Worlds of Pure Imagination

All computer monitors are windows to worlds of imagination where trolls have no bridges to hide behind, wars are fought with flame, and opinions are like the shredded cocoons of butterflies which flitter and flutter away…

The butterflies of opinion have odd existences. Some live for decades, most burst into blue flames for a single bright incandescent moment before turning into the desiccated flotsam and jetsam that litters the oceans of the internet.

Our browsers are gatekeepers into these realms of pure thought. They allow us access to knowledge that can be wonderful or forbidden. Or both depending on what restrictions, what oaths, the chrome fire-foxes have declared to their patron.

The internet is refered to as ‘the web’ although the spiders are fairly innocent. It is the flies that you need to look out for.

These flies are the aforementioned bridgeless trolls who multiply and divide like the amoeba that they truly are. Another risk are the phishermen, dethroned Nigerian princes, whose baitlines dangle into the silvery pools of our electronic mail. Jabberwocks call themselves phreaks, and they are waiting for you to harmlessly bounce against their cellular malignity. But don’t worry, this third threat is slowly dying out to be replaced by the fairly inept snicker-snackery of the hackers.

To hack is to feel pleasure, so sayeth the hackers as they hack and they hack and find themselves bushwhacked by authorities and their own brand-loyal hacker-hounds. They breed like weeds and are numerous even when hacked themselves. They thrive on stony ground and nourish not the realms they infest.

The flowers of the interwebs are algorithms, their self-referential petals spreading out in morbius strip patterns that glimmer and glint from the dew drops that fall from on high in the cloud. They bloom and they blossom, repetitively flourishing in the sunlight of the twilight of the terabyte sun/moon.

There are friendly beasts upon this plane of existence. Pixel-cloned beings who block transfer advice to those that need it. They live in places where the angles are wrong, where panopticons tower above their heads to see all and protect with their Norton shields. Their pets are cats who they feed with cheeseburgers.

We create copies of our world in these realms. Worlds that we pay-to-view, pay-to-kill-orcs or pay-to-adultery with pixel-clad perfect versions of ourselves. Or we can build palaces, funfairs and landscapes all rendered in squares and rectangles, inhabited by creepers, endermen and zombies riding on pigs.

All windows are the monitors to our reality where the trolls live in meatspace with their vitriolic spew dripping into the centre of the interwebs, their sad little lives deprived of disguise, where wars are fought with guns and bombs, and opinions are weightless…

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Posted in BekHobbes, dreams, existence, fairytale, fantasy, fiction, poetry | Leave a comment

Carnival of Monsters Unreview

Steamships and dinosaurs and bureaucrats, oh my! Dirty fingernails too.

Imagine Big Brother with omnivorous monsters. Actually don’t. This is nothing like Big Brother. Everyone here has IQs with triple digits (even the chickens) plus there are no self-obsessed muppets here. Scratch that, it is like Big Brother! Imagine Big Brother with normal people… Ahem, I was right the second time, this is nothing like Big Brother. Sorry.

This story is like one of those Russian nesting eggs but every time you take one apart, inside it something completely different. To put it another way, this is a story that keeps you guessing (for the first two episodes).

The Doctor and Jo arrive upon a steamship but things are not as they seem. Events repeat themselves. Not so much Groundhog Day as Groundhog Minutes. Our heroes are constantly accused of being stowaways and then having to escape. Luckily they have a huge dinosaur popping out of the water to distract the crew.

In the first episode, we have the Third Doctor and Jo on the steamship. But also, we have a planet called Inter Minor where a race of grey-skinned aliens live. These aliens are grey in skin and nature, so when Vorg and Shirna turn up on the planet, they are not pleased at these colourful vagabonds. Just imagine the reaction of Daily Mail readers if a bunch of gypsies set up a camp in their front garden. Yes, that.

You know this is a Robert Holmes script when even nondescript grey aliens have a believable society. Bonkers but believable. Holmes has outdone himself here. We hear about President Zarb, and despite never seeing him, he is as big a character as any of the others. He is defined by what people say of him.

This is a world which echoes our own. It is familiar. It is real. We see functionaries, the lower class on Inter Minor, and we see how they are interact with their social betters both onscreen and by how the they are referred to by the elite. Both are fully realised groups. I cannot stress how real this all feels. I guess you just have to watch it and see for yourselves.

The steamship and dinosaur are contained in a Miniscope. This is a machine which shrinks creatures and settings so that they can be gawked at upon on a screen for the pleasure of the general public. Hey, I was right! It is like Big Brother!

Geordie Announcer: Day 346 in the Big Brother Miniscope. The Drashigs are called into the Diary Room to explain why they ate all of Major Daly’s cornflakes…

There are no real villains this time. Just scheming grey-skinned bureaucratic aliens whose idea of fun is watching paint dry on a high-definition television set. It seems, to me, that Vorg sees the people in the Miniscope as tchotchkes rather than actual living sentient creatures but that is not really villainy either.

Plenty of monsters though. Apt given the title of this story. A plesiosaurus which is quite naff. Oh, and Drashigs which are huge sock puppets with fox terrier teeth and an alarming taste in cuisine.

These Drashigs are the organic version of a waste disposal unit. Unlike most monsters on Doctor Who, these creatures are unintelligent. They are governed wholly by their stomachs and their insatiable never-ending appetite (they’ll even eat broccoli!). Just like any classic monsters, they are relentless. If they catch your scent, then they will chase after you until either you have gone well out of their range or they are chomping on your remains with their gently smiling jaws.

Do you remember all those people who complained about the Eleventh Doctor talking to cats and babies? In this story, the Third Doctor talks to chickens. Yes, exactly. To all the anti-Steven Moffateers, you’ve just been punk’d by Robert Holmes, creator of all the Gallifreyan lore/canon that you hold dear.

Sorry, I really must stop grinding that particular axe. Where was I? Oh, yes…

Aboard the S.S. Bernice, the ship that I didn’t previously reveal the name of, is a familiar cove. Playing sea-swab Lt John Andrews is Ian Marter. If you know your companions, then you will know that he also played Harry Sullivan (who is second place to Jamie as best male companion). Not an unusual occurrence given that quite a few actors played bit-parts and then were given major parts at a later date. But it does give me an opportunity to indulge myself by concocting an elaborate Whovian fan theory. Buckle up, this will be a bumpy ride.

The Doctor knows about the S.S. Bernice before he discovers that the identity of the steamship. He knows it went missing and was never found. This is a fact. But what if Andrews was Harry’s father? When the S.S. Bernice is returned to Earth, Andrews meets a woman and fathers a child, Harry. It could happen. So in the Whoniverse, before Carnival of Monsters, Harry Sullivan does not exist. Afterwards, Harry Sullivan does exist as a result of the Doctor and Jo accidentally arriving on Inter Minor instead of Metebelis Three. Harry pops into existence as time is rewritten by the return of the steamship. It could work. There is no reason why Harry should have his father’s surname. Um. Yeah…

OK. Pointless theorising is over now. You can all take your hands away from your ears and cease saying “La la la la la la!” at the top of your voices.

I think it is time to wrap this unreview up. I could easily talk to you more about the many fine points of this adventure but, as always, I suggest that you see for yourselves. If nothing else, you will get a lesson in how to build a realistic alien world.

Posted in BekHobbes, doctorwho, memories, opinion, questions, reallife, review, unreview, whovian, whovians | Leave a comment

Halloween Foxes Poem

Foxes, foxes coming for you,

What the hell you gonna do?

I’m not worried, they ain’t coming for me;

You on the other hand, you’d better flee.

How will you feed your poor cat

When the foxes are chewing on your fat?

Why aren’t you running away quick?

Are you fifty shades of thick?

I think you will get bit…

Be clever and run for the hills,

The foxes are after a thrill.

Foxes, foxes eating out your liver

Pain for you they will de-liver.

Foxes, foxes eating you…

Foxes, foxes coming for you,

Try to escape to the zoo.

But what if it’s locked with no key?

And the foxes are near thee?

Might you scream like a blenderised rat?

Or cry like a nipple-clamped brat?

Oh, it will be, for you, such a shame,

Human-eating foxes’ 15 mins of fame.

Selling their stories to the papers…

Get off your arse and in that car,

The foxes can’t travel very far.

Unless they hire a fleet of motorbikes,

And bring you down, bloody-thirsty little tykes.

Foxes. foxes chomping on you…

Foxes, foxes coming for you,

Gonna turn your bones into human stew.

Don’t be dumb, prick up your ears,

Lest reality echoes fox-related fears.

Scoffing on your limbs is mighty fun,

Better shoot them off with a gun.

If you’ve no gun, you’re in dire straits,

Not the band but the horriblest of fates.

Foxes playing piano with your teeth…

Foxes, foxes coming for you,

Gonna make you stain your pants with poo.

They know where you are,

“Thanks for the blood, mate, ta!”

You might as well give up now,

Foxes gonna farm you like a cow.

Instead of milk, they’ll drink your blood,

And shoot you – bang, bang, thud!

Foxes are hungry for your flesh…

Foxes, foxes coming for you,

Poem nearly finished, please don’t sue.

Foxes are eating your brain,

Anything left, they’ll flush down the drain.

Stay at home, watch your TV,

Safer for you, safer for me.

Better still, read a book,

As the foxes prepare you to cook.

Foxes with full bellies…

Posted in BekHobbes, halloween, humour, poem, poetry, rubbish, writing | Leave a comment

Inferno Unreview

This is the one where a conceited caketaker drills through the Earth’s crust only for it to cause green goo to bubble up and turn people into feeble hippy Hulk wannabes. Oh, and then the Doctor travels to a parallel universe where a conceited caketaker drills through the Earth’s crust only for it to cause green goo to bubble up and turn people into slightly less feeble hippy Hulk wannabes. Will the Doctor save both Earths? What do you think?

In the 1970s parallel universe stories were pretty rare. At least to the casual Sci-Fi lover who got their kicks from Thunderbirds, Joe 90 and those adverts with the spud-loving robots. When it was aired, Inferno was unique to all those who has forgotten that alternative universe Star Trek story where Spock grows a beard. Nowadays even the non-genre TV shows have a parallel universe story. Remember that episode of Downton Abbey where Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, travels to a parallel England where Lord Grantham, with evil goatee, is a carrot and women daringly show their ankles. Yeah, exactly. Ooh-er, missus!

The Brigadier and his UNIT chums are hanging around Professor Stahlman’s drilling experiment. The Doctor is siphoning off nuclear power in order to run experiments on the TARDIS’ mushroom console. How did he get it out of the TARDIS? Perhaps he had some help from Benson and Lethbridge-Stewart in a “To me! To you! kinda way?

The feeble Hulk monsters are referred to as Primords in the credits but are not named in the show itself. What we see is a lot of green custard turning people into shaggy blue/green monsters who are super-strong, boiling-hot and resistant to bullets and a good shampooing. Amusingly one of the first victims looks more like a green Richard Pryor than a vicious yob monster.

The Primords are not intelligent but I can’t help but think that there is something at work here other than random mutation. Could there be an intelligence at work here? Their actions are not as mindless as I would have expected. Probably just animal instinct. No chance of reasoning with them over a cup of tea and an Eccles cake.

The alternative universe section could be seen as no more than a gimmick that is merely there to lengthen the story to seven episodes which, to be fair, it is. But it works! The changes we see are astounding and telling. Let me go through some of my favourites…

Lethbridge-Squarepants loses his moustache and gains both an eye-patch and an Action Man scar. Instead of being UNIT’s big cheese, he is now the Brigade Leader of the Republican Security Forces. Instead of being cool and collected, he is now cruel and cowardly. A man living on his nerves. This version is not a good leader and seems incapable of making sound judgements. I wouldn’t trust him to rearrange his collection of celebrity eye-patches.

Liz Shaw is now Elisabeth Shaw, Section Leader. This could mean that she is the leader of a section of soldiers or just in charge of allocating slices of cake. Her long hair has been replaced with a dark bob and looks like it was cut by a Primord. She is closer in temperament and personality to our Liz which is of help when the Doctor tries to reach the good side of her. Hey, she even plugs the turnip of the evil Lethbridge-Stewart. This Liz rocks.

The parallel universe is set a little ahead into the future so events don’t always match up. Sir Keith Gold is killed in the alternative world but manages to survive in the normal universe.

Contrary to normal rules of parallel universes as set by Star Trek‘s Mirror, Mirror, Stahlman loses his beard instead of gaining one. Oh, and gains an extra ‘n’ on the end of his surname. He still remains an absolute arse though.

Greg Sutton’s clothes go from 1970s hip (if you consider clothes your father might have worn as being ‘hip’) to 1940s style horridness.

Britain is a republic complete with slave labour, an executed royal family and xenophobic hatred. This alternative England is basically UKIP’s wet dream.

This was Caroline John’s last story as Liz but her character is not so much written out as swept underneath the carpet when the next season arrives. Apparently the production team wanted a companion who was not too intelligent. My mind is a-whirl with sarcastic retorts. Luckily we got Jo Grant who wasn’t intelligent on Shaw’s level but was smarter than most of the companions (I am looking at you, Dodo and…no, just at you, Dodo).

Stahlman and Stahlmann get the Primord treatment but manage to survive for longer as normal than the other victims. If ever you wanted a baddie to be served with karma, you are in luck. He gets a double dose of it.

Olaf Pooley as Stahlman is a revelation. He is the evil version of Sheldon Cooper. While, yes, he is a pompous jackass, you do count the minutes until he appears onscreen again. Pooley is very watchable. It would have been nice if the Doctor had kept the Primord version as a pet chained to the TARDIS console.

Talking of which, the console is green! I know this story is full of 1970s fashion but an avocado-coloured console is one step too far.

Before any Whovians complain, yes, I know the console was painted green in the 1960s because white apparently flared on a black-and-white TV. I know. I was just using this as an excuse to mock 1970s fashion again. Sorry.

Jon Pertwee here is clearly the Doctor that we all know and recognise. By this time he has found his way well into the part. He is all running and jumping and fighting and gadgeting as you would expect the Third Doctor to be. This is a story where the Third Doctor has impossible decisions to make and thanks to the way Pertwee plays him, we are all on his side and feel for him.

When the Doctor gets flipped to the parallel universe, why does his Edwardian roadster, Bessie, go with him? Why not part of the original universe set as well? Makes no sense.

Inferno is a great adventure. Being seven episodes long though, I would not recommend glutting yourself on the entire serial in one go.

I hope that you will enjoy this adventure. If not, then don’t blame me or I will send my gamma-radiated Primords to bite your noses off!

In all seriousness though, watch and have fun doing so.

Posted in BekHobbes, doctorwho, memories, opinion, review, unreview, whovian, whovians | Leave a comment

Exeter Library 2

I wrote a blog about Exeter Library over a year ago. It comprised complaints about their computer service and the lack of maintenance for years.

What changed? Nothing.

Therefore I will be quoting extensively from my previous blog and adding new details as needed.

This is a time when most libraries are facing cuts. No library is safe, well, mostly.

The library that I go to, Exeter Library, is facing these cuts too. They’ve got rid of some of their paid staff and replaced them with volunteers who stick Bram Stoker’s Dracula in the D section (no joke).

 

Their public computers have been broken for the last eleven months or so.

Actually this is not quite true. It is much longer. Next year will make five years since the first issue. But as of 2016 the really big issues started emerging.

I wrote a complaint upon a compliant form and got a response telling me that they have received the complaint form. Nothing was done.

I have mentioned the faults to a librarian and, despite him telling me that he reported the issues, nothing was done.

This is true. I complained to this same librarian, who has since left, and he told me that he has not heard any complaints about their computers. When I reminded him that I had previously mentioned it to him only a few days earlier he gave the standard sheepish grin and shrugged shoulders.

Sheepish grin. Shrugging of shoulders. Mumbles about telling the big boss all about the problems. Rinse and repeat.

The aforementioned sheepish smiles and shrugs are generally the usual response to my complaints. The other standard response being, if the librarian is in the know, that they plan to have the computers fixed next year. I have heard this latter response for a few years now. I take it with a grain of salt whenever a librarian mentions it nowadays.

It would be churlish to complain knowing that my library is facing cuts and is therefore not able to spare their budget. But I simply am too angry not to complain now.

I feel like a complete jackass for complaining about this. The computer issue isn’t ultimately their fault. They hate it as much as I do. If only because I keep bugging the hell out of them about it.

But I can either complain or scream in frustration. Given that it is a library, the vocal option is out.

Exeter Library’s computers have many faults. These are some of them. Bear in mind that these faults happen every day and have happened on every computer that I have used in the library:

1 The computers logs me out of Twitter at least three times a session.

2 The computer towers make a whirring-whining noise if you ask it to do anything. Especially if you have more than two windows open.

3 The computer towers are overheating so much that you can sniff a whiff of hot plastic.

4 The computers constantly freeze (the last two days, they froze for ten minutes at a time).

5 The computers will say that they can’t access a site for no reason upon the Earth.

6 The computers will say that “the script is too long” as a reason why they freeze.

7 The computers will sometimes fail to load a picture.

8 The windows will swap around for no reason (usually after they freeze).

9 The thumbnail pictures that appear will show images that belong to another window or browser.

10 The computers will stop working as you are writing a sentence, not tell you that they have paused, and make you write again.

11 The computers won’t allow the text you are writing to appear, therefore making you write it out again.

12 The computers will make you wait a minute until they respond (most usually when you want to save/paste a picture/text.

13 The computer towers go silent, after making a racket, thus pausing everything on the screen.

14 Lack of librarian help. The nearest one is generally ten to fifteen metres away out of sight. They are too far away to call over unless you get up and find one, and if you get up, your computer is usually stolen by another person. Not that it matters if you find a member of staff, they can’t help.

15 If you use a CD-ROM or a memory stick, the computer towers act like a stabbed pig and squeal.

16 General slowness that occurs frequently and randomly. You think that you can click on something and it works straight away? Think again.

17 Computer screens refreshing themselves.

18 Ghosting. This is where an image of a window will appear ghostlike upon the window you are currently accessing.

19 Having to close windows down because the computers refuse to access a site it had no problems with previously.

20 Sites distrusting the library computers when they trust other computers. Not really a fault if you enjoy endlessly giving sites your email address because they think your computer is a security risk.

21 Constantly give you messages telling you that they need to troubleshoot a problem despite nothing from my viewpoint being wrong.

22 Refusing to load pictures or the formatting of the website. You see a white screen with the text higgly-piggly on the screen.

23 Logging you out either a minute before you are due to, or a minute after you are due to log out.

These are just some of the problems, in no order, they have. Every. Single. Day.

Point 14 about lack of librarian help; there is a kid’s section near the computers but the staff are not allowed to leave that section in case the children run riot and Exeter Library has another Lord of the Flies issue. Last time they found the head of Peppa the Pig on a stake.

These problems cause me to swear under my breath so often that I worry about cursing out aloud and getting myself kicked out of the library. I dream about throwing the computer across the room and screaming like a banshee. It is so mind-numbingly infuriating that I have to remind myself about the budget problem that the computer has.

If I had a swear jar, I would now be a millionaire.

And it isn’t just me. I have seen other people storm off in frustration, giving up and leaving, swearing and giving the computer the ol’ hairy eye treatment.

I love the library, I really do. I have used it for the past twenty-nine years since I was five. It is one of my favourite places in Exeter.

So. Exeter Library. Please, for the love of Cthulhu, fix the computers!

Cthulhu has obviously been slacking given the lack of adequate computers at Exeter Library but maybe he will wave a tentacle and help the library to fix their computers…

…or send the library crashing into the waves.

Posted in BekHobbes, exeter, exeterlibrary, memories, opinion, reallife, rubbish | Leave a comment

Dawn Chorus

Nearly every single morning I am rudely awakened by crows dancing on the roof tiles.

Not much fun.

There I am asleep and suddenly the entire crow population of Exeter decides to hold an impromptu rehearsal for the all-crow performance of Riverdance. The worse thing is that they can’t dance in time to the music.

No more!

I run downstairs, grab the broom, and run back upstairs. Angling myself out of a side window, I pull myself onto the roof and proceed to track the dratted crows. Vengeance is mine, you pox-ridden rascals!

Now I don’t speak crow (I speak pigeon with a seagull accent although I don’t like to brag about it) so I imagine that their raucous voices are jeering at me. Laughing that once more they have woken me up, asking one another if they fancy a bit of a flap before they go to the next house that they have arranged an early morning call at…

I jump over the roof, brandishing my broomstick like a half-arsed samurai. The crows are not impressed. They don’t even bother to fly away as I approach them. These crows are indifferent to me.

Only the blackbirds are looking at me and that is only in the slim hope that I spontaneously turn into a big man-shaped parcel of juicy succulent worms. Blackbirds are quite stupid.

I scramble over the rooftop, the crows laughing at me in their scritchy-scratchy voices, trying not to fall down and break my legs but I tumble over, the broomstick falling out of my hands, slipping and sliding down the tiles until nothing is below me but the promise of fractured bones.

I desperately try to grasp at the guttering. One hand lands on it, the other flailing. The crows regard me with interest while behind me other crows are lifting the broomstick in their talons and – WHACKO! – they bloody hit me with it! I am being spanked by crows. What will the neighbours think?

The regarding crows fly down to where my hand is gripping the gutter. They start pecking at my fingers, peck, peck, peck, and…

…I fall,

and I fall,

and I fall,

and I fall,

and I fall,

and I fall,

and I fall,

and I wake up because the sodding crows are tip-tapping on the rooftiles again.

So much for the joys of the dawn chorus. Shuddup you feathery gits!

Posted in BekHobbes, crows, existence, memories, opinion, reallife | Leave a comment

The Reign of Terror Unreview

The Reign of Terror. No, not about a scary king but rather a story set in France during the French Revolution, during the period known as the Reign of Terror (5 September 1793 – 28 July 1794). One of France’s most blood-drenched periods. Our story is set in the last few days of this reign. Of terror.

Like a lot of stories from this era of Doctor Who, this story is incomplete. It is missing two episodes which only exist as audio recordings. Luckily, these missing episodes have been animated using the audios, so you won’t miss out too much. Count your lucky stars because some of the missing stories exist purely as audio recordings or as symbols and pictures carved onto the stone walls of prehistoric cave-dwellers.

As was the norm, each episode has a different title. A Land of Fear, Guests of Madame Guillotine, A Change of Identity, The Tyrant of France, A Bargain of Necessity, Prisoners of Conciergerie. Not the most evocative of titles although I do quite like Guests of Madame Guillotine. I am guessing that Madame Guillotine is the owner of a bordello. If we don’t get to see the Doctor being whipped by a buxom old biddy in leather, I will be très disappointed.

The First Doctor along with his granddaughter Susan and her teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright arrive in France, 18th-century France that is. More specifically a wood outside Paris, an area which will be later be turned into Parc Astérix (probably). Our heroes find a nearby farmhouse which is apparently being used as a cache/staging post for counter-revolutionaries. Inside the farmhouse, they find fake papers (some signed by Maximilien Robespierre and Jerry Lewis), clothes, The Fallen Madonna by Van Klomp, onions, baguettes and an elderly old Frenchman who keeps apologetically shrugging his shoulders whenever he is asked a question.

I know you all know this but just in case you have forgotten all those exciting school lessons about the French Revolution, Robespierre was the guy who pressed all the political buttons during this time. He, if you believe the history books, was not a nice guy whatsoever although he did oppose the death penalty and supported the abolition of slavery. The Robespierre that we see here is probably nothing at all like the real one but that is history, I guess. The victors write the history. So while this is based on fact, you should take it with a large pinch of salt because this is based on the historian’s version of history.

Their snooping is interrupted when a couple of the rebels turn up. These are Rouvray and D’Argenson, two of the roughest toughest counter-revo…ah, who am I kidding. These two are not that scary. They look as though they would have problems if a kitten gave them a threatening look. But they do have guns which they pistol-whip the Doctor with. The others they just hold at gunpoint.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, revolutionary soldiers turn up. “I thought this was Parc Astérix?” says one soldier. His friend replies, “Hush, Jean-Paul! Do not speak such things. Robespierre hates it when we allude to the future!” Besides bickering about anachronistic theme parks, they also command the counter-revolutionists to surrender. “Donner sa langue au chat,” shouts one soldier but D’Argenson defiantly calls out “Les carottes sont cuites!”

Rouvray and D’Argenson have their turnips plugged in the siege but not before they can guess that a traitor must have betrayed them. Susan, Barbara and Ian are captured by the soldiers so that they can be taken to Paris and guillotined. Because the Doctor is so tiny and almost invisible, the men don’t see him as they set fire to the house with our grumpy old hero inside. The elderly old Frenchman escapes on his bicycle, shrugging apologetically to the soldiers as he dings his bell at them.

The Doctor doesn’t cop it as expected. He has been saved by a young French boy who was conveniently passing by as the farmhouse burnt down. The Doctor has, what we call nowadays, smoke inhalation. This convenient boy conveniently knows that the Doctor’s companions have been carted off to the Conciergerie Prison in Paris.

Our heroes are sentenced to be executed for being traitors. How three English people can be traitors to a country they weren’t born in is beyond me but anyway, traitors they are. And yes, I know Susan isn’t technically ‘English’ but she has an English accent!

Susan and Barbara are taken to the Conciergerie Prison’s equivalent of cell block H. Ian gets a cell with another prisoner, English like him, called Webster who tells him that there is an English spy called James Stirling who is lurking in the depths of the French government. Webster had been sent to France in order to tell Stirling that he has to return back to Blighty because he has left the gas on (or something to that effect).

Webster tells Ian that it was intended that he should meet up with an intermediary called Jules Renan at a tavern called Le Chien Gris, a place where the patrons literally have a hair of the dog.

Plotting your way in France today takes everything you’ve got

Overthrowing Robespierre, sure would help a lot

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where the Committee of Public Safety doesn’t know your name

Aren’t you glad your head is still attached?

Let’s all go to Le Chien Gris

Where the wine is diluted with pee…

Ahem, you get the picture with that. Le Chien Gris is certainly no Cheers though.

Once Webster expires, head slumping over his dictionary, a stuffy and ever-so-sly government stooge called Lemaitre comes over to Ian’s cell and…

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Lemaitre? But doesn’t that mean ‘the master’? Oh my god, could this be the first appearance of the Doctor’s arch nemesis? No.

…asks Ian what Webster might have said to Ian. Perhaps Lemaitre thinks that spies can’t help but blab their secrets whenever they are about to die. He thought right. Chesterton’s name is taken off the naughty list.

Susan and Barbara are taken to their execution on the dung cart. No joke. When criminals (or people that the government found annoying/inconvenient) were taken to the guillotine, they would be taken in a horse-and-cart which also delivered dung when not carrying soon-to-be-headless people. Just imagine the stink. Pee-ew!

Anyway, Susan and Barbara are being taken to their death. They are crying and calling out to the people lining the streets that the smell isn’t them when two men rescue them. Which is nice. These two men are Jules (who is almost certainly bound to be Jules Renan) and Jean quickly and efficiently bring the ladies back to a safe house. Is it not wondrous that France is so full of conveniently helpful people?

Susan looks a little peaky though. The poop fumes have clearly made her ill. Anxious about her illness, Jules says to her, “Il n’y a pas de quoi fouetter un chat” but she doesn’t understand. He then explains in perfect English that after they smuggle the British airman, Fairfax and Carstairs, out of Café René, they will then endeavour to smuggle the girls back to England. Barbara, however, does not like this. She doesn’t want to leave without the Doctor and Ian whom she secretly thinks is quite dishy. So the two J’s agree to find her chums for her. It is at this point that a man enters the room, lifts his glasses and says, “It is I, Colbert!” It is good old reliable Leon Colbert and he wants to help the girls. How gallant these Frenchies are.

The Doctor, riding his cherry-red 1966 Schwinn Sting-Ray, arrives in Paris where he swaps it for the clothes of a government official. Don’t ask how he does this, he just does.

Now dressed as a Regional Officer of the Province, he hotfoots it to the Conciergerie where he discovers that his friends have gone (Ian having dug his way out of his cell with a teaspoon and a small radish). Lemaitre, not having much to do, frog-marches our hero to see First Deputy Robespierre because, as we all know, leaders love meeting up with random old men pulled off the street. “Ça va chier des bulles!” pleads the Doctor but his words are useless. Kicked out the backdoor, he leaves in a huff.

Ian Chesterton has not been lazy since he escaped the Conciergerie. He has been hunting for Jules Renan who, as I predicted, is the same Jules that is looking after Susan and Barbara.

Barbara takes Susan to the local quack. As a teacher of history, surely she should know better than to take the poor girl to some physician who is more likely to recommend leeches than something that will actually be of some medical use? Happily, this charlatan doesn’t recommend juicy leeches. Unhappily this is because he reports them to the revolutionary police. The swine!

Ian meets up with Leon Colbert. “It is I, Colbert!” he says as armed troops tie the poor teacher to a chair. Colbert is a traitor. Maybe some of these Frenchmen are not so gallant after all?

Colbert tortures Ian with feathers and pictures of soapy kittens but Chesterton does not give anything away, not about Webster or Renan or who he really is. Good ol’ Ian!

Not taking no for an answer, the Doctor has returned to the Conciergerie for some answers which don’t involve the word ‘no’. Lemaitre tells the old man that Robespierre wants to talk to him again. Robespierre may be the Tyrant of France but he obviously has way too much spare time on his hands if he can just faff the day away with a long-haired coffin-dodger.

To be sure that the Doctor doesn’t leave Paris, Lemaitre generously puts him up for the night in one of his finest five-star rat-infested cells. What a nice man.

When Susan and Barbara are brought back in, the Doctor is able to speak to them. Susan is ill however, those poop fumes having knocked her out for six. Fearing for his granddaughter, the Doctor comes up with a cunning plan: let Barbara be released so that she can be followed back to the counter-revolutionists and their escape chain. This is of course a ruse on the Doctor’s part, that is what makes the plan cunning as opposed to merely fiendish.

In the land of the free, in this case France, Jules rescues Ian from the thumb-screws and soapy kitten torture. Leon Colbert is killed during all this, his last words being, “It is I, Colbert….aargh!”

Jules takes Ian to his house where they are both flabbergasted to see Barbara naked on a bed of rose petals. By naked I mean fully clothed, and by bed of rose petals I mean sitting on a chair eating a chunk of cheese. She tells them how the Doctor sprung her release.

Back in Evil Tyrant HQ, Maximilien Robespierre is going off his nut. He thinks that his deputy has eaten all his chocolates and is also plotting behind his back. Paul Barras (Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de Barras) has been a bad deputy apparently. Robespierre reckons that Barras has been siding with the men who want to overthrow him. He is right about the conspiring, not so right about the chocs though.

Robespierre calls in Lemaitre, who has a suspicious brown chocolatey stain around his mouth, and commands him to follow Barras who doing something secret outside the city sometime tomorrow.

Lemaitre returns to the Conciergerie and tells him that he knows that he is an imposter. “I know you are an imposter because you don’t like garlic and you don’t apologetically shrug your shoulders whenever I speak to you, you fraud you!” Lemaitre then uses Susan as a means to blackmail the Doctor into leading him to Jules Renan and the counter-revolutionaries.

When the Doctor and Lemaitre get there, our stuffy non-Delgado official says, “It is I, Stirling!” Everyone choruses, “No, we finished that running gag a few paragraphs back. It wasn’t funny and some people complained that they didn’t get the reference.” Lemaitre is James Stirling! Shocking, right?

Ian finally gets to pass on Webster’s message that Stirling has to report back to England. Stirling is more than happy to do so but he asks Chesterton for more details. Ian searches his memory and five words drop out: Barras. Meeting. The Sinking Ship.

Stirling remembers a chinwag with Robespierre and he twigs that the plot against the First Deputy will take at The Sinking Ship. The plot thickens!

Renan and the school teachers hotfoot it to the tavern where they eavesdrop on Barras and Napoleon Bonaparte. Finally here is a name that people will recognise. These two rapscallions are planning to overthrow Robespierre and fill the whole of France with water slide parks, bowling alleys and ice cream parlours with annoying waiters who make piggy noises. The fiends!

Barras wants Boney to take over the leadership from Robespierre and Boney wants Barras to boot Robespierre out of Evil Tyrant HQ. Boney is a crafty one though, if the plot fails to get Robespierre out, he will deny ever meeting turncoat Barras and will claim instead that he was playing a game of Risk with teenagers from San Dimas.

The next day, Susan is smuggled out of gaol inside a cake and the rebellion against Max Robespierre is afoot. Spongepierre Tyrantpants was socked on the jaw when the filthy counter-revolutionists got hold of him. The ex-tyrant now resides on the Conciergerie where he is awaiting his own execution.

Stirling escapes Paris and gets on the first boat to Blighty. Jules and Jean set up a B&B as they see which way the political winds blow. And what of our heroes? They all return to the TARDIS and leave.

And that is it. End of story and only a few paragraphs until this unreview finishes.

One of my favourite clangers occurs when the Doctor says that London and Paris are 100 miles apart. Erm, really? Over 230 miles more like. No wonder he can’t steer that TARDIS with his poor geographic knowledge!

William Hartnell is pretty good in this. He is seen to be more proactive than he normally is. Although only because his grandaughter has been kidnapped but, hey, at least he is doing something, right?

Carole Ann Ford doesn’t get a whole lot to do here as Susan because of her illness due to dung fumes but she acts well and says her lines well. Your eyes are always on her in whatever scene she is in which is a mark of a good actress.

Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright) gets a little more to do than Carole. This is a good thing. She is an underrated actress to some extent, either being seen as a love-interest for Chesterton or as someone whom looks scared and puzzled. Only a few stories, such as The Aztecs, showed her true potential. This just scratches at the surface of that potential.

William Russell as the hero figure Ian Chesterton. Ah, well, he is the one who plays the lead in many of these early stories because Hartnell was seen as being a little old for heroics (Billy was in his mid-fifties rather surprisingly. He looked and acted much older). I like Chesterton. His character was one which people could rally behind. As much as the show was called Doctor Who, William Russell was more of a lead than Hartnell but that would change when Chesterton left.

So the first visit of the series to France and what a story this is! A lot of people don’t like the historical adventures but I reckon these stories have a lot going for them. The Reign of Terror is a great story which due to some of the episodes being missing, has to be supplemented by animation and sock puppets. This doesn’t work too well but at least you get to see the closest thing to the original footage that you can.

Should you watch this story? Of course you should. As the French say, “Chat échaudé craint l’eau froide!

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