company in that story, seen again here) and has spent the intervening decades reverse engineering the technology. It would be nice to have a causal line to that effect in next weeks "The Age of Steel" but I expect that the producers will leave it ambiguous.

Weaknesses: well, the obvious one to me is that if you weld some homeless people's brains into Cyber-bodies but have to put in an "override" so that they obey your commands… wouldn't it just be easier to build some robots?

I liked the visual style of the ear-pods (and loved the ear-pods not "eye"-pods gag) but I think I would have liked it more if there had been people with different stages of upgrade: those with just the ear-pods; some with ear-pods and "handles" for an always-on connection; some with maybe a metal wrap-around covering the ears and the back of the head (plus handles) with extra memory capacity; and so on, to indicate that there is upgrading going on by choice and to show progression towards the horrific conclusion. What we get instead is a rather big jump from ear-pod to full body and I'm not certain that people would wear it (if you'll forgive the pun).

For me, a large part of the Cybermen's tragedy is that they did this awful thing to themselves. Now, I like the way that the 2006 team have updated the spare-part surgery nightmare of the 1960s into the must-have latest upgrade fetish of the 2000's, so wouldn't it have been better to have had Mr Crane (Colin Spaul – is he only the second person to have appeared in Doctor Who both pre-1989 and post-2005?), rather than kidnapping the homeless, park his van in Piccadilly Circus and offer the very latest free upgrade to the first dozen oh-so-keen teens to take up this never to be repeated offer? Polish up that exchange between the President and Mr Lumic nicely:

THE PRESIDENT: "Who were these people?"

LUMIC: "Teenagers, Mr President. Wasteful, idle, vain. The least useful members of our society. Before I improved them. Think of the contribution they can make now!"

THE PRESIDENT: "I'm so sorry that this was done to you."

LUMIC: "Oh, don't be sorry, Mr President. That's the beauty of my work: they were all volunteers, they got exactly what they deserved." (Bwah ha ha ha haaaa etc.)

James Graham raises a good question about alternative universes and just why everyone we know is so important.

With my post-factor-justification hat on, I might suggest the following. The Doctor initially does not expect them to have arrived in an alternative universe, but instead thinks they will be marooned in the "silent realm" outside time and space. But in the Doctor Who universe there is a place outside of time and space where fiction and dreams come true.

Could it be that they have landed in this alternative universe guided there by the (subconscious?) desires of Rose and Mickey – she wants her mother and father alive and together and rich; he wants his Gran alive and himself to be respected and important. And behold, they get their wishes.

[Alex suggests: "and the Doctor wants a monster to fight!"]

Mickey raised the question of how the TARDIS managed to get there and the Doctor skated over an answer: "I dunno. By accident?" which suggests, or at least leaves open, the possibility that more may be made of this later – perhaps someone is trying to open holes in the universe.

Or it may all be a coincidence.

The end titles give a credit to Marc Platt, and clearly there is a nod towards his Cybermen origins story "Spare Parts": a Big Finish audio where the fifth Doctor and Nyssa arrive at the beginning of the tragedy on frozen Mondas as it drifts into the depths of space. Highly recommended.

However, I found that "Rise of the Cybermen" had rather more in common with Mike Tucker's BBC Past Doctor novel "Loving the Alien".

In an alternative England, frail genius George Limb discovers the remains of some Cybermen during the Second World War and uses the technology to improve British soldiers so that Britain wins the war without American intervention. Limb continues to lead the Empire as Prime Minister, an Orwellian Big Brother figure, while overseeing the Cyber-augmentation of the population.

Personally, I think that this is one of the worst of the BBC books range, not just because it is a ghastly train-wreck of colliding plots and timelines but also because of its treatment of the Doctor's companion Ace.

Essentially, after her TV story appearances, the character of Ace had continued in 32 of the Virgin New Adventures, eventually leaving in "Set Piece" to become an adventurer in her own right (although she returned for guest appearances in "Head Games", "Happy Endings" and "Lungbarrow"). When the BBC ended Virgin's licence in 1997, Tucker and co-author Robert Perry began a new series of adventures with Ace following on from the TV stories but contradicting minor continuity points from the New Adventures, such as changing her surname from "McShane" to the so-much-more-tedious "Gale".

This all culminates in "Loving the Alien" with the original Ace from the television episodes being killed, and an Ace from an alternative timeline joining the Doctor as his companion, obviously the "New Adventures" Ace. (You can take this as them generously allowing for both continuities or they were being petty and saying "ha ha, we were right and you New Adventures writers were just using a copy".) My main problem then and now was the reaction of the Doctor: it seems not to matter to him at all that a real person called Ace has died because he still has a companion called Ace, the copy from another universe.

I dredge all of this up because it struck me as clashing markedly with the Doctor's very strong insistence to Rose that the Pete from this universe was not her father.

Finally, thanks to overrunning of the episode and (hopefully) the wisdom of Steven Mophat from last year's "The Empty Child" finally sticking with the production team we didn't get a "Next time…" spoiler to ruin the cliff-hanger. (Mark of a good cliff-hanger, by the way: how much it gets you wondering "how will they get out of that?") Hoorah!

And so:

Next time: to be continued…

Day 1956: Balloon Hijack


Mr Balloon has come out with a firm new policy. He is to reform, replace or abolish humans.


This is about the case of some people from AFGHANISTAN who got on an aeroplane and then stole it and all the people on board and made them fly ALL THE WAY to Britain. Where they were caught red handed!

At the time, February 2000, Afghanistan was being ruled by some VERY BAD people called the TALLIBAN who had taken all the rules of their religion and turned them up to ELEVEN. They were very mean to women and to television sets. And by the end of 2001 Britain would be at WAR with them. So by and large we can agree that they were not VERY nice. Even though it was a VERY BAD THING to steel and aeroplane and all those people you can sort of understand why DESPERATE people might do it.

(And haven’t I seen JAMES BOND do something like that?)

Mr Balloon says:

“It is wrong to undermine public safety by allowing the human rights of dangerous criminals to fly in the face of common sense”

Is he saying that he thinks that these men will hijack ANOTHER planeload of people and fly them BACK to Afghanistan???

Lord Blairimort had said that the court (who are the people who looked carefully at the facts of the case) had made a decision that was an “abuse of common sense”, so it interesting that Mr Balloon is so clearly saying that the government is wrong by, er, agreeing with Lord Blairimort.

Does anyone remember what “LIBERAL CONSERVATIVE” meant?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Day 1955: Sir Mr the Merciless Strikes Back!


Ordinary QUESTIONABLE TIME was supposed to come from Belfast this week but that was cancelled in favour of a SPECIAL EDITION from London.

At first we thought that this was because Mr DIMBLEDUM had refused to get on the EASY JET to Belfast, but no, it turned out that it was because of the LOCAL ELECTIONS last week and the events at the court of Lord Blairimort that were too exiting to let go past without a good GOSSIP!

(What a shame that the LOCAL ELECTIONS came as such a surprise to us all, or Mr Dimbledum could have planned for this in advance!)

It was jolly good too because it starred Liberal Democrat leader Sir Mr the Merciless along with one-time Conservatory big beast Lord Tarzan of Hessleswine. In keeping with the theory that Lord Blairimort only promotes people who will cover his bottom on television, newly elevated chief-chicken Mrs Hazel Blears was there to do her "I'm so disappointed with you all" look whenever someone was critical of the Labour. Also Piers Fletcher-Dervish who I THINK used to be an idiot on the telly.

We thought that it went VERY WELL for Sir Mr the Merciless. Mainly because he was being Merciless.

We already know that people see Sir Mr the Merciless as TRUSTWORTHY, but it is good to see him being a good PROSECUTOR as well. It is important that he has the right QUESTIONS with which to focus the debate onto the crucial area: WHAT is the government doing? IS IT what people want them to do? ARE they doing it right? SHOULD they even be doing it at all?

Even better is when he can say: why are they not doing THIS instead?

I have written down the questions and tried to remember some of his answers:

Question One: Blair has made his cabinet ministers pay for mistakes they have made. What makes him so invincible or unwilling to pay for his mistakes?

Asked by Mr Dimbledum how long Lord Blairimort can last: He'll go in 12 months on the day of his 10th anniversary in Downing Street – or the day after since that would be the day of the local elections.

Question Two: Is it right that a man past retirement age with a title but no job should continue to enjoy two free houses, £133,000 salary and a couple of Jags?

If John Prescot were to be sacked there would have to be an election for the post of Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, and if there is an election for Deputy Leader how much greater the chance of there having to be an election for the post of Leader of the Labour Party. John Prescott remains there as protection for the Prime Minister, but paid for out of public money – that's your taxes and mine. And I object to that.

Question Three: Does the lack of any clear Tory identity or policies mean that a Labour government will be in power beyond the next general election?

Here's what I say to Mr Cameron: "Where's the beef?" (Eek! That's what I said!) The environment is too important to wait for eighteen months for Mr Cameron's ideas; here are the Liberal Democrat policies…

Question Four: The wrong intelligence led to the Iraq war and intelligence services sadly failed on 7/7. What is the answer?

There should be a public inquiry – just as in America they had a full, open inquiry in Congress and the Senate – so that people can have confidence that the government is fulfilling its first duty: to protect the people

Question Five: Is the hijacking of planes a legitimate means of gaining permanent status in the UK?

A very good answer: of course we should give human rights to these hijackers, even if that makes me unpopular with some members of this audience.

We should be able to rely upon the judicial system to get it right, and not make mistakes that get cases thrown out, and then punish people in the proper way for the hijacking, but after that process is over and quite separately we should then consider whether it would violate their human rights if we were to return them to Afghanistan.

What we need to remember is that human rights are there to protect all of us, and you never know when you or your family or friends might need them.

The other panellists were MUCH less impressive.

In fact, during the first question, Lord Hessleswine became very CONFUSED and forgot who was who in the Cabinet. (Daddy Alex said that if they treated him the same as they treated Mr Charles CK1 then the media would use the clip over and over to try and imply Lord Hessleswine was DRUNK! I bet that they don't!)

And we were a BIT worried that Mrs Blears has started to talk a bit like the MINISTER FOR MAGICAL ACCIDENTS.

I wonder if this, this and this might be the explanation!

Mrs Blears made one man in the audience VERY CROSS (and my Daddy Richard too) when she was saying that the horrible TERRORISM in London last July had been nothing to do with INVADING IRAQ. "You sit there and say that you listen to the people," shouted the audience man, "but a million people marched to say no to the war and you didn't listen then!" Mrs Blears gave him her I-pity-you-for-being-a-pleb look and said the issue was too complicated for him to understand. This made Daddy Richard shout a LOT of things at the television but I do not think I can write any of them down. Except maybe "…PATRONISING…!!!!".

Yesterday, Mr Mike Smithson of POLITICAL STIRRING DOT COM hazarded a salvo against Sir Mr the Merciless followed (uncannily) by this editorial in the INDEPENDENT.

I think people are saying this because Sir Mr the Merciless has been a bit bad at Prime Minister's Questions a few times. He needs to spend summer practicing it a bit and get some better helpers for his preparation. But it really does not matter. King Paddy of Bosnia was not much good at it either and that did not matter then. Mr William Vague was very good at it and he still crashed and burned in the real world.

The ONLY person for whom it MATTERED was Mr Iain Drunken-Swerve because he was rubbish OUTSIDE the House of Commons AS WELL AS in it. If he had kept his Conservatory troops happy at PMQs they MIGHT not have all stabbed him in the back when they did. But they probably would have anyway!

The important thing, then, is that Sir Mr the Merciless is making sure that the party in parliament are all well organised and happy and feel that they can talk to their supreme leader and that he is listening to them. Since they are Liberals getting them all singing from the same hymn sheet is harder that HERDING CATS. And besides, we have heard them sing at GLEE CLUB!

It seems to ME that too many people are listening to the Conservatories when they keep BRAYING ON about how Sir Mr the Merciless is OLD. Oddly enough, the Conservatories have an AGENDA when they say this, and it may shock you to learn that it is NOT that they have the BEST INTERESTS of the Liberal Democrats in mind.

Far be it for me to suggest that they FIB, but really!

Sir Mr the Merciless has SENIORITY and WISDOM and GRAVITAS and RESPECT in BUCKETS compared to the new leader that the Conservatories have chosen. Mr Balloon has not demonstrated that he is good for ANYTHING yet apart from SOFT FOCUS PHOTOGRAPHY and picking up HUSKY-DOG DOO-DOO. "Newness" is all that he has so OF COURSE the Conservatories keep going on about how everyone else is OLD.

If Mr Balloon's "newness" is so jolly good – why did the Conservatories not put HIM or one of his "new" CHUMS on this SPECIAL-EDITION LORD-BLAIRIMORT-IN-CRISIS Questionable Time?

Here is my advice for today: Liberal Democrats should not try to SPIN. We are not any good at it and it does not do us any good anyway.

Stick to saying what we think to people's faces.

Day 1954: The Apprentice: You're Hired!


Here is a terrible thing to confess: my Daddies are becoming addicted to REALITY TV!

It is all the fault of DOCTOR WHO.

On Saturday nights they turn on the telly EARLY so that they do not miss the beginning of the new show, so the evening starts at 6pm and that means it starts with Graham Norton's DANCE FEVER. Daddy Richard watches this and comments on the ESPECIALLY HORRID dresses and on the EXCITING moves and on which of the JUDGES fancies which of the CONTESTANTS.

Hmm, I wonder if this says something about Daddy Richard?

Anyway, after Graham Norton is Doctor Who (so long as Graham remembers to shut up!) and after that is Doctor Who Confidential on BBC3.

BUT after that is THE APPRENTICE – yes, it's the show with the Power Crazed Alien Lizards trying to win the trust, confidence, and most importantly money of fluffy Mr Sir Alan Sugar.

Actually, by this week, Mr Sir Alan seemed to have EATEN all but two of the Power Crazed Alien Lizards for breakfast, so maybe he is not QUITE as fluffy as I had taken him for.

Sad to say, however, my Daddies have started to find the desperate antics of this sorry bunch of big business wannabes to be DISTURBINGLY COMPELLING. I suspect that this is down to an IGNOBLE desire to see ARCH-LIZARD Syed get his much deserved comeuppance.

As the show has gone on and Syed has managed to kybosh each and every task in turn, we have seen Mr Sir Alan look at him almost fondly, even as he bawls him out and tries to shut him up. I suspect that Mr Sir Alan was seeing RATHER TOO MUCH of HIMSELF in Syed's brand of cheeky I'm-going-to-win-by-hook-or-by-crook ATTITUDE. Plus the fact that the OTHER Power Crazed Alien Lizards were actually SOMEHOW more incompetent than Syed was!

Still, in the end Syed's decision to try and run the entire WINTER OLYMPICS on the deck of a boat was what did him in. Also, getting caught on camera thinking about cheating on the RAFFLE… and then FIBBING about it to Mr Sir Alan's face! That was when Ruth "the" Badger DROPPED HIM IN IT good and proper.

The FUNNY thing was that as the end got nearer, I started to feel SORRY for the poor Power Crazed Alien Lizards as one by one they were gobbled up by Mr Sir Alan. Who could have been more annoying that total BLUFF-MEISTER Paul Tulip, and yet when Mr Sir Alan's masters of the inquisition were tearing his CV to pieces and making him eat it, I didn't half feel sad for the silly sausage. He had done very well at all of the tasks, even if he would have promised you the sun would rise in the West.

However, I do not think that Mr Sir Alan was at all impressed with Paul's made up CV and he was quickly dispatched. Ansel got a much nicer treatment by Mr Sir Alan, probably because he was actually a bit NICE in spite of the appearance of his strangely bling glasses.

That left RUTH, who Mr Charlie Brooker of the GUIDE in the GRAUNIAD described as a CAREER MINDED-MINOTAUR. In a good way. Even though she was the SCARIEST THING I have EVER SEEN – even scarier than Lord Blairimort's stormtroopers – I also started to feel that someone who put so very much effort into coming first in every single aspect of life deserves to win SOMETHING. Even if it is only a day off!

And Michelle, who has spent most of the Apprentice saying RUDE things and looking very much like she would rather be Apprentice to the Battle Queen of the S'rax

but, ACTUALLY, under her Alien Lizard exterior it was starting to turn out that she MIGHT in fact be SOFT AND CUDDLY underneath, having WORKED very hard for all of her life in order to look after the rest of her family because her older sister had died. Also, sometime she remembered to SMILE and this made her look MUCH MORE HUMAN!

This week though it was the FINAL! And it turned out that Mr Sir Alan had not been eating the Power Crazed Alien Lizards after all. Or at least not all of them – he had saved some of the least appetising ones for later and so they were able to come back and try to totally mess up Ruth and Michelle's chances of WINNING.

Mr Sir Alan wanted the girls to organise him TWO parties. Now, I may like Mr Sir Alan's CAR very much indeed, but wanting TWO parties at once is a BIT GREEDY!

Michelle made the very BRAVE choice ("brave" meaning "suicidally insane") to pick Syed and Paul and Sharon even though all of them HATED each other and all of them ESPECIALLY HATED Michelle.

On the other hand Ruth "the" Badger had made the BRAVE choice ("brave" meaning "suicidally insane") to organise a party that Mr Sir Alan thought stank like last weeks pants!

So they were about even on that score!

Once again, Syed was the VERY BEST at totally messing up, by managing to sell almost NO tickets for Michelle's party and having a BIG ARGUMENT with everyone else, out in the STREET. He said he was [holds fluffy paws very close together] this close to being REALLY HORRID! I am glad that they turned off the cameras at that point. Or maybe Michelle just DISINTEGRATED him with her LASER BEAM EYES.

Ruth meanwhile ADAPTED her Murder Mystery evening idea to be more like ANYTHING Mr Sir Alan had mentioned by making it a Murder Mystery in COLOURFUL and/or VICTORIAN costume. With CAN-CAN dancers.

I wonder whodunit?

Anyway, just like in the GENERATION GAME, Mr Sir Alan comes back at the end to hand out the scores.

Ruth had sold more tickets because she had thought to call up all of the people from the rest of the series and had not had Syed to spoil it for her. But Michelle had had a better party because she had done what Mr Sir Alan had asked and also because she had picked Sharon who organises parties as her job so was GOOD at it. And – to be fair – because when she had seen how Syed was MESSING her THINGS UP she had disintegrated him!

So Mr Sir Alan gave Ruth 9 out of 10 for being a jolly good Power Crazed Alien Lizard, but gave Michelle 11 out of 10 because he's a roughty tufty businessman and what good did MATHS ever do anyone anyway?

I think Mr Sir Alan chose Michelle because he thought that she had worked her way up from the bottom just like he had. And because in the end he admired her PLUCK in picking Syed and then he admired the POPPING sound Syed made when she disintegrated him!

And so Michelle won!

I wonder what my Daddies will find to do between Doctor Who confidential and the who-got-voted-off-Strictly-Graham-Norton bit now?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Day 1953: I've Been Luntzed!


Some of you may remember Mr Frank Luntz, who has appeared on the Newsnight show.

Last month, I did a diary about how I spotted the lady from upstairs in Mr Luntz's latest show on the television and went to ask her about it. I also added some ideas about how a session like that might be open to manipulation. Not by Mr Luntz, of course; a proper pollster wouldn't need such tricks.

Well, Mr Luntz himself has been VERY KIND enough to READ my FLUFFY DIARY and post a REPLY!

(I am AMAZED – and a little bit scared – by the POWER of the Internet!)

I think that it is only FAIR if you read his side of the story too, so here is what he has to say:

"I came across your reaction to my focus groups and I just had to comment on a couple of points. It's 5:30 am in the states so I won't take it apart bit by bit, but two points need a response.

"First, when I layed out the photos in the initial session to look at the prospective British Conservative leaders, I didn't even know what Cameron looked like. In fact, the only two people I recognized and knew anything about was Clarke and Fox (whom I had met once before).

"This assertion that the photos were put in some explicit order is ridiculous. They were handed to me in an envelop in that order and that's just how I put them up on the board. I'm sure if I had put Cameron on top, or on the bottom right, or some other place, you would have ascribed a sinister strategy.

"Second, and this is most important, the results of EVERY dial session I have done for Newsnight has been accurately reflected in the subsequent election. The Labour collapse amd Lib-Dem gain, Cameron's election in 2005, and Labour's further drop in 2006 were all documented in the Newsnight sessions. The groups may not confirm what you personally believe, but they do accurately confirm -- based on the election results themselves -- what the people of Britain are thinking.

"Frank Luntz"

Thank you, Mr Luntz for taking the time to read what I said!

Um, if is not too IMPERTINENT, how did you make your SELECTION OF CLIPS of Mr Balloon to show to your guests if you did not know what he LOOKED LIKE before you put out the photos on the day?

I think your second point is A BIT STRANGE. I am sure that it really is MOST IMPORTANT to you that people continue to believe that you CAN make predictions that are right but I do NOT remember you actually MAKING any predictions about how the local elections would turn out.

Did you say that the Conservatories would be gaining more than 300 council seats? That would be a measurable prediction that would show you are good! Or did you predict the twenty plus gains for the British Nasty Party? That would have been a good way to show foresight!

Saying that election night would be a good night for Mr Balloon is a BIT in the SEASIDE FORTUNE TELLER league. You could also try saying that Mr Balloon will meet a tall dark stranger.

Predicting that Mr Balloon would be leader of the Conservatories was more CLEVER – but not THAT MUCH more clever.

If you look at it, a LOT of the Conservatories (and not least general-election-looser Mr Something of the Night!) were looking for the man who could beat Mr Davis David.

It wasn't going to be Sir Malcolm Rifkind; even HE knew he didn't stand a chance. And no matter what the BBC, Guardian, Independent or actual real live members of the public might have WISHED, that man was never going to be Fatty Clarke either! So you really you only had to pick between SWIVEL-EYED EURO-LOON Fantastic Doctor Fox and EMPTY-SPACE-WITH-A-SMILE-DRAWN-ON Mr Balloon.

Before anyone gets the WRONG IDEA: there is NO REASON to think that Mr Luntz was not COMPLETELY GENUINE.

But, if done by someone UNSCRUPULOUS, it could just be another CONJURING TRICK, this time FIND THE LADY!

That is not to say that there is not A LOT OF SKILL involved in doing that sort of thing. A stage magician must do a lot of HARD WORK to guide the way his audience thinks.

Which reminds me, Mr Luntz: have you considered the effect that your prediction might have made on the people choosing Mr Balloon?

As a pollster you can tell me: isn't SELF-FULFILLING PROPHESY one of the things that polls have to work carefully to avoid?

(Doesn't that include things like being careful about the way and order in which you ask questions so as not to be LEADING the respondents. Oh, and probably how you lay out props – like photos – in the setting for the poll. Aren't professional pollsters supposed to be very careful about that sort of thing?)

You are PROBABLY a very FLUFFY and NAÏVE individual a bit like ME, Mr Luntz, and do not realise that SOMETIMES people who are involved in ELECTIONS make use of opinion polls to try and help them win!

Mr the Merciless plays up polls that say the Liberal Democrats are doing well.
(You have probably not seen the BAR CHARTS on Liberal Democrat Focus leaflets.)

Mr Balloon plays up polls that say the Conservatories are doing well.
(Do you remember how that used to happen when he first started?)

HM Margaret Hedgehog plays up polls that say the British Nasty Party are doing well.
(Err.. that might have been a DREADFUL mistake!)

Did you know that Mr Balloon sent out DVDs of YOUR NEWSNIGHT PIECE to all the Conservatory voters in the leadership election? I am sure that this must make you very upset.

No doubt you would be SHOCKED to think that you might have become involved with PROPAGANDA!!

However, what I think is MOST IMPORTANT is that people need to be FULLY INFORMED if they are to make good decisions.

People who read my DIARY know that my Daddies support the LIBERAL DEMOCRATS (go look – it's in my VERY FIRST ENTRY!) so they can take that into account when they read my OPINIONS.

I think people should know your political background too, Mr Luntz, so that they are better able to understand things like your choice of questions and editorial policy.

I talked to the lady who was at your meeting and got a VERY DIFFERENT impression of what people there thought from her than I got from watching the TELLY.

You do not need to be DELIBERATELY manipulating what was shown for this to happen – it is QUITE NATURAL that, for example, someone who LIKED the RIGHT WING PARTIES might pick up more on the positive things about MR BALLOON.

Equally, the nice lady could have been emphasising the NICE things about the Liberal Democrats because she was talking to me! That is why it is GOOD and PROPER that people know that I am a Liberal Democrat elephant so that they can take that into account when reading MY VERSION.

In the same way, people watching the telly should KNOW that the person making the show had, for example, worked for the REPUBLICAN PARTY in America, or alternatively had been at OXFORD UNIVERSITY with friends of Mr Balloon. That way they can BETTER understand what they are watching because they will know that that person might ACCIDENTALLY be favouring Mr Balloon.

I am sure that an honest person like you would agree that keeping quiet about these things makes it look, QUITE UNFAIRLY, like you have something to hide. And it would be HORRIBLE if your reputation suffered for that!

Dear reader, if you have enjoyed Mr Luntz's reply, you might be interested to know that he has also replied to THE LIBERAL REVIEW and to MY DADDY ALEX.

In fact, he has sent the SAME reply to The Liberal Review and to My Daddy Alex.

I am glad that he wrote me a PROPER replay and not SPAM.

I do hope that all these replies are not because Mr Luntz suddenly has a lot more time on his hands.

Day 1952: Mysteries of Doctor Who #1: Just What Is so Mysterious about Ravolox?


Let me set the scene for you: after a fifteen month hiatus, Doctor Who returned to the telly in Autumn 1986 starring the multi-talented (and multi-coloured!) Colin Baker in an epic fourteen part adventure, the longest in the programme's history, called "The Trial of a Time Lord". The Doctor is summoned through time and space to a courtroom set on a Time Lord space station (possibly the location of the Matrix – no, not the Keano version) where he faces a black clad prosecutor, the Valeyard, who intends to try him for his actions (and probably have him executed!).

Because the season long show was made in three recording blocks, and because they are clearly distinguished by the changing setting for the evidence, these are often given separate "story titles" (based in part on the Target novelisations): "The Mysterious Planet", "Mindwarp", "Terror of the Vervoids" and "The Ultimate Foe" (or sometimes "Time Inc.")

For the first four episodes then, "The Mysterious Planet", the Valeyard's evidence comes from the Doctor's adventure on Ravolox, obviously the planet of the title.

Guess what: it's EARTH!

It's two million years into the future and someone has incinerated the surface of the planet with a firestorm, though it has recovered to the extent that it is covered in forest (and also fur-clad villagers, when the plot demands). The villagers are actually escapees from an underground survival chamber in Marb Station (yes, it used to be Marble Arch) run by a robot called Drathro that's having a bit of a personality crisis because it may just have discovered that it's sentient.

There's an interesting (though soon to be much less interesting) villain called Glitz who is there to steel something that the Doctor doesn't find out about until much later but that aside it's all very much the usual capture-escape-capture-escape finish with a big bang hijinx undermined by some rather poor costumes and jokes, not least the glooping of the companions gag at the end.

So, anyway, why is Ravolox "mysterious"?

The Doctor's decision to go there in the first place is based on the fact that – unique in the universe – Ravolox has the same period of rotation, revolution and angle of inclination as the Earth. The problem with that is that none of those things will be the same in two million years time: tidal effects of gravity will slow the Earth's rotation (the time it takes to spin on its axis, i.e. the length of a day) and its revolution (the time it takes to go around the sun, i.e. the length of a year) and the angle of the axis itself will also wobble about, again affected by gravity (not to mention anything actually hitting the planet which tends to knock these things off kilter too).

Well, you might say, the Doctor means that all of these things are the same for Ravolox as they are for Earth two million years in the future – except, for rather obvious reasons, he ought not to be able to compare with Earth, i.e. because it's NOT THERE!

In fact, it's actually MORE mysterious that the Doctor could KNOW about Ravolox – and it's spooky similarity to his favourite planet – and NOT know that in the same time zone the Earth itself is mysteriously not actually there.

Could it be that the Earth was REPLACED? Leaving aside the sheer waste of effort involved in moving one planet and then moving ANOTHER to sub for it while it's off somewhere else, you would need – surely – yet another planet identical to Earth. And there isn't one, because Ravolox is the only one which is why it's so mysterious.

The thing that ought to be rather more noticeable about Ravolox is that it is the same SIZE as the Earth: its volume and mass. And consequently it has the same surface gravity. (Mind you, so does everywhere else in the Doctor Who universe – maybe the Time Lords got rid of all the planets that weren't the same size as Gallifrey!) Obviously the planet's mass increases somewhat over time as well, as space dust and meteorites and solar wind all deposit more matter on the planet. But it's not going to be nearly so dramatic an increase over the time span.

Equally, its mineral composition (how much carbon, oxygen, silicon, iron and other elements and compounds make up the bulk of the planet) ought to be a pretty good fingerprint.

If you want to be a REAL fanboy, you could say that (unlikely as it may seem) Ravolox is the only planet other than Earth where Silicon Dioxide in the form of QUARTZ can be found. (Just because that's a reference to "The Pirate Planet" doesn't mean anyone actually needs to know that for it to make plot – if not scientific – sense.)

The OTHER big GIVE AWAY is, of course, THE MOON. To the best of our knowledge, the Moon is unusually large as planetary satellites go, almost one sixth the size of the Earth. In fact this gave rise to lots of ideas that it was REALLY a captured PLANETOID and in the Doctor's universe it IS (see "Doctor Who and the Silurians" for this sort of thing). Analysis of moon rock from OUR moon brought back by the Apollo missions has since shown that in fact the Moon is more likely to have been originally a large chunk of the Earth that was blasted off by a collision with a huge asteroid while the planet was still forming. But wherever it came from, it's still a really JOLLY HUGE landmark.

Of course, it's possible that when Earth was moved to become Ravolox, they left the Moon behind – but that brings us back to the whole rotation, revolution thing. The Earth and Moon are A DYNAMIC system, take the Moon away and it'll do very funny things to the way the Earth itself spins.

And anyway, that brings us to the deeper mystery of where IS Ravolox, or where was Earth actually moved to?

Now I do know that writers of Doctor Who tend to be a bit poor when it comes to the ol' COSMIC SCIENCE. This is the series that was always confused about the terms Solar System/Galaxy/Universe even without Terry Nation's ideas about evolution having a fixed path or radiation sickness or icecanos (yes, alright, I know about this), not to mention David Whittaker and the Magic of Mercury.

Nevertheless, this one is particularly egregious and it drives me NUTS every time I see it quoted without qualification in fan guide book.

Earth is moved "a couple of light years" later described as "only two light years".

Now, the most ELEMENTARY "Big Book of Space" will tell you that the VERY NEAREST star system to our own, PROXIMA CENTAURI, is 4.2 light years from the sun. Or TWICE as far away as Earth is allegedly moved.

It's fairly obvious, from the way that there is recognisable green vegetation and indeed rain – and not, for example, an airless frozen wasteland – that the Earth IS about a hundred and fifty million kilometres from a medium sized yellow dwarf star.

But, and let's be completely blunt about this, there aren't any STARS there for Ravolox to be orbiting.

In fact, someone seems to have spotted this problem, because it is later said that it's not JUST the Earth, but it's ENTIRE SOLAR SYSTEM that was moved. Hang on, what? The ENTIRE Solar System – wouldn't the fact that Ravolox ENTIRE stellar system is a perfect match for the Earth's Solar System be just the TINIEST bit of a give away. Not to mention more of a clue than that business with rotation and axial tilt?

It turns out that the PURPOSE behind moving the Earth is so that a rescue mission coming from ANDROMEDA (about two-and-a-half million light years away!) will go flying past and miss – what with the Earth not being at the expected co-ordinates.

(Although if you are going to the trouble of moving the planet and don't care that the population survives, why limit yourself to just two light years: why not two-hundred or two thousand? In fact, wouldn't dropping it down a black hole be an altogether more expedient way of making sure no one ever found your secrets? If you are trying to HIDE the planet, why leave it looking so similar to Earth – rotation yadda, yadda, yadda – that it is remarked upon as odd? I mean if you can move the planet you can at least tip the thing's axis over a couple of degrees, can't you?)

Anyway, two light years out of two-and-a-half million is actually well within the kind of navigation error that you ought to be able to cope with if you are planning on conducting inter-galactic space missions: it's an error of less than one one-hundred-thousandth of a degree in your bearing. Nevertheless, that might work with a robot spaceship – and Drathro shows that the Andromedan's DO use robots for this sort of thing – if the robots are particularly dumb and bound by their programming.

But WHY would it fool the Doctor? Surely he would NOTICE that Ravolox's co-ordinates are right up close to the Earth's!

Of all the "mysterious" things that might make him investigate Ravolox, surely it's the fact that it's RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the Earth, that abruptly there is a new nearest planetary system to Earth, that in fact it's habitable. Oh, and the Solar System seems to be a bit MISSING.

So the REAL mystery must be why would the Doctor THINK that this planet that looks just like Earth in a Solar System that is just like the Earth's that is right next door to where the Earth ought to be but isn't, why would he think this ISN'T the Earth?