...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Day 3251: Mr Balloon Makes Himself Look a Total Burka


Are the Conservatories about to come out against Faith Schools? I think not. So what was Mr Balloon doing raising SINISTER SUSPICIONS and AIRY ALLEGATIONS at Prime Monsters Questionable Time about two schools that JUST HAPPEN to be supported by an ISLAMIC foundation?

Mr Balloon's "question" was whether the Government's anti-extremist fund was being used to, er, fund extremists.

But where was his EVIDENCE?

As his BBC chum Mr Nick "mate of Dave" Robinson spun it, some of Mr Balloon's facts were less than accurate. There's a word for facts that are less than accurate. And it ISN'T "facts".

So are we going to be having Government by WILD ACCUSATION and WITCH HUNT now?

Listening to the radio coverage on PM yesterday, you would have thought so. First up was Mr Michael Borogove, gyring and gambling around the truth. Told that there were in fact some letters from the schools and their trustees flatly denying his claims, he dismissed these with a wave of "well I haven't read those" and carried on making his point as though his TOTAL LACK of EVIDENCE trumped the evidence that he hadn't bothered to read. And yet, he got away with it.

Next up to bat was Schools Bully Secretary Mr Balls. Asked about these allegations, he replied that yes when they had first been raised two years ago, the schools were inspected and found to be fully compliant with the requirements on "spiritual development".

Yes, okay, you may shudder at the idea that your children's school has ANYTHING to do with "spiritual development" (assuming that doesn't mean an illegal still in the chemistry department!) but nevertheless that is surely the end of the matter: there was a question raised, we inspected the schools, it was shown that there were no extremists brainwashing youngsters using the language lab. Job done.

Let me just repeat this point, because it's quite IMPORTANT. These are NOT two "opinions" with equal right to be heard. Mr Borogove is making an assertion; he has NO evidence. Mr Balls is reporting the results of an investigation; he DOES have the evidence.

And yet, it was Mr Balls being given a hard time, as the presenter repeatedly jabbed a finger at him crying "witch, witch, witch!" Or something like that.

By the end of the day, though, the Conservatories were apologising – or at least UNpologising – for talking a load of total HONK.

The Newsnight Show featured Mr Paul "Not Very" Goodman going quite PINK in the face with the force of his unpology, as he explained that even though Mr Balloon had been completely wrong about all the facts, he had raised a very, very, very important point and so should be made Prime Monster.

"I can see you're not going to answer my questions…" said Mr Paxo turning away.

"I HAVE answered them!" squawked the Conservatory, "AND one of your questions was WRONG!"

"No you haven't," said Paxo and visible muted the mike.

Mr Michael Borogove was no longer giving interviews, and was last seen in a head-to-toe tea-towel standing four steps behind Mr Balloon and keeping his mouth shut.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Day 3250: Sixty-Two BILLION Pounds in Brown Envelopes, please


Suppose you're running a business and it is time to prepare some accounts. Things are looking a bit TIGHT, so here's a trick: borrow a load of CASH from a friend of yours and give it back after the accounts are done. That way, if suppliers look at your balance sheet, they'll see that you have plenty of money to keep paying your bills and so will carry on giving you credit.

There's only ONE small snag – it's TOTALLY a fraud.

So how did the Government get away with doing EXACTLY THAT for those banks that we own: RBS and HBoS?

It's not even as though they WEREN'T drawing up accounts, because right in between the Bank of England suddenly going all "The Bank that Likes to Say Yes" and the money getting swiftly bunged back, Lloyds TSB were persuaded to buy the "strangely having plenty of cash on fluffy foot" HBOS group. So they MUST have prepared some accounts – it's the LAW you have to when you do a MERGER.

So you can understand that the Lloyds shareholders may be feeling a tiny bit deceived, not to mention slightly cross now that THEIR bank has gone swiftly down the plughole too.

Shouldn't someone ought to have at least MENTIONED it? Shouldn't the auditors have said: aye aye, what're all these piles of cash and an IOU to King Mervyn doing tucked down the back of the boardroom sofa?

This looks EXTREMELY DODGY – on the one fluffy foot, the Government were reassuring us that the British Banks were terribly well placed to weather the economic tsunami and that this was a terrifically good deal for the Lloyds shareholders, a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy a lovely bank. And all the while the OTHER fluffy foot was busily shoving more and more bundles of used tenners into the dyke in the hope that no one would notice!

Oh, and another thing: don't we also have some kind of TREATY OBLIGATION to ask the European Union if it's okay with them before we hand out megabucks in STATE AID to AILING INDUSTRIES? Aren't they going to be slightly cross with us? Fortunately it's not like the British EU Commissioner was in charge of Trade and Industry at all…


Well, I do hope this doesn't mess up any important new job she might be up for.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 3249 (part two): DOCTOR WHO: The Doctor Dances: Everybody Lives, terms and conditions apply, there IS a War on!


Are you ready to get fully sonic-ed up? The World may not END when "The Doctor Dances", but I'm not so sure about letting Daddy Richard SING!

Still, no rest for the wicked and no pauses for sticky buns as we carried straight on with our celebration of Doctor Who's anniversary, with the Grand Moff giving it both barrels in part two…

Is it just me or is there some kind of subtext going on here?

Oh all right, the text is hardly that sub: dancing is sex, and the key to this episode is admitting that you "dance".

Key developments occur with each of the Doctor's admissions to Rose that he actually does have an emotional side, even a sexuality: Jack rescues them from the hospital as the Doctor takes Rose's hand to dance; the Doctor asks the universe to "give him a day like this" but he earns it when he shows Rose that he's "got the moves"; the episode concludes with him finally telling Rose he can dance and he ends up with the girl in his arms.

And arguably while he keeps up his jealousy of Jack – his Captain envy – and his refusal to admit it, the situation gets worse and worse, with the Child appearing, and then pursuing them – even though a wall – and then the other gas-mask Zombies closing in right as the sonic-off reaches its height. Fortunately, Rose remains level headed enough to take them down a peg – and floor – getting them out of one tight spot and into the locked room where they can start to, um, unbutton.

That keeping sexuality a secret causes damage is made explicit in several key scenes. Consider the moment where Nancy gains power over bullying Mr Lloyd when she reveals that she knows that the extra cuts of meat are a result of his having an affair with the butcher.

That's quite a nasty scene, and certainly drains our sympathy for Nancy – odd how Nancy the thief is sympathetic where Nancy the blackmailer is not when her motivation, feeding the street kids, remains the same – especially when we learn that she has her own sexual secret.

But it serves the purpose of flagging up the fact that the mores of World War II Britain were not exactly the same as those of the Twenty-First Century audience. (Actually, there was a certain amount of tolerance: there was a war on, you could die tomorrow, people made allowances. Nevertheless, Mr Lloyd is clearly not in a position to be more open about it.)

And it's also necessary to remind us that Nancy is not whiter-than-white, because it has to be credible that she has been lying throughout the story.

Despite the near paranoid paroxysms that the Internet message boards go into over the "gay agenda", it appears more common to be bi-sexual in this series: Jack is bi (or indeed "omni", as the publicity always puts it), Ianto (mostly Torchwood, but "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End", too) has a Cyberwoman as a girlfriend before he has Jack as a boyfriend; Mickey Smith is exclusively straight but the alternative-universe Ricky Smith may not be… at least not until someone had the script for "The Age of Steel" changed. And that's just the companions!

Characters like the Cassini "sisters" in "Gridlock" or Yuri's brother and his (never seen) husband in "The Waters of Mars" are in same-sex relationships now but we can only infer that that makes them gay not bi. (In fact, being exclusively gay is probably even less likely in the year Five Billion than it is in the Fifty-First Century.)

So Algy is the only explicitly exclusively gay character in the new series – Jack establishing that Rose won't be able to distract him tells us that Algy does not fancy girls.

(The Doctor tells Donna that she isn't in with a chance with Davenport the footman in "The Unicorn and the Wasp" but this is just his inference… well, probably, unless he's doing that "psychic" thing that the eighth Doctor did all the time in the TV movie.)

It's nice that this reveal comes just after, and very much undercutting, the big, "hero" music as Jack, Rose and the Doctor march out to the bombsite to face the final challenge.

You can compare all this with that other World War II-set story about repressed sexuality: "The Curse of Fenric". As the story that sees Ace maturing from a girl into a woman, and considering the repercussions of mother and baby, she does get to distract the guard – or at least boggle his brain with ur-sexy sounding technobable. Dr Judson and Commander Millington exist in a state of mutual blackmail over a homosexual past. And of course Miss Hardaker implicitly – explicitly in the novelisation – has had experiences at Maiden's Point that lead to her puritanical warnings and harsh treatment of Jean and Phyllis which in turn leads to their deaths and her own by vampirism, which itself is often a metaphor for sex, disease and death.

In another parallel, "Fenric" also features a character – Reverend Wainwright – who has lost faith in the future. Here this falls to Nancy as she starts to go into culture-shock at all the things she's seen. Rose's quiet confidential admission that the British win the war is heart-warming in the face of Nancy's entirely credible belief that the future belongs to the Nazis. Certainly better than the "mouse in front of a lion" speech forced into the Doctor's mouth in the previous episode. That would be a mouse that ruled an Empire covering a quarter of the planet then, would it?

This is some more of the egregious British national-mythologizing among several of the Pertwee-esque lectures delivered alongside "nothing in the world can stop it", "there isn't a little boy in the world" and "don't forget the Welfare State".

And surely the Welfare State was Lloyd George and the previous War; the Doctor must be confused or he's thinking of the National Health Service (introduced as all parties promised following World War II).

In fairness, there is the odd anachronism here and there – Mr Moffat himself has owned up to open reel tapes being a bit previous for 1941, though a wax cylinder might have seemed ludicrously antiquated compared to the "classic" spooled tapes image, and anyway isn't it actually a shout-out to all those fans who used to record their Doctor Who soundtracks from the telly?

In spite of perhaps the silliest sonic-screwdrivering yet – "setting 2428D" reattaching barbed wire; he must be taking the rise, surely – this is a story that relies on the Doctor using his wits to solve the problems presented to him.

"Go to your room!" is brilliant. It resolves the cliff-hanger in a totally believable way that you are left wishing you'd thought of. And entirely coincidentally – or so it seems until you realise all the gas-mask zombies are linked; that tipping their head on one side thing that they all do is really effective at conveying that – it also solves the parallel cliff-hanger of Nancy and her late brother, and – even better – unexpectedly sets up a peril later in the episode. Compare it with another "instant solution" cliff-hanger resolution like the "zap… you're all dead" opening of "The Age of Steel" and this is light-years ahead.

Like any good mystery, once the answer is revealed you can go back and see all of the clues along the way: the Om-Com (Omni-communication?) explanation of how the Child talks through fake telephones and wind-up toys was a clear sign that he's using the same technology as Jack; the nanogenes were literally waved under our noses again this episode as the Doctor reprises Rose's hand repairs; and of course "are you my mummy" over and over and over so you forget that it's the important question of the story.

The space junk being an ambulance is a lovely touch, reminiscent of classic sci-fi tropes where the most innocuous of future technology can cause untold damage just by being left carelessly in "primitive" cultures. And memo to the TV movie: this is how you use an ambulance in Doctor Who.

Jack – who is redeemed in this story by learning a lesson about courage and responsibility (Oh No! cries Alex. It was the Pertwee homilies!) – should, of course, have spotted Rose as a ringer way earlier when she failed to rise to his comment about the Chula warship he was selling being the last in existence, what with the real last Chula warship in existence being the one that they were standing on!

But you are able to watch the Doctor putting the clues together as he finally works it all out – the nanogenes being the cause and Nancy herself being the solution. Lovely too the way he prompts Rose so that she is able to work it out as well. A subtle rebuke to Captain Jack: almost saying "my companions have to be good enough to spot this sort of thing".

Does everybody live?

It's repeatedly been pointed out that they're in the middle of World War II; there's quite a bit of non-nanogene related death going on all around them (assuming you don't argue that the nanogenes don't kill anyone, at least not any more than the Doctor kills Donna in "Journey's End"). But we see the Doctor control the re-programmed nanogenes and release them – he's says he's told them to turn themselves off when they're done… but define "done". He could, just about, give them one day to fix all the humans. Not just the gas-mask zombies. All of them. So maybe, for one day in 1941, literally everybody lives.

He really does deserve more days like this. But it's good to see the ninth Doctor, the damaged Doctor, getting one really good day this close to the end. He's finally learning to live again. Just in time to die.

Next Time…With hindsight, is nobody just the slightest bit suspicious that Torchwood appears to have taken an extended vacation just at the point where a lady Slitheen takes over the mayoralty of Cardiff and the TARDIS parks exactly on top of their Hub? Oh never mind. Marvellous Margaret is back for dinner-a-deux in "Boom Town".


Day 3249 (part one): DOCTOR WHO: The Empty Child: Are You My Daddy?


It was the forty-sixth anniversary of Doctor Who first being on the tellybox, so what better way to celebrate the start of a new era than by going back to the first story from the man who'll be at the head of the NEXT start of a new era. We welcome our new Grand Moff with his 2005 Hugo A Go-Go Award Winning "Empty Child".

Rose Tyler, wearing a Union Jack tee-shirt no less, hanging from a barrage balloon over London, the classic skyline of St Pauls surrounded by flames but unbowed, as the Luftwaffe bombers scream towards her. The show has done bigger spectacle since then, for which read "more CGI", but no one has managed to top that image for iconic status or sheer summing up of everything that is Doctor Who: the juxtaposition of the history, the terrifying, the slightly-ironic British pride, and the just plain bonkers.

In its use of London as icon, and history as icon, this is everything that the Twenty-First Century Doctor Who has been about.

But there is a world of difference between the ways Russell Davies and Steven Moffat write: Russell writes for characters, never mind whether the story around them actually makes any sense, the emotional trajectory is always true and very often enough to carry you through with him; Moffat has a natural ear for dialogue, putting witty and occasionally painfully-true sentences into the mouths of characters. The opening banter between Rose and the Doctor, Earth and milk and cows derailing the discussion of the plot, is brilliant. We've seen ("Rose", "The End of the World") how Rose winds the Doctor up and then has to defuse him; intriguingly, Moffat reverses their normal relationship and has the Doctor winding Rose up with his refusal to scan for alien tech and then defuse her with casual remark about her tee-shirt.

But ultimately he writes people as parts in intricate jigsaws of plot. The flag tee-shirt will be referenced repeatedly throughout, and is, of course, putting a marker down on some of the episode's more, er, jingoistic speeches. The "scan for alien tech" is not just to set up the reverse gag with Captain Jack when he appears, but to flag up the plot resolution (it's all down to alien tech) and why Jack (who is using the same alien tech, remember) doesn't detect it. Moffat's stories are carefully strung together so that they appear baffling at the outset until, like Holmes explaining a deduction, he unravels it all at the conclusion; in a way it's a marvellous sleight of hand.

Here, the opening moments present us with "something mauve and dangerous and thirty second from the heart of London". Everything that follows seeks to distract us from that one crucial development – child zombies, barrage balloons, TARDIS telephones ringing, starving street urchins, roguish conmen, invisible spaceships, mysterious hospitals – but the resolution is in fact quite simply that something mauve and dangerous hit the heart of London. In fact almost all of those distractions are, with hindsight, entirely logical consequences, within the scheme of the story, of that first impact.

I'm emphasising this up front because watching "The Empty Child" without having seen "The Doctor Dances" is baffling, it is intriguingly genius-level baffling.

The Doctor talks to a black cat. Telephones that ring when they shouldn't, not to mention toys that play when they shouldn't, appear spooky and eerie. Nancy seemingly demonstrates the ability to appear and disappear at will. So does the Child, vanishing from the Lloyds' front step before the Doctor can open the door, and he'll do it again next episode. (So too, in fact, does the Doctor. Twice: sneaking up on Nancy as she hides provisions in an old train – which is plausible, there is time while she is tucking them away – but also materialising at the dinner table and taking two slices – which ought to be impossible; one of the children really must have seen him come in, and yet they all jump.)

This is a ghost story more than it is science fiction: the little corpse-boy haunting the bombsites and battlefields.

Gothic pile Albion Hospital rises out of the mists – gorgeous crane shot and gleam of gold on the black as the Doctor rattles the chains on the gates and pulls back to reveal the name – and, thanks to it being a re-use from "Aliens of London", succeeds in appearing to haunt its own future. Doctor Constantine – and there's a name with resonance for the supernatural – appears to have stepped straight out of an M R James, the wise old man who just has time to explain the plot before succumbing to the terrible… something. Here he gets to tell and show. Which is nice.

As is typical of the 2005 season, the colour palette plays an important role in the visual. Inside at the Lloyds' house, and in the underground club that the Doctor enters for that matter, all is warm and brown, homely and reassuring, even the hospital is a muted brown magnolia; outside is cold and grey and blue, all adding to the theme of the Empty Child being, as the Doctor puts it, the little boy left out in the cold.

(The artificial mystery of Nancy introducing Constantine as "the Doctor" is a rare bum note for me – the Doctor looks puzzled, even concerned and of course it sets up the possibility of a multi-Doctor crossover, which all evaporates in practically the next scene. Makes you wonder why he did it, other than to tease.)

Contrasting all this is the ultra sci-fi world of Captain Jack Harkness, (and doesn't John Barrowman just look so dashing!): his space-ship (invisible on the outside, Millennium Falcon on the inside), his tractor beam, his nanogenes, his wrist-thingie (later revealed as a Votrex manipulator), and note the contrast between the Doctor's high tech opera glasses and Jack's higher tech binoculars… it's all terribly, and quite deliberately, Star Trek; hence Rose suddenly going all "Spock" on us, presumably. And it's another sleight of hand, all this chrome and tech makes us overlook Jack's connection to the main plot. (Not to mention the actual explanation, but I'll not get ahead of myself.) He seems like another intruder into the ghost world, the way the Doctor and Rose are. And it's terribly clever, making the sci-fi elements seem out of place; like Jack's spaceship hanging in front of Big Ben with the cloaking device off, it's hiding in plain sight. Only in the climax do we discover Jack's connection: he is the one who set all these events in motion.

Eccleston is really rather good in this, delivering the deadpan comedy of the Doctor's realisation of just where and when he is as easily as he handles the mix of badinage and seriousness with the starving children.

"I don't know whether it's Marxism in action or a West End musical, but it's brilliant." Is this a timey-wimey continuity error in the universe itself, somehow taking the rise out of Barrowman's "I'd Do Anything" career before it happened? Interesting to see how the kids' reaction shots show them as baffled by this joke for the grown-ups too.

And Chris takes one on the chin – or rather nose and ears – in service of a child's pleasingly simple joke about his appearance.

Billie Piper delivers the goods as Rose again, though she is – possibly – at her most dizzy blonde of the year, first distracted about her tee-shirt, later literally swooning in Captain Jack's arms. "I fink you were just speaking there," is either Rose totally losing all the intelligence that made the Doctor interested in her to begin with or… she's being very clever indeed, because she knows she has nothing with which she can pay Captain Jack so she's stalling him until he can get her to the Doctor. Or am I overdoing on retcon?

Hand-in-hand with the episode's intricate clockwork – yes, I realise that's much more Moffat's next story – comes an ease with continuity links.

Talking to that cat, early on, the Doctor casually refers to "nine-hundred years of phone-box travel". Superficially agreeing with the "nine-hundred years old" that Russell has been using since "Aliens of London", this may actually be Moffat slyly correcting that with the addition to the Doctor's age of the however-many years he lived before taking off in the TARDIS.

On the other hand, placing Captain Jack as a Time Agent from the Fifty-First Century is clearly a cock-up if it's meant to be a reference to "The Talons of Weng-Chiang". Magnus Greel – masquerading as Weng-Chiang, as if you didn't know – refers to Time Agents, and fears that the Doctor may be one. But he is (a) paranoid and (b) under the insane delusion that his time cabinet – the one that has shredded his own DNA – will be the basis for human time-travel built on his work. Yes, a century is a very long time and so someone else could coincidentally come up with real working time travel inside a hundred years, but the Doctor refers to Greel's time as a scientific Dark Age which surely militates against that.

I much prefer Alex's solution: the Time Agency does not originate from the Fifty-First Century, but instead they are using the very Dark Age of Greel and his contemporaries as camouflage. Where would you look for time travellers? Certainly not in a century where they're using the cerebral cortexes of pigs to power their toys and they think double nexus particles are still really neat.

Finally, in the brief but excellently played exchanges with Richard Wilson as Doctor Constantine, Constantine refers to himself as having been, before the war, a father and a grand-father and that now he's only a doctor; and the Doctor concurs. It's particularly good because, this late in the season, we're now familiar with the Doctor's trauma from losing all his family, but he's able to play it relatively evenly as though it is now, perhaps thanks to Rose, no longer such a torment to him.

So… by the end of the episode, we think we've solved several of the initial mysteries: what was that thing that the Doctor was chasing in the pre-titles, why is everyone afraid of being touched by the plague child, who is Captain Jack… But we're fooled again! Actually we know nothing and there's a crowd of gas-mask zombies closing in on our heroes, mirroring the Child himself closing in on that nice Nancy that the Doctor met, and the world of science and explanations looks like it's more in danger of caving in than ever.

And, for bonus brilliance, Moffat has got them to not step on his cliff-hanger and move the "Next Time" trailer to after the end titles – something that they will do for every two-parter going forwards.

Next Time…Well, I feel I ought to wait until after the titles, but… Squareness guns, lullabies, distracting the guard, Glenn Miller, and one galloping great euphemism: the pieces may look unexpected but they all fit into place when "The Doctor Dances".


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 3241: DOCTOR WHO: Water Water Everywhere… and not one drop…


Scary stuff! The sun had gone down and Daddy Alex closed the curtains and we all huddled up on my sofa while Daddy Richard poured out the Evian that his mummy had provided.

Yes, it was time for Water of Mama's!

…oh, please yourselves.

So the 'scariest Doctor Who ever' turned out to be the Time Lord himself, as the payoff for all of those 'aren't I awesome' moments finally arrived with David Tennant's tenth Doctor finally going completely berserk.

"The Laws of Time are mine," he said, going Mister Master on us, "and they will obey me!"

Funny how Lawrence Miles once said if the Doctor decided to destroy the cosmos, the Master would have to return to save it. More on that story later, as they say.

But first, "The Waters of Mars" did not disappoint.

It lived up to its "beginning of the end" tag line and (unlike "Planet of the Dead") it was about water and it was about Mars. Although what it was really about was the Doctor breaking the Laws of Time. Rather brilliantly, it takes what many people have seen as the worst of the new series – the Doctor's spiralling god-complex – and faces up to the fact that it would be a terribly bad idea. In a way, it is the series making explicit John Nathan Turner's injunction to Andrew Cartmel against turning the Doctor into "god" (or even just "a god").

Finally we get to see under the mask of this Doctor. The sixth Doctor was brusque because he cared too much; the ninth was downright rude because he was so damaged; but the tenth Doctor is the way he is because he is utterly terrified of death.

The fear of death is often said to be what drove the expression of the Doctor's dark side, the Valeyard, and remember that, with his tenth regeneration, the Doctor is drawing nigh to that point "somewhere between his twelfth and last", he is genuinely becoming old.

This, in fact, perfectly explains his trying to bring Astrid back from beyond, his devastation at the Master refusing to regenerate and above all his appalling treatment of Donna in "Journey's End": even over her protests, he would rather see a lobotomised Donna-shaped puppet walking about alive than face up to her real, actual death.

And of course it is death that breaks him here: hearing the sound of dying as he tries to walk away from it is too much for him, which is why he finally goes completely over the edge.

This perfectly capitalises on David Tennant's full-on boggler-boggler interpretation of the role and gives him a good opportunity to get his acting chops on, at the same time allowing him to effectively comment on his own over-the-topness, particularly in the appalled realisation of Adelaide's suicide and that he has caused this himself and then the absolute terror as he starts to hallucinate death portents, in this case Ood Sigma in the role of Ghost of Christmas yet to come (though Christmas Coming Soon might be more appropriate).

But he's also capable of a quieter performance, as when brooding over the need to leave once he knows where and when he's ended up, even as he finds excuses to stay. His "consolation" of Captain Brooke, his bitter regret in the airlock when he tells her she has to die, these are the real Tennant moments.

But David, much as we love him now he has his shtick totally under control, has nothing on the multi-faceted performance of Lindsay Duncan as the companion for this special, Captain Adelaide Brooke, heroine of the first human colony on Mars, where we also get to do this year's "celebrity historical" with the charming twist (even if "Confidential" insisted on hammering the point home) that the "celebrity" in question is from the future.

Adelaide is both hard as nails, no compromises mission commander, not entirely above bearing a grudge (it looks like her second in command, Ed Gold, may have dumped her at some point) but completely focused on the job, yet at the same time a romantic who has followed her dream into space, inspired by a Dalek not to hate but to explore and wonder. She can be extremely clever, seeing through the Doctor like glass, and also vulnerable and frightened when she gets the truth out of him, though she'd never let her crew see that. And she is resolutely humanist, her defining character being a rejection of any destiny but the one she makes for herself: when the Doctor tells her she's doomed to die, she determines to find a way out for herself and her crew; when he breaks Time to save her, she still refuses to live at the whim of a capricious god and would literally rather die than face a universe under the Time Lord Victorious.

In fact, as Alex points out, she kills herself twice – once with the base nuclear self-destruct and then again with her gun – and it's for the same reason: the Doctor saves her, she says that he's wrong to break the Laws of Time, he goes into a big self-justifying diatribe, she quietly pushes the button. She tells him he's wrong and he ignores her, so she kills herself; no second chances, she's that sort of a woman.

So we have a Doctor gone mad with power and a companion who kills herself to make a point about free will. It's not the cuddliest of Sunday evening's family viewing, is it?

Anyway, these "fixed points in time" – how do those work, exactly? Adelaide was somehow always supposed to die on Mars on 21 November 2059. But we're told that she was inspired to sacrifice her entire life, driven to go to Mars, by seeing a Dalek during the events of "Journey's End". But "Journey's End" is pretty much the definitive example of history being in flux: Dalek Caan went back into the Time War and changed history so that Davros escaped.

Do we infer, then, that something else should have happened in 2009, elbowed aside by Davros changing history, and whatever that was it would have inspired her?

More importantly, if the Doctor's gone and broken a fixed point in time and there's something as dangerous as an "ordinary person" alive in the world when they shouldn't be, shouldn't that mean that the Reapers from "Father's Day" turn up to start eating everyone?

Is it enough that Adelaide, like Pete Tyler before her, kills herself before the paradox of her survival can damage Time? What about Yuri and Mia? The Doctor, in his monomania, might refer to them as "little people" but he's gone bonkers and surely that's not how Time regards them. Or is it that Lawrence is right again and the Laws of Time are physically embodied in the Time Lords, or now entirely in the Doctor, and if he wants to bend them right out of shape then he can, even if he goes round the twist with 'em, so there's nothing the Reapers can do about it.

Oh, and time is clearly so much in flux that according to the biography websites flashed up, Adelaide manages to be born in 1999 and yet be aged 10 during the Dalek Invasion in 2008… oops!

Clearly someone was confused and forgot that since "Aliens of London" all "contemporary" stories (with the possible exception of "Planet of the Dead") take place in the year after they are broadcast: "Aliens of London” establishes – on the missing person posters for Rose – that "Rose" is dated March 2005, and therefore "Aliens of London" is March 2006; all further stories with Jackie must take place after this, or she wouldn't have thought Rose away for a year, so "The Christmas Invasion" cannot take place earlier than December 25th 2006; this means that "The Runaway Bride" must be no sooner than Christmas 2007, because even if Donna doesn't remember last year's invasion, the Doctor does refer to it as last year, and the presence of the Christmas Santas reinforces this; Wilf, Donna's granddad as it turns out, appears in "Voyage of the Damned" and refers to the previous perils being why London is empty at Christmas so again, it must now be 2008; "Turn Left" just reinforces that "Voyage of the Damned" takes place before the Adipose affair of "Partners in Crime"; and finally in "The Sontaran Stratagem" Wilf recognises the Doctor from Christmas past so it must by then, and for the Dalek Invasion of "The Stolen Earth", be 2009.

"Base Under Siege" is one of the classic Doctor Who set ups, ever since, well, "The Moonbase", and indeed "The Tenth Planet" before it, and this was one of the best. The "Monsters of the Week", the water zombies or "Flood" were visually impressive, great make up, love their signature dribbling water, even as they merrily defy physics all over the place. I don’t care if the human body is 60% water, you cannot spray those kinds of volumes out of you without turning into a shrivelled up husk. We resort to simply creating matter out of nowhere. Still, as unstoppable elemental forces – even ones that cheat – they did exactly what was required of them, stalking, killing and subsuming each crewmember in turn. Each possession was different, too – the first, Andy, being kept from us as much as possible; the second, Tarak, kneeling before Andy as the Doctor and Adelaide see what is done to him; the third, Maggie, being slightly in sight and yet not, constantly returning to a slightly glimmering, tantalisingly out of focus shot, she's normal… and then she's not; the fourth, Steffi, being the most chilling as she knows what is about to happen and puts on the message from her daughters as she is killed; the fifth, Roman, coming from "just one drop", proving the danger is as extreme as the Doctor warned and a Russell Davies signature teardrop again; finally, Ed, getting it – like all good horrors – just as it seems he's going to rescue them all, and him preferring to go out in a blaze of glory.

Equally, the self-sacrifice and explosion of the shuttle were only the most blatant of the episode's references to "The Ark in Space", well known to be one of Russell's favourite stories.

"The Flood" is a reference too, not just the name given to the monsters here, but also the title of the final "Eighth Doctor" strip in Doctor Who Magazine. Given the "beginning of the end" tagline, that doesn't seem so coincidental.

There was some nice future-history of the kind that the series used to do in the Troughton Era, from the team that have studiously avoided all but the nearest of near-future settings: global warming and petrol apocalypse don't sound too inconsistent with the kinds of disasters that Ramon Salamander saved the world from with his Suncatcher and Kneetrembler devices in "The Enemy of the World". Though, of course, a collapse of civilisation in the early 21st Century is very New Adventures too. And the subtle implication that the planet might be divided between World Zones and Independent States could be a go at retconning in the power blocs of "Warriors of the Deep" too.

And of course, the mother of all references: the wise and noble race who lived on Mars and built an empire out of snow. Out of "snow"? Cue a hundred YouTube videos opening with that quote before cutting to a montage of Ice Warrior shenanigans over dubbed with "Frostie the Snowman" or "Walking in the Air".

In "The Curse of Peladon" the Doctor was revealed to have prejudged them, but here he seems to have a respect and regard for them and their history.

Ah, Ice Warrior history: this one's a bit tricky. The original Ice Warrior, Varga, was thawed out of a glacier sometime in the future (I favour 5000 AD ish, because it ties in with the "Ice Age in the year 5000" from "Talons of Weng-Chiang") but he has apparently been frozen there since the last Ice Age so therefore at least ten thousand years. By the time of the Galactic Federation (conventionally dated to 3999 AD, though Tat and Larry make a case for it being pre- Earth Empire, 23rd Century; later than this in either case) the Martians are no longer from Mars.

But in between these, there is "The Seeds of Death" in the typically-Troughton 21st Century, which sees an Ice Warrior fleet attempt to invade Earth, starting with biological attack using the eponymous seeds to lower the oxygen content of our atmosphere.

We can be reasonably sure that that story takes place after 2070 AD, because of "The Moonbase". In "The Moonbase", definitively dated to 2070, weather control is done from the Moon using a Gravitron, whereas "The Seeds of Death" includes a visit to the London weather control bureau, so clearly "Seeds" takes place either before the Gravitron is installed or after it becomes obsolete.

Besides which, if there had been a T-Mat link to the moon in "The Moonbase", then the story would have ended about two weeks earlier.

The New Adventures dated "The Seeds of Death" to about 2089, and expanded on this with a future history that saw a nasty little War of the Worlds around the turn of the 22nd Century (they drop an asteroid on Paris; we T-mat in and obliterate their homeworld).

So why is there no one – apart from nine unlucky humans – living on Mars in 2059?

(Mind you, you might ask why they are armed if they don't think there's anyone living on Mars.)

However, a couple of possible retcons spring to mind: firstly, the Ice Warriors on Mars are known to be dying out – that's why they launch their invasion in "The Seeds of Death" anyway – so perhaps they have retreated to the polar Ice Caps and are far, far away from Bowie Base One.

Alternatively, they may have already abandoned Mars and be surviving in their fleet in space until some critical development forces (some of?) them to attack the Earth, perhaps while others leave to found the New Mars that will be their homeworld for the Peladon saga.

Or, possibly most ironically, the Ice Warriors themselves are entombed in that glacier under Bowie Base One and the Flood far from being their enemy is some kind of genetically engineered alarm clock designed to possess anyone coming close and use them to wake up the race for real. Several commentators have remarked, as did Alex, that the cracked skin around the mouths of the Flood's victims is very like the appearance of the Ice Warriors' mouths under their helmets, so maybe the Warriors themselves are carriers of the Flood.

In fact, in any of these cases the attack in "The Seeds of Death" could be seen as a Martian retaliation for setting off a nuke on their home planet.

Of course, "Seeds of Death" sees Earth water as toxic to the deadly Martian seeds… so that's either a flagrant contraction of the "just one drop would infect Earth" that we see here, or rather blackly ironic.

It's been too long since "Planet of the Dead" but "The Waters of Mars" was worth the wait, vastly superior to the desert runaround, it both told an important story of its own, beautifully moving in its quieter moments, and prepared the way for a genuinely big conclusion to the whole tenth Doctor story, indeed the whole of Russell Davies' Doctor Who with some brilliant lines along the way:

"State your name, rank and intention" "Errr, the Doctor… Doctor… fun?"

rather sums up the series' mission statement, while

"Who's going to save you?" "Captain Adelaide Brooke"

is the perfect defining moment for Doctor and companion.

Mind you, the "funny robot" – not actually cute. The design drawing shown in "Confidential" was much better, but not how it ended up, perhaps because Wall-E got there first.

Next Time: Will the Doctor Live or Let Die? Will it scare the Living Daylights out of him? Or will he see his Licence Revoked? Look, basically Millennium is too excited for words because James Bond himself, Timothy Dalton, really is a Time Lord and this really is "The End of Time"


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day 3238: Mr Mark Reckons named 65th most powerful person on Earth


The new 2009 Forbes Power List has been published and the two persons from Great Britain on the table of the World's 67 most powerful people (apparently one for every one-hundred million humans) are the Prime Monster Mr Frown and our very own Mr Mark Thompson!

I've got that right, haven't I?

Clearly, it really WAS a VERY GOOD blog post.

OBVIOUSLY this is only the list of the most important HUMAN BEANS. I eagerly… and modestly… await the list of the World's most important ELEPHANTS…

…still waiting…

…still waiting…

…still waiting…


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day 3229 (again): THE PRISONER 42nd ANNIVERSARY: The Schizoid Man


Time in the Village is meaningless; time in Daddy's reviews doubly so, so I shall time-warp you back a week. And speaking of doubles…


No more psychology, no more "don't damage him", now the Village really starts messing with heads, in this classic "double agent" ploy with a cunning double-bluff twist. Is salvation all in the mind?

The Prisoner wakes up to find that he is now left-handed, moustachioed and Number 2's new best friend, Number 12, brought in on a special assignment to break a particularly recalcitrant prisoner to whom he bears an uncanny resemblance: Number 6.

This new Number 6 – in the end he turns out to be an agent calling himself "Curtis", so I shall refer to him as that throughout to try and cut down the confusion – immediately suggests that this is all a plot to break down his identity so that in the end he will tell all. Which, in a way, it is.

Curtis then proceeds to best the Prisoner at all his favourite pastimes: shooting, fencing, fisticuffs. Not surprising, really, when the Village's crude electric aversion therapy has him thinking he has to use his weaker left hand. Number 2 tries torturing Curtis with the Mind Rubbers while the Prisoner looks on. But then the Prisoner thinks of a better idea: he's been working with another Villager, Alison, on a mind-reading act, and he's sure that she will be able to tell who's who, as only the real Number 6 is "simpatico" with her. Naturally he flunks the test and Number 2 tells him it was a very silly idea and that he's only reinforced Number 6's sense of identity.

Alison, of course, is betraying him, but inadvertently she also provides his way out: another of her hobbies, photography, provides the evidence that too much time has passed, and with the illusion slightly cracked, he starts to regain his memories. One zap from a faulty standard lamp and he's regained his proper handedness too, and can cheerfully beat the truth out of Curtis. Then, when Rover helpfully eliminates his double, it's time to turn the tables on Number 2, as the Prisoner pretends to be Curtis and hopes to get the next chopper out of there.

There's just one snag: while Alison could tell the real Prisoner by instinct, Number 2 could tell the real Curtis too, and the Prisoner ends up going nowhere.

what's your number, please

Things have clearly advanced in the Village, and they are now willing to start using rather more invasive techniques to break the Prisoner, here physically conditioning him; he, however, presented with an opportunity, is still trying to escape, something he will try only once more before "Fall Out". For these reason we see this as the start of the four-story "second phase" of the Prisoner's battle with the Village, and hence after any of the "first phase" stories that we've watched so far.

The other stories from this part of the series are "The General", "A, B & C" and "Many Happy Returns"; why do we make this one first?

Well, "Many Happy Returns" is another "game changing" story, like "Free For All" and, as we'll see, after that the Prisoner has good reason to redirect his efforts from escaping to destroying the Village. Therefore we shall make that the last one of this sub-sequence.

"The General" and "A, B & C" are clearly linked as they both feature Colin Gordon as Number 2 and – uniquely – the opening exchanges of "A, B & C" are amended to "I am Number 2" instead of the more usual "I am the new Number 2". This, more than anything else, suggests that those episodes, even though they were originally shown weeks apart and in the "wrong" order, are not just connected but consecutive.

"The Schizoid Man" mainly stands alone. Things get more complicated if you take into account the dates… but only if you are going to take any calendar in the Village at face value (as if you can take anything at "face value" in "The Schizoid Man"). If you did, then this story starts on 10th February, after which the Prisoner spends several weeks being brainwashed and re-educated to be left-handed before waking up on… 10th February again. The fact that he's not surprised by this suggests that every day in the Village is 10th February, or at the very least he's used to dates being arbitrary. The fact that these dates flatly contradict the dates in "Many Happy Returns", the only other episode with dates, just adds to the impression that the calendar is pretty useless for "dating" the episode.

However, at the conclusion the Prisoner – trying to bluff his way out as "Number 12" – has a striking exchange with Number 2.

Number 2: "the General isn't going to have you shot"

The Prisoner: "we'll see when I make my report to him"

Number 2 [puzzled]: "that's a rather odd thing to say"

The implication being that the General isn't a person, but also that the Prisoner hasn't considered this possibility. Now, as it happens – spoiler alert – that's not the sort of mistake the Prisoner would be expected to make after the events of "The General". So we can arrive at an order for these stories that goes: "The Schizoid Man" (which is before) "The General" (followed by the same Number 2 in) "A, B & C" and (concluding with the last great escape story) "Many Happy Returns".

the new number two

An astonishingly young Anton Rogers here plays Number 2 as an ambitious young turk, clearly on the up and clearly out to make a name for himself by breaking the unbreakable. He's very gung ho, and "into" his role in the scheme here – and interestingly it isn't his scheme (compare with Leo McKern's Number 2 failing in "The Chimes of Big Ben" and being told "it was a good idea").

This Number 2 is a more than competent actor – but then spies have to be, don't they – putting on a matey, clubbable persona for his interactions with the-Prisoner-as-Number-12, seemingly capable of improvising quickly within character around "Number 12's" attempted proof with the Alison, first looking nervous about the suggestion, then berating "Number 12's" stupidity when it "goes wrong".

In character, he's contemptuous of pen-pushers and their pensions, and occasionally witty – his suggestion that once he's finished "he won’t know whether he's Number 6 or the cube root of infinity". But he clearly likes things to be ordered and predictable, and gets angry when they don't go to plan: when the Prisoner disappears in the night, and again when it seems his extremely valuable prisoner has been accidentally Rovered to death. Defeated, though, he seems relatively phlegmatic.

Having said that, the "going wrong" is clearly scripted, and he's much less good at covering up his growing suspicions when the Prisoner missteps in his bluff as Curtis.

There are a few moments, his reflective "old man" interactions with the Prisoner when he believes him to be Curtis, that seem written for an older actor, one who could have spent a few years knocking around a bit and be a contemporary of someone of McGoohan's age; interestingly he starts to be more matey – more "in character" again – once he starts to doubt that this is Curtis, and he starts to throw in test questions.

Ultimately, he's just not very interesting, a high-flyer fast tracked from middle-management perhaps, but not a power in the way earlier Number 2's have been. To be fair though, having two Patrick McGoohans on the screen is enough to force any number of people into the background.

follow the signs

To start with the crushingly banal: 12 is 6's Double.

What is more interesting is that under all this, Number 2 makes a significant victory as for most of the episode the Prisoner actively asserts that he is Number 6.

"I am Number Six," he says, "it is you who are doing the claiming!"

What he should say, of course, is that the other man may claim what he likes, but he is a free man.

And we have Alison, Number 24, who is 12 doubled too, though unusually for the Village she gets called by name. She is also the first pretty woman we've seen whom the Prisoner hasn't rejected or chased away. In fact his relationship with her is surprising in several ways: friendly, almost paternal, he doesn't just seem relaxed in her company but used to it, as though they've been friends now for some time. This might suggest a longer than usual gap between the last episode (in our case "Free For All") and this one during which he seems to have not just settled down but actually started to engage in an almost normal social life in the Village.

I'd suggest that this is a consequence of his total failure in "Free For All": he's realised that his "run like the blazes, first chance I get" approach is getting him nowhere and costing him a lot, so he's paused for a reassessment.

But trust from him is unusual, especially of a woman. It would certainly be in keeping with the Village's tactics over the last several episodes (as we watched them) to have deliberately introduced a young woman to him as either part of this specific scheme or their longer term plan to exploit his chivalry but, for the same reason, it seems to be highly out of character for him to have taken to trusting her.

What seems most likely is that he comes to trust her because he believes he's found an empirical test of his instinct to trust her: their uncanny trick with the Zener Cards.

Remembering that it's the Sixties and mind-over-matter is "in", for the purposes of this episode, the possibility of a mental "rapport" or "link" between two people is treated as, if not an out-and-out fact, certainly a reasonable possibility. It's not a straight acceptance of telepathy; the Prisoner himself says it's more complicated than that, and it's more implied that they are – subconsciously – tipping each other off with non-verbal clues and body language, as in the moment where he turns with his lighter ready for the cigarette she has prepared behind his back.

This then is his test, a much more complicated version of what he tried in "Checkmate": he believes certain things about Alison, and some of those are supported by the way she seems to respond to him, so he therefore believes other things about her too.

It's never actually clear whether they've corrupted her, probably while zapping the Prisoner with electric sticks, or if it was a set it up from the very beginning. She could have been selected (with or without her knowing it) on the basis of a particularly empathic personality or suitability to form a bond with the Prisoner or her entire mind reading act could be, well, an act.

But the implication of the cigarette moment, and later her telling "Curtis" that she wouldn't do it again clearly knowing that this is the Prisoner pretending to be Curtis, is that the link is in some way genuine and that it was the scene in the Green Dome, where she miscalls four out of five of the Prisoner's cards and then aces Curtis's run (easily done with a doctored deck and a memorised sequence, or prearranged signals between Curtis and the stooge or even a cunningly placed mirror or two), that was faked.

Which makes this another "win" for the Village in their longer term game: they've taken something genuine and used it to create more distrust in him generating further alienation.

One of the classic "Prisoner puzzlers" is why Rover kills Curtis. Both men, superficially identical, give the correct password but the village Guardian murders one of them, fortunately the "right" one. Why?

Alex half in jest suggests that it's because Rover is really pissed off: he's just been set off in pursuit of an empty Mini Moke, the guard dog literally chasing cars, the first time he's actually seen to make a mistake, and wants to take it out on someone.

My suspicion is one of logic: if both "Number 6's" have the password then Rover can infer that Curtis has broken and betrayed the Village. Punishment is swift, as the Judoon might put it. Or maybe Rover thinks it's the Riddle of the Osirians: one of these mummies always tells the truth and one is lying; since the Prisoner always tells the truth he gives the right password, but since Curtis is always lying… Of course, the Prisoner then convinces Number 2 that Rover has just assassinated their top prize and Number 2 orders the Guardian recalled immediately. You can, if you like, imagine Rover bouncing up and down in impotent fury confined to his lava-lamp for the rest of the story.

As for picking the right one to squish, well that's not hard: the Prisoner and Curtis may look identical to us, but who is to say how Rover perceives them? It might "sniff" DNA, or "taste" the electrical activity in their brains. As a semi-mystical blob of "the Unknown", it might as well see "souls" for all we know.

If there is a problem, it's the way that Curtis collapsed like a wet paper bag five minutes earlier: he goes from smug control to punch up to quivering wreck in the space of a single scene. Dramatically, after his confident self-assurance in the role of "Number 6", this makes no sense at all. Of course, metaphorically the Prisoner has, like Austin Powers, recovered his "mojo" and Curtis folds before it; in the episode's own language, and as flagged up earlier by Number 2's Haitian controller, the Prisoner has reclaimed his "soul" along with his right hook – ironically his soul is restored rather than stolen by a photograph.

who is number one?

Once again, Patrick MGoohan shows why this series really is all about him. Here he gets to play ego and super-ego to himself.

(Which means Rover as the id – a great big blobby death-wish, a formless beast driven by emotions, anger, lust, fear – is surely just as obvious, not least when "the id" finally – not to mention literally – does what it always wanted to and overwhelms "the super-ego".)

Oh, come on, all that "subconscious connection" stuff and you're not thinking Freud?

McGoohan as Curtis is both exaggerating and commenting on the Prisoner's usual mores and morals: when he's in control he is more arrogant, more obnoxious, more in control; when he loses it, he is more pathetic. Meanwhile McGoohan as the Prisoner struggles to realise his proper self until he confronts and overcomes his remembered trauma. Only by integrating the two – "becoming" his other self – can he escape from his imposed reality. And of course he hasn't integrated himself, which is why he doesn't get away.

"The Schizoid Man" would be a very clever twist on an almost clich├ęd spy drama trope: the doppelganger. But McGoohan's almost self-satirising performance lifts it to be a superb episode of "The Prisoner" as well. A series that screams "Who are you" from its opening titles really has to analyse its lead character.

Or perhaps it's just an excuse for McGoohan to be both characters in the punch-up for the trailer.

next time…

That would be telling.

Be seeing you.


Monday, November 09, 2009

Day 3235: Mr Frown – an apology


That so-called “newspaper”, “the Scum” has found a whole NEW way to be OBSCENE. They’ve taken the hurt and anger of a grieving mother and USED it, used HER, as an excuse to attack the Prime Monster… for his HANDWRITING.

We KNOW that Mr Frown cannot see from one eye and has problems with the other. We KNOW that fiddly handwriting is DIFFICULT for him. Nevertheless, he – quite RIGHTLY – takes the trouble to PERSONALLY write to the families of each fallen soldier.

You can UNDERSTAND Mrs Janes’ anger. But what does “The Scum” get out of it?

Is it their point to criticise Mr Frown for not thinking much of the soldiers whose lives are lost in Afghanistan? That seems to be a particularly CRUEL twisting of the facts: he does something that is personal and unmediated – un-SPUN – and for him actually quite physically difficult. It would not be the same if he got someone else to write it, or to check it or, worst of all to TYPE it – yes, I know that’s what Mrs Janes asks for, but she is angry and hurting and being used.

Is it a legitimate question about Mr Frown’s Afghanistan policy, a policy that looks increasingly difficult to UNDERSTAND let alone support, in the light of the election fiasco? “The Scum” certainly don’t seem to be addressing any of the REAL issues: are we helping or hindering the Afghan people; does this “war” (or “occupation” really) make Great Britain safer or in fact more dangerous; can we actually WIN against the Taliban without TALKING to them; do our soldiers get the support and equipment that they need to do the job we ask of them?

So is it just MOCKING someone for making a spelling mistake? (And in fact, Mrs Janes criticises his spelling of “comfort” claiming Mr Frown wrote “cumfort” when clearly it actually a POORLY-FORMED first letter “o”, not a misspelling.) Because surely there would never ever EVER be a TYPO in the pages of “The Scum”? Oh wait…!

It is a TERRIBLE SHAME that Mrs Janes has felt insulted by what was meant to be a gesture of comfort. You can see how it must be awful for her, and how she could react with ANGER to even a kindly meant letter. Mr Frown has now phoned her to apologise and I hope this helps her pain.

I wonder though that “the Scum” does not feel the urge to apologise too. Because they’ve only made things worse not better.

In best Doctor-Who-companion style, Daddy Richard has twisted his ankle. It has BALLOONED up like… well Mr Balloon’s opinion of himself, and all he can say is: “Dear FLUFF, how did Auntie Jennie stand the PAIN!”


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Day 3229: Dave the Cave – Mr Balloon versus Lisbon and the Truth


The Conservatories have made a GREAT DEAL of political capital out of their FALSE claim that the other parties promised a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and then reneged.

Let's be quite clear: in 2005, NOBODY promised a vote on the Lisbon Treaty, because in 2005 the Lisbon Treaty DID NOT EXIST!

But in 2007, Mr Balloon gave you a "cast-iron guarantee". Mr Balloon is the ONLY one to break his promise.

So it seems only fair that he should be completely made to pay that capital back, and to admit that he was a lying liar all along.

In fact, since it appears that they campaigned on a totally false manifesto for the European elections this year, shouldn't ALL of their MEPs resign with immediate effect?

But DID Mr Balloon admit it? My fluffy bottom he did!

Here's what he had to say for himself:
"Ladies and Bullingdon Clubbers, Proles, Earthlings.

"Yesterday in the Czech Republic, a country far away about which I now care very little, President Santa Klaus signed the Lisbon Treaty and dropped me right in it.

"I know that I promised you a referendum on this treaty. But I'm not going to give you one.

"Why not? Well, let me ask you this: when is a Treaty not a Treaty? When it's a right royal pain in my ass…umption that I will be next Prime Monster.

"Remember, as Humpty Dumpty* once said, 'When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.'

"So when I say 'Treaty' I don't mean 'an agreement between nations' I mean 'something in the future, the vague threat of which we can use to frighten you into voting for us', and when I say 'cast-iron guarantee' don't mean 'a promise I will absolutely keep' I mean 'whatever will get me in the paper'.

"You see? No?

"Okay, I know, from the many public meetings I've held around the country milking this issue, that many of you will resent the fact that I am going to fold at the first difficulty and break my cast-iron promise.

"So let me make it clear that it is definitely NOT MY FAULT – no, it's Lord Blairimort and Mr Frown! They're the ones who promised you a referendum. So it's their fault.

"And the Liberal Democrats, they totally betrayed you too.

"Let me make that even clearer: ANYONE who promised you a referendum – even if it was on a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT treaty – THEY let you down; ANYONE who promised you a referendum – even if they actually voted FOR a referendum, just not the one very specific and pointless one that I wanted – they BETRAYED you.

"But not me. I offered you a SPECIFIC guarantee of a referendum on THIS specific treaty. And I'm not going to give you one. But that's not BETRAYAL; that doesn't count.

"Of course I wanted a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. But now I'm not going to give you one.

"I've argued for it, but I'm not going to give you one; campaigned for it, but I'm not going to give you one; put it front and centre in our European election campaign, but I'm just not going to give you one. We have voted for it in Parliament. But YOU won't get a vote, because we won't give you one.

"I've banged on about the Prime Monster and his broken promise at every opportunity. So now I've broken mine too.

"I believe it ranks alongside the expenses scandal as one of the reasons that trust in politics has broken down. And that's why I can happily break my word, content in the knowledge that you should never have trusted me anyway!

"I always said that if this happened, I would set out immediately how a Conservatory Government would respond. And if you give me five more minutes, I can see what Mr Vague has scribbled down on the back of this fag packet.

"Ah yes, let us offer you some PLATITUDES instead.

"FIRST! If we win the next election, we will amend the European Communities Act 1972 to prohibit, by law, the transfer of power to the EU without a referendum.

"Of course, if MY Government can amend the European Communities Act, then any future Government could amend it back again. But hopefully you won't notice that.

"This is a major constitutional development.

"Of course, we are opposed to a Written Constitution. So, as usual, this promise isn't worth the paper it's not written on.

"SECOND! Instead of a referendum, I promise you we will NOT be having a referendum.

"I just don't think it's right to concoct some new pretext for a referendum simply to have one for the sake of it.

"That wouldn't survive serious scrutiny. Like most of my ideas.

"A made-up referendum might make people feel better for five minutes… because they'd use it to vote against an unpopular Conservatory Government. But my job is on the line… er… is to put together a plan that lasts five minutes years, and I don't think a phoney referendum should play any part in that. At least, not any more, now we've lost the chance of hawking a Lisbon vote on you.

"Let me repeat: a Conservative government will guarantee a referendum if there is any attempt to transfer further powers from Britain to the EU. Just like we did when Mr Grocer Heath took us into the EEC, or when Queen Maggie signed the Single European Act or when Mr Major-Minor signed the Maastricht Treaty… oh for fluff's sake…

"THIRD! As well as making sure that further power cannot be handed to the EU without a referendum, we will also introduce a new law, in the form of a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill, to make it clear that ultimate authority stays in this country, in our Parliament.

"This is not about Westminster striking down individual items of EU legislation. It's about inserting MEANINGLESS and UNENFORCEABLE clauses into legislation that will do nothing but irritate our European partners and undermine our negotiating position in Europe – after all, why will anyone take our contribution seriously if we are CONSTITUTIONALLY saying 'but all that only applies to you not us'

"These changes would ensure that the breach of trust committed by this Labour Government could never happen again.

"Those two words - never again - will be on our leaflets.

"And also in all the leaflets of our opponents, as in: 'You can NEVER trust the Tories AGAIN'

"We will make sure that the British people remember who it was that broke their promise – Labour, and who it is that will stop this happening again – the Conservatories.

"But these measures are all about distracting you from my BIG BROKEN PROMISE.

"They don't deal with the problems we are facing today, which will now be made worse by the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

"In essence, these problems boil down to… Barry Legg, Bill "Petty" Cash and Daniel Hangman.

"A Conservatory Government will address some of these problems… by giving jobs to these malcontents and blowhards that will shut them up. At least for a bit.

"A Conservatory Government will grovellingly fail to obtain THREE specific guarantees from our European partners.

"First, social and employment legislation.

"We will want to negotiate the return of Britain's opt-out from social and employment legislation in those areas which have proved most damaging to our economy (or at least most damaging, aside from the massive recession caused by rich greedy bankers), for example the aspects of the Working Time Directive which are causing real problems for our Fat Cats and Slave Drivers. Er.

"Second, we will negotiate over the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Because I for one have no understanding of what "fundamental" means. And who in Great Britain could possibly want human rights? Never mind that signing up to the European Declaration of Human Rights is a PREREQUISITE for membership of the Union… what pinko came up with these so-called "rights" anyway? What do you mean, Churchill?

"The third area where we will negotiate for a return of powers is criminal justice.

"Remember, we voted against the European arrest warrant and if we'd had our way, the 7/7 bomber could have got away to Italy and, and… has Mr Vague checked all this?

"Anyway, we can't go letting the people of Iceland sue our banks for just bringing down their economy, can we!

"I recognise that these are highly complex areas, where we need to think through the practical details with great care. And I'm confident that when it turns out all THESE promises turn out to be as worthless as my cast-iron guarantee of a referendum on Lisbon we'll have found another way of blaming someone else, probably a faceless, nameless Eurocrat who I can make up on the spot.

"So, yes, I believe we will be able to negotiate our way out of a paper bag. And if you believe this guff, then I believe that you will believe anything!

"In conclusion: People are fed up with the endless lies and spin, they just want to know what we can achieve and how.

"Well WHAT I can achieve is being Prime Monster, and HOW I can achieve it is… with MORE lies and spin!

"That's what this is all about.

"And never mind giving the British people a policy on Europe that they can actually believe in."

'You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,' said Alice. 'Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called "Jabberwocky"?'

'Let's hear it,' said Humpty Dumpty. 'I can explain all the poems that were ever invented – and a good many that haven't been invented just yet.'

This sounded very hopeful, so Alice repeated the first verse:

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

'That's enough to begin with,' Humpty Dumpty interrupted: 'there are plenty of hard words there. "BRILLIG" is that BRILLIANT moment when a cad is caught full in the headlights – the time when you begin BROILING him for dinner.'

'That'll do very well,' said Alice: 'and "SLITHY"?'

'Well, "SLITHY" means "lithe and slimy." "Lithe" is the same as "active." You see it's like a portmanteau – there are two meanings packed up into one word.'

'I see it now,' Alice remarked thoughtfully: 'and what are "TOVES"?'

'Well, "TOVES" are ConservaTOVES: they're something like badgers, because they look they look fluffy on top – but something like lizards, as they have a nasty underbelly – and something like corkscrews, for the way they twist their words around and around.'

'They must be very untrustworthy creatures.'

'They are that,' said Humpty Dumpty: 'also they make their nests in the Sun – also they live on cheesy publicity.'

'And what's the "GYRE" and to "GIMBLE"?'

'To "GYRE" is to go round and round like a gyroscope. To "GIMBLE" is to make holes like a gimlet.'

'And "THE WABE" is the current affairs, the news and what have you, I suppose?' said Alice, surprised at her own ingenuity.

'Of course it is. It's called "WABE," you know, because it goes a long way before it, and a long way behind it…'

'And a long way beyond it on each side,' Alice added.

'Exactly so. Well, then, "MIMSY" is "flimsy and miserable" (there's another portmanteau for you). And a "BOROGOVE" is a thin, shabby-looking, rampant egoist who conceals their more frothing tendencies in service of their ambition - rather like Mr Michael Borogove, that is: a respected members of the Shadow Cabinet or "tit"'.

'And then "MOME RATHS"?' said Alice. 'I'm afraid I'm giving you a great deal of trouble.'

'Well, a "RATH" is a sort of green pig, a different sort of rampant egoist, one quite unable to contain their volcanic fury or "wrath": but "MOME" I'm not certain about. I think it's short for "from EU" – meaning that they'd lost their only policy, you know.'

'And what does "OUTGRABE" mean?'

'Well, "OUTGRABING" is GRABBING at the headlines to express (most probably faux) OUTRAGE, something between bellowing and whistling, with a kind of sneeze in the middle: however, you'll hear it done, maybe – down in the Millbank studios yonder – and when you've once heard it you'll be QUITE content.'

(with some apologies to Mr Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Day 3227: Postman Pot


We know a SONG about this, don't we children:

"Postman Pot, Postman Pot, Postman Pot and his black and white… opinions about drugs policy…"

Minister for Misuse of Science Drugs, Mr Alan Johnson and Johnson must be wishing for a No More Tears formula today, or at least a no more RESIGNATIONS one, as by firing the Nutty Professor, he has gone from being next leader of Hard Labour to merely the next failed Home Secretary faster than it takes to say "My word, how very RED-in-the-FACE you've gone, Mr Johnson and Johnson; have you taken any DRUGS for that?".

The root of Mr Johnson and Johnson's problem is NOT that the Nutty Professor has criticised his policy; the problem is that the POLICY makes not the remotest HOOT of SENSE, and he knows it, and everyone else knows it and he KNOWS that everyone else knows it.

I am reminded of the story of the EMPEROR with NO CLOTHES ON. And what was the MORAL of that story? Yes, the little boy who pointed out that the Emperor was in the nuddie got taken away to Guantanamo Bay and tough new laws enforcing Imperial Attire were enacted, because pointing out that people in power are fluffing idiots is never a healthy career option.

Increasing penalties, spending millions on police snatch squads, re-classifying everything as Class-A triple-star with skull-and-crossbones and dagger-dripping-with blood, these are all the clear signs of someone who is SOFT on drugs.

Yes, SOFT – the Government's "war on drugs" policy is the SOFT option, it is easy, lazy pandering to headlines in the redtops, and it causes HARM, it unnecessarily criminalises a whole generation, it encourages robbery and burglary, it wastes police resources, it puts people at risk from impure sources of supply, it supports a culture of violent criminal gangs both here and in poverty-stricken parts of the planet (usually countries that, by an astonishing coincidence, regularly get bits of their territory EXPLODED by Americaland).

It is, on the whole, EXTREMELY stupid and, yes, SOFT.

The TOUGH stance on drugs is tackling the problem head on.

What IS the problem? The problem is that for some unearthly reason politicians and meeja curtain-twitchers think that it is ANY business of theirs what other people choose to do with their bodies.

This is where the HORSE RIDING comes in.

Horse riding is a VERY, VERY slightly dangerous activity that people choose to participate in. We don't ban it. In fact, people would probably think of it as HEALTHY and FUN because of the associated physical exercise, fresh air and social interaction. And yet people can and do get killed doing this.

And so I present you with the rave.

Was the Nutty Professor RIGHT to compare "tragic accidents involving harmless innocents" to the deaths of "drug-taking-fiends" who go "raving" on "ecstasy" (©all newspapers)?

Well, what are the numbers:

About two-and-a-half million people regularly go horse riding.

About half a million people regularly take ecstasy.

If there's about TEN deaths a year attributed directly to each activity – as the Nutty Professor claimed – then you can do the maths: it works out that horse riding has a risk of death of 0.0004% (or four in a million) and ecstasy taking has a risk of death of 0.002% (or twenty in a million).

So (tabloid speak again) ecstasy FIVE TIMES more DEADLY than Horsies! Or, more rationally, you are actually QUITE UNLIKELY to die of either.

The POINT, as made in this study, is that the meeja OVER-REPORT deaths attributed to "drugs" and in particular ecstasy in order to PORTRAY "drugs" and in particular ecstasy as an EVIL COCKTAIL of DEATH, with your average teenager playing Russian Roulette every time they pop a party fun pill.

The truth is, you are far more likely to drop dead of PARACETEMOL.

In fact the BIGGEST killers appear to be Diazepam and Temazepam ("The Housewife's Choice") but nice Middle-Class ladies numbing themselves into oblivion don't seem to be on the Daily Fail's agenda. Odd that.

And any examination of the HISTORY of drug policy in Great Britain would suggest that more than likely it was MEEJA-DRIVEN moral panic that CAUSED the explosion of first heroin then other drug abuse by going all "moral high ground" on the doctors who were actually TREATING the at-the-time actually VERY SMALL number addicts back in the Sixties.

So, to return to the Emperor with No Clothes On, the Nude Secretary – do not SHUDDER; even Mr Johnson and Johnson has an, er, Johnson – he says:

"You cannot have a chief adviser... campaigning against government decisions."

Was the Nutty Professor WRONG to speak up when he disagreed with the POLICY? Should he have kept QUIET, not published his piece about the relative HARM?


As a scientist, he has an absolute moral DUTY to present his findings, whether they support the policy or not; whether they support his OWN beliefs or not. It is actually VITAL to the scientific method that ALL results are presented, otherwise you introduce BIAS into the shared pool of data

This is in DIRECT contradiction to the OPERATING systems of Hard Labour.

Their MP Mr Tom Price, appearing on the Westminster Hour, went as far as to utter the STAGGERING suggestion that independent advisors should be bound by collective responsibility.

The Labour Party, it seems, have come up with a new DOCTRINE for independent advisors: "ministers decide and advisors AGREE".

As Dr Woo once said: "the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common: they change the facts to fit their opinions".

Whether Mr Johnson and Johnson is very powerful of very stupid, I will leave it up to you to decide, but if we can't face the facts, we can never see it: the "War on Drugs" has been a TOTAL FLUFFING FAILURE.

My favourite comment, though, must be that of Mr Stephen of the Glenn:

"New Government Science Policy: Anyone who claims that the Earth is NOT the CENTRE of the Universe will be taken to the EDGE and thrown off!"