Thin Ice Unreview

Three episodes into series 10 and our intrepid troika of the Doctor, Pete and Bill come up against an elephant on a frozen river. Spoilers: the elephant is not the Big Bad. It is Cthulhu.

This is Thin Ice. Written by Sarah Dollard. Are you sitting comfortably? On with the motley. Remember, events may be shuffled around for no reason whatsoever.

Our heroic threesome have survived sentient puddles (remember how Pete accidentally drank his Heather smoothie and got the fright of his life when he went to the toilet?) and Emojibots (how I laughed when Pete picked up a colonist’s skull and worked it like a puppet) and now they face…an elephant? What the heck!?!

The TARDIS has landed, with its usual flatulent hippopotamus sound, in Regency London. And not, as Bill suggests, a parallel universe. Ms Potts has been watching too much sci-fi me thinks. Why else would she think that elephant plus frozen river (Alex Kingston in fine tooth-chattering pachyderm-carrying form here) equals alternate world? Her timey-wimey saturated brain has steered her wrong. Much like the Doctor’s steering of the TARDIS.

The Doctor’s steering is weird since he never seems to go to the wrong place. Leastways since Russell Tenacious Davies brought the show back. In the classic series, the Doctor couldn’t navigate his way around a rice pudding.

The year is 1814. The date February 4th. The year of the last frost fair on the river Thames. And it brass monkeys outside! So the Doctor, Bill and Pete pop back in to get themselves some period clobber (for Americans and other semi-demonic folks ‘clobber’ is slang for ‘clothes’) and pop back out again, unaware that the TARDIS has detected the first transmission of Eastenders and that famous scene where Artful Dirty Den the Dodger kicks down the door to find a corpse and…of course not, the TARDIS finds something much more plausible than that. It has detected a giant snake, no, not the Mara, under the ice of the Thames. A snake, so not Cthulhu either, that measures a kilometre in length. I’d like to see Billy the Exterminator deal with this not-so-little-mermaid.

1814? Frost Fair? The same one which the Eleventh Doctor brought River Song and Stevie Wonder to? Yes, that one. It would explain why the Doctor came back here. Maybe he was remembering and the TARDIS thought to take him there? But hold on a second! This visit must be before the previous visit because the TARDIS would have detected the snake the first time, yes? Also, the Doctor and River would have noticed the lights, spoilers, under the ice. Therefore, this must be before the romantic date. Unless the TARDIS did detect snakey and made a note to revisit when the Doctor was feeling less lovey-dovey.

Bill is amazed to see black people happily walking through Regency London. Most of her historical knowledge coming from movies, TV and half-remember ramblings from short old dudes at school. But history is more ethnic than you might think. A famous example being Olaudah Equiano (there is/was a portrait of him in Exeter, Devon but your safe bet might be to google him). It is rumoured that Catherine of Aragon was black what with all that Moorish blood in the Spanish royal families. So this really shouldn’t be a surprise at all. The future might be orange but the past was black. Sometimes.

The Doctor calls this the whitewashing of history. He cites Jesus Christ as a good example of this. Just think of every church you have been to and you’ll note that every single depiction of Jesus shows him as being a skinny white guy with the ravishing good looks of Norville ‘Shaggy’ Rogers. Now think about Jesus himself. If he existed, our Galilean Hebrew Israelite would be sat at the back of the bus with Rosa Parks in 1950s America. Modern so-called Christians (the bad ones not the good ‘uns) would call out to our Biblical homeboy and tell him to “go back home, terrorist” or, if too polite, would simply walk across to the other side of the road to avoid the bearded ‘threat’. Sad but true.

The Doctor and Bill (but not Pete because Bill stepped on a butterfly and wiped Pete, sabre-toothed gerbils and chutney-making bees out of existence; time travel is harsh) take a flyer from a pauper girl. The Frost Fair in big letters, six pence to enter, six guineas to leave (how they make their money). Seems nice and safe as long as they avoid stepping in elephant poo.

Our TARDIS twosome wander around the fair, visiting the booths and tents and gap-toothed beggars, partaking of fish pie (well, mostly fish, half maybe, look, it has been in the river, good enough for you?), thieving of fish pie, discovering lights under the ice, looking at the dog-faced boy, getting bitten by the boy-faced dog, getting the sonic screwdriver half-inched (dear Americans, this means ‘stolen’) and running after sonic screwdriver thief. Fun for all the family.

The sonic has been thieved by Spider (son of Arachnea and Stag Beetle no doubt). Him and the leader of their pickpocket posse, Kitty, run rings around the Doctor and Bill, leading them away from the fair and onto thin ice. The underice lights have also followed and now they spin beneath Spider’s feet. Just like Incey-Wincey Spider, Spider is flushed down the pipe into the cholera breeding ground that is the Thames.

The Doctor, unable to rescue poor Spider (come on, he must have really been called Erasmus or something similar), snaffles his sonic screwdriver back. Doesn’t show any remorse for the urchin’s demise at all, instead cradling his sonic like a kitten. “Och, ma wee baby. Dinnae let the big bad lights scare ye.” Bill does not like this side of the Doctor.

Kitty has skedaddled. But the Doctor and Bill manage to find her and her plucky group of beggars. The orphans distrust them at first but after a rousing rendition of Hard Knock Life and Food, Glorious Food, they soon take our heroes into their hearts. Ahem, trust them a little teeny bit that is.

Yes, similar scene to the one in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and every version of Oliver Twist that has or ever will be made but, and this is a big but, if you are gonna complain about originality then don’t bother. Every story is based upon another story. Blah blah blah.

Kitty gives them the skinny on how she is paid to bring people down to the frost fair and how some people go missing. Please note how I am down with the kids, just like the Doctor. Yeah! Bo selecta! Groovey! Splendid!

After a quick visit to Argos, the Doctor and Bill have themselves some, what people might call steampunkesque but in reality just normal, diving suits. The Doctor has a plan. Let the whatever-it-is eat them up and then make another plan later. The quality of that plan makes me suspect that his diving suits are made by Acme.

The Doctor and Bill go out onto the ice, lumbering around like Frankenstein’s monster after too many pints of beer, and…

By the by, a quick note. If you want to annoy literary types, just refer to Frankenstein’s monster as ‘Frankenstein’ and then don’t allow them to correct you.

…before long, the lights appear under the ice. The Doctor and Bill are taken. Down into the depths of the Thames. Doom!

Or not doom at all. The lights turn out to be alien angler fish. Or are they alien? Could they be animals from the time of the Silurians (or Earth Reptiles)? Maybe. I say yes because I quite like the idea of lumping Thin Ice in with the other Homo Reptilia stories. I am nerd!

Then, oh boy, they see the underice beastie. Cthulhu! No, not Cthulhu but for the lack of a better name, yes, Cthulhu. The monster has an eye the size of a really big frickin’ eye. This is the second time in three episodes where an eye has been a dramatic point. Is there an eye theme for this series? Also the second time in three episodes that we have had a water-related monster. Hmmmmm…

Cthulhu is chained up so it cannot leave the Thames. And given that it burps out Spider’s red hat, well, it has obviously been snacking on paupers. This is why so many people are disappearing. Once you eat one peasant, you feel like eating another. The poor are so moreish. Cthulhu loves human nom-noms.

There is a five-minute montage in black-and-white of Spider. His hat being the only colour. Poignant music plays.

Back to the action! The Doctor and Bill crawl back out of the Thames, up through the ice, to the amazement of the fish pie seller who is catching fish for his pies. The Silurian fish. Health and Safety would have a field day with this guy.

It is not long before they, the Doctor and Bill, find out that Lord Sutcliffe is the one paying Kitty and her cheerful chirpy Cockneys to get people onto the ice. So our heroes go stomping off to Lord Sutcliffe’s place.

The psychic paper is whipped out when a foreman asks them who they are, why they are here, and whether he can get a date with Bill. The psychic paper reveals that they work for the Palace and that Bill is just not interested thank you very much.

The Doctor pulls off Blackadderlike verbal trickery and gets the foreman to reveal that Sutcliffe is taking Cthulhu’s dung and selling it. Probably not to gardeners for their compost heaps.

The Doctor and Bill have it away on their toes to confront Lord Sutcliffe but he isn’t there. So they mooch around for a few minutes before he turns up. Sutcliffe is not pleased to see the Doctor but even less so to see Bill who has committed the twin sins of being female and black.

There is a book I read last year, essays about race in Doctor Who. They complained about how the show never questions it in any detail such as when Martha in Shakespeare’s time and the Paul Cornell’s episodes based upon Human Nature. This is a valid point.

Now. What do you think some people said about the racist Sutcliffe and the Doctor punching him,. Yeah, spoilers, racist punched. Below are a few comments…

“…social engineering reverse-racist idiocy…”

“I hear Doctor Who is making racist white men angry so I guess I’ll have to catch up on the recent two episodes”

If you can’t shoot rabbits, maybe punching racists instead is the thing? Some people complained a lot about this. The same people, mind you, that have no problem with xenophobic aliens being dispatched by the Doctor. Curious and curiouser. I liked the scene but it really should have been Bill that punched the Doctor though.

The sociopathic Sutcliffe picks himself up from the floor. His goons rush in and take the Doctor and Bill prisoner. Because Sutcliffe is quite verbose, he explains what he is doing, why he is doing what he is doing, and what he will do to our heroes.

Sutcliffe’s ancestors, centuries ago, found Cthulhu and captured him. They used it as a factory, kinda, farming it for serpent plops by feeding it random yokels. These plops are then used, not for compost, but as a better fuel than coal. Just how the Sutcliffes found out that the droppings would make excellent fuel I don’t care to consider. Ugh! Also, how did they capture Cthulhu in the first place? Perhaps it was a lot smaller when they found it?

Incidentally, nearly every review of this story has called Cthulhu a sea serpent/monster. While, yeah, serpent maybe. Monster certainly. Sea? No. The beast is literally in a river. It is a lochless monster not a sea serpent. If anything, it is a river monster.

Of course Sutcliffe won’t, despite the Doctor’s protests, stop farming Cthulhu. Instead he will have our heroes tied up and eaten. Not only that but he will stick them in a tent full of explosives. The cad! These explosives will crack the ice and all the food-on-two-legs will fall through into the Thames and Cthulhu’s gullet.

Need I say that the Doctor and Bill escape? Yep, they escape. As if they would end up as fish food.

Bill teams up with Kitty and her gang to get people off the ice. The Doctor does something clever and attached all the explosives to the chains holding Cthulhu in place.

Sutcliffe is outraged. How dare these oiks get off the ice! Don’t they know that Cthulhu needs feeding? The bounders! The sociopath presses the plunger down and explodes the explosives. These dashed paupers won’t escape the hungry teeth. But they do and Sutcliffe is swallowed up by the freezing cold disease-ridden water. Does he die though? Who knows?

The Doctor and Bill have saved the day! Did you think they wouldn’t? Cthulhu escapes to the sea, maybe it is a sea serpent after all, and that is that. Only a brief scene of the Doctor rewriting the deed to Sutcliffe;s mansion and now it is owned by the lost heir to the Sutcliffe millions, random urchin number four.

Our heroes return to the Doctor’s office in time for the tea, with added coffee, that Nardole promised at the start of the previous episode. Gah, he is peeved! The Doctor is not meant to leave the planet. Why? Because of the Vault?

Bill checks online that the pickpockets lived a good long life, so that is alright then. But why is there no mention of Cthulhu? Remember when the Doctor told Clara that her race’s superpower is forgetting. Or as the Doctor says to Ace in Remembrance of the Daleks the human race “has the most amazing capacity for self-deception”. If nobody remembers the Daleks stealing the Earth, the CyberKing, the Zygon Gambit or the Vervoid invasion of Woking, why would they remember a random snake?

Nearly the end now, Nardole is alone and checking that the Vault is safe. It is. But there is a dreadful knocking from within. Ooh, now all Whovians will have their theory as to what is inside the Vault. Can’t wait to find out.

Peter Capaldi continues to be wonderful. Good speeches and that punch, wow! I bet a lot of people punched the air because of that scene. Loved him. Will miss him when he is gone.

Pearl Mackie just gets better and better. Maybe it is because she is written by a woman but she was really good in Thin Ice. When she questions the Doctor on if he as killed and how many people he has killed…powerful stuff. She is asking the questions that the previous companions should have asked. Will miss her too… Sigh!

Matt Lucas is good in this story. But he only appears in two small scenes so I will forget him for the time being.

Nicholas Burns as Sutcliffe? Yeah, he was alright. Just the right mix of pompous, entitled evil. Liked it. Not often that we get a human baddie in the show. It is to be relished.

Good performances from Asiatu Koroma and Austin Taylor as Kitty and Spider. Child actors often get roasted by critics but I reckon they did a good job here. Kudos.

Brief note: Perry, random urchin number four, is played by a kid called Badger Skelton. Badger? Badger?!? Maybe the fictional Spider has not so strange a name after all… Badger does a stellar job too by the way. Kudos, young Badger, kudos.

Is Thin Ice any good? Of course it is. Loved it. Should you watch it? Of course squared.

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Smile Unreview

The Robots of Death meets The Happiness Patrol with a side order of The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. This is Smile in a nutshell.

Simple title, Smile. I like it. It brings to mind the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa which, again, is apt because the title is enigmatic…at first.

Frank Cottrell-Boyce wrote this. Big improvement on his previous story. Not that his last story was bad but it wasn’t a classic. This is. Maybe.

Before I start grappling with the story, I must say that I love the names given to the few characters we see. Goodthing, Steadfast and Praiseworthy. I take them to be first names. The naming reflects the Puritan’s way of naming their children after virtues. Also, the Puritans colonised America, ooh, references within references. If nothing else, I love Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s little games in this. So much fun to discover and feel smug upon when found.

Alien planet. Seemingly idyllic and utopian with slightly Spanish architecture. People in fields with emoji-faced droids. A sure winner for most beautiful planet featured in Doctor Who. But there is something rotten in the state of Gliese 581d. When the Emojibots go from 😃 to 💀, then trouble is afoot. The emojidroids are turning unhappy people into bones by way of a huggle. Nice.

The story, for our heroes, starts off in the TARDIS. The Doctor is telling Bill all about the controls of the console. “Jings, this wee button sends us forward in time, this one back, this one dinnae work, and the last one drops my troosers.” Bill is not too impressed, her main concern being why the chairs are so far away from the console. Is that a fair point? In space, nobody can hear you complain about standing.

Nardole knocks on the doors of the police box and gives them a suspicious look. He mentions a promise the Doctor made not to leave the planet. The Doctor, in turn, looks like a child who has been told off by his mother. “Ach, Nardole, ye fuss like a fishwife. Awae wi’ ye, you bald space-sassenach!”

What is this promise? Is it something to do with the vault? Or is the Doctor simply on the naughty step?

Nardole bumbles off (he does this a lot, bumbling) to make some tea. The Doctor sees this as an opportunity to sneak off into the time vortex. Bill queries this but the Doctor brags that he can be back before Nardole gets the tea bags out. How much do you want to bet that the Doctor won’t be back on time? A sure bet, your mazumas are safe.

Bill wants to travel to the future. The previous story reflected Rose, this one reflects The End of the World settingwise. The next one reflects The Unquiet Dead by being set in the past. Oops, spoilers!

The TARDIS lands in a field full of what is meant to be wheat but is actually barley. This is the planet Gliese 581d. Which really exists, I think. The star system of Gliese 581 exists but this planet has not officially being confirmed as yet (according to my book of astronomy) but it is likely to exist.

The colony is made up of amazingly gorgeous buildings. No CGI here (not much). The colony exists in reality as the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain. I predict a tourist boom for Valencia.

The colony is empty. Not a soul but for the Emojibots and the swarming nanobots refered to as the Vardy. Not even a mouse.

The Vardy are named after scientist Andrew Vardy. A clever bloke who researches into swarm robotics. Oh! And according to secret public sources he once worked with Boyce on a short story.

Emojibots are the interface for the Vardy. They communicate via their 😃-faces and badges which they hand over to the Doctor and Bill. Beware Emojibots that bear gifts…

So many naysayers complained about the Emojibots before the episode aired. Not so many afterwards. Can’t wait to see what they say when they watch the LOLcat-speaking Mondasian Cybermen later in the series. “Can weez convertz cheezeburgerz?”

The badges are strange. They have a face on one side, an emojiface, and blankly yellow on the other. No matter which way they turn the badges, the face always face outwards. For Americans and other muggles, a badge is what you would call a ‘button’.

Another strange thing happens when our heroes try to stick the badges onto their chests. The little faces zip over their shoulders, down a trouser leg, up the other trouser leg and makes a home upon their backs.

The Doctors susses it out that the badges somehow tap into the user’s mind and broadcasts their emotions onto the badge. If this was a way of allowing people to communicate with the Vardy, why the back? Do the Emojibots have to look behind someone to see what they are feeling? Would it not make more sense to have the badge on the chest?

The Doctor is presumptuous and theorizes that they have arrived before the colonists have. Plausible plausible. He is puzzled however by the lack of pre-colony staff who should have been preparing the colony for the arrival of the intergalactic space immigrants. At least there ought to be a member of UKIP standing on a soapbox in the barley field and ranting about how these ‘ruddy migrants coming here and ruining our barren world by planting crops, building sexy cities and creating jobs’, but no. Not a sausage. No space sausages either.

Our heroes find a space-age polytunnel full of flowers and vegetables and Emojibots and fertilizer bins full of human skulls. Ah. Not good. Trouble in paradise.

The Emojibots see the distress on Bill’s face and her badge, plus the Doctor’s puzzled look, and their smiley faces gain a tear but no 💀-eyes. The Doctor’s spidey-sense tingles, he realises that the Vardy are killing people who are not happy. And what do unhappy people make? Unhappy people make excellent fertilizer.

By the by, the Doctor discovers a locket during all this excitement. He opens it up later in the story and sees a hologram of a woman with bakery on her head, calling for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Nah! Inside is the hologrammatic face of the woman we saw killed earlier. Remember that if you wish. It may be important later. The woman’s face that is, not the duff Princess Leia gag.

The Doctor tells Bill to smile. Smiling will affect her body chemistry and it will show up on her badge as a big ol’ dreck-eating grin. Our heroes exit stage left singing Pharrell Williams’ Happy. The Vardy are either fooled or appreciates the blend of Scottish and Thames Estuary accents. Whatever, the tuneless twosome vanishes before the Emojibot happiness patrol can turn them into bones.

There is a scene where the Doctor and Bill escape to the TARDIS, the Vardy won’t or can’t follow them out here, not sure why. He stuffs Bill in the TARDIS and goes back to blow up the city but not before commanding her to stay there and not to look at his browser history. Bill doesn’t obey the former but does obey the latter; we are thankfully spared from seeing Drahvin Vixens, Foamasi Cougars and Skaro Jelly Bikini Blobs.

The Doctor wanders around until Bill turns up like a bad penny with a rocking afro. They both search until the smooth white walls of the city gives way to the metal rusty walls of the ship that brought the pre-colony staff to Gliese NumbersLetter. They find it, yay, and a handy door into the spaceship.

The ship is called the Erehwon. Which is either ‘now here’ or ‘nowhere’ spelt backwards. A name which some less well-read Whovians mocked. Pish-Posh, young ones. The name refers to the book Erewhon by Samuel Butler. It is a book about an utopia which turns out to, well, not quite as utopian as people might wish it to be. Like the book, spoiler warning, this story does not become a dystopia.

The Doctor’s plan, if plan is an adequate word for what he plans on doing, is to find the reactor of the spaceship, blow it up, and then be back home for tea and Marmite sandwiches with Nardole. Yeah, like that is gonna happen!

The Doctor’s makes Bill stay near a map while she tells him where to find the reactors via an earpiece device that I unaccountably forgot to mention, and am too lazy to insert into an earlier paragraph, when she could just take a picture on her phone and accompany him. Just as well really because a little boy appears out of thin air. This is little Praiseworthy and, bless his cotton socks, he wants to know where his mummy is.

Where has the boy come from? Are the colonists here? What will happen if the Doctor blows up the ship and accidentally kills the colonists? Tune in next paragraph for the next exciting part of this unreview!

Bill has to find the Doctor before he blows up the reactor. Too late, it is about to blow! The Doctor sees the boy and with a cry of “Jings!” he reverses what he has done. Phew! Safe again.

Praiseworthy leads the Doctor and Bill to an enormous room full of hibernation chambers. No sign of any Wirrn though. The Erehwon is the colony ship and the colonists are therefore here on the planet already. The planet of the robots of death!

The Doctor reviews the ship’s logs and…

(Please note that Bill found the preserved corpse of a woman near the aforementioned log earlier. I don’t mention every single detail because, well, it’d be gauche of me to ruin every surprise, eh?)

…discovers that the Vardy, the swarm of doom, were programmed by the humans to make them, the humans, happy. But because the Vardy were not programmed with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, things went awry.

This is how it happened: Humans, Vardy and Emojibots living in harmony, utopia, happy happy joy joy. But the snake entered Eden (gah, I dislike Biblical allusions but it seems apt, sorry) in the form of a death, natural causes mind you, and the grief that it caused amongst the pre-colony staff. The Vardy saw that the crew were sad, it saw this as a disease for some reason, and killed all those that were sad. This is what the boffins call an exponential cycle. Hmm, yeah, science. This cycle wiped all the humans out.

If the colonists wake up from their dreams of electric sheep… Yeah, exactly. Hello, goodbye humans.

Or rather goodbye, hello since the humans are waking up. And Ralf Little is one of the humans!

Ralf Little’s character, Steadfast, wants to destroy the Vardy and their Emojibot helpers. Which is understandable. So they all go to the armoury. I say ‘all’ but what it amounts to is less than fifteen. Maybe they are the colonists that are best suited to helping the others out of their hibernation hammocks?

The Doctor does not like this. The Vardy, he argues, are sentient beings. They have rights. Steadfast the human pooh-poohs this. Bill gets caught by a couple of Emojibots. One is shot, blam! The Doctor reacts. He whips out the sonic screwdriver and resets the story…ahem…resets the Vardy to their original state where they didn’t see grief as a disease to be wiped out. Deus ex machina. maybe, but that is fine if it only happens once a series.

So, yeah. Reset. The Doctor offers to negotiate between the Vardy and the vexed humans but, boy, does Steadfast Little look peed-off!

Anyhow, the Doctor and Bill go back to the TARDIS and head home to the university and tea and Marmite sandwiches. Only the university isn’t there.

The TARDIS does not arrive back at the university, oh no, it arrives instead upon a frozen river as an elephant gives them an old-fashioned look and asks, “Where the frell have you been, Doctor? I’m freezing my bloody trunk off here!”

End of story! With a cliffhanger! Of sorts.

Like the first story, The Pilot, the Doctor and Bill are the characters most focused upon. So no need to mention the other actors in any detail later although Kaizer Akhtar impressed me as Praiseworthy (great name).

Mina Anwar plays Goodthing. She doesn’t seem to have aged since she was in 1990s sitcom The Thin Blue Line. Which, for her, is a good thing. Sorry, couldn’t resist… Both her and Ralf Little are, quite frankly, wasted. I was looking forward to seeing Mina and she only appears for a brief period. Nuts! At least they were good in their brief roles.

Peter Capaldi is excellent. Quiet fury at Steadfast, amusement at the Emojibots. Loved him. Great performance. Super super fine! So many different shades of emotions. The Doctor, at one point, quotes David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes. An apt quote given that happiness is something you must be, but also because the colonists are being turned into ashes to fertilise the plants. Love the references, did I mention that? I do.

Pearl Mackie continues to impress. Great scenes. Loved how she questions the Doctor’s passing reference to his two hearts. Very plausible, wouldn’t we all react a little like this? She is the most normal companion that we have had since, ooh, Donna Noble. I loved Donna as well. Bill Potts is great. So far.

My opinion of the story can be described in three words:

OH. MY. GLOB!

I loved it but then again I love most episodes. So take that however you wish. Should you watch this story? Does the Pope crap in the woods? Are bears Catholic? Hell yeah, you should!

So that is your lot until next week.

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

The Pilot Unreview

This is not a reboot.

This is a reboot.

These two sentences are true. And false. Trulse if you like. Frue? Um, scrub that. Let me say true/false instead. Hmmm. Sorted.

The fact that this is a reboot (no, it isn’t) makes the title – The Pilot – into a play on words (or it would but since this is not a reboot, this is not a play on words).

I couldn’t help feeling, when watching this episode, that I had seen this all before. Not a bad thing, mind you. It was just incredibly familiar. Stavros Moffat doing his version of Russell Tyrannosaurus Davies’ Rose. It ain’t a reboot (yes, it is) but it works as one (yes, well, of course it works as a reboot because it is a reboot [no, it isn’t!] Is! [Isn’t!]). Davies never had a planet with lemon drop skies though…

Companion with family life? Yup? Council flat? Yup. Companion’s would-shoulda-coulda love life? Yup yup yup. Also note how the character Bill (short for Billie, hmmm, a technical yup there, and I bet the rookie Whovians crowed in delight about that) works in the canteen where she serves chips (As Rose did in School Reunion, as played by Billie Piper, yup squared!). Need I say more? Probably not but I will anyway.

There are differences. Bill is the almost complete opposite of Rose in that she is black, pretty, tall, adopted and a lesbian. Yes, the show’s first openly gay companion. Which I won’t discuss in detail since it isn’t an issue. She is gay, so what? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make her character anything else but human just like you and me. Well, you. Miaow…

Not that some people won’t complain, they will. On Twitter some UKIP supporter whined that the BBC were ticking boxes. This whiner not realising that half of the audience watching the show is gay. Meh, it is not an issue, get over it, dudes.

Some lesbian Whovians have commented on the fact that ‘gay’ only applies to men. Gay women are lesbians. Both are true. And false. Any word, if used enough, can change meaning. ‘Gay’ once meant ‘happy’, ‘queer’ once meant ‘strange’, ‘lesbian’ was once used to describe the inhabitants of the island of Lesbos, and now ‘gay’ can be used to describe gay men and lesbians. Words evolve. Although, the next time someone tells you that Lesbians are not called ‘gay’, just tell them that unless you come from Lesbos, you can’t call yourself a Lesbian.

It starts off in an office. On Earth. Upon a desk are photographs of Susan, River and Adric (in a mankini). This is not the office of Professor Chronotis, no, this ain’t a remake of Shada. This is where physics lecturer, the Doctor, hangs out when not teaching. Yes, he teaches in a university now. University teaching is cool. But he has a problem, or not a problem but more of an issue, with one of the students who is attending his classes. Bill, who isn’t a student at all (this is not true, she is a student because the Doctor goes back in time to enroll her. She just doesn’t know it yet), has been attending his lessons despite not knowing that she is a student. I might need to draw a Venn diagram to explain all this.

Oh, and the desk has sonic screwdrivers on it. All the ones ever shown on the show. I wonder how many grey-bearded Whovians wet themselves with joy at that? Hands up if you had soggy Y-fronts!!!

Nardole, he is is back (semi-sarcastic yay, nah he is alright), opens the door to Ms Potts. He has a suspiciously robotic sounding arm. Another link to Rose with the fake arm reference. I wonder if anyone else got that? Don’t think he is an Auton though. Nardole is also an anagram of ‘Doctor’, is this a clue to the end of the series?

The Doctor sounds her out. He is curious about her. Odd thing but I have the feeling that he knows something about her. He seems to like her and thus he becomes her tutor. Not just ‘thus’ but I am not here to hold your hands through every bit of dialogue.

Bill mentions a girl she met in the uni canteen (refectory?) that she liked, but the girl also liked chips and so Bill plumped her. Or fatted her. Small tiny scene, loved it though.

Months pass and the relationship between the Doctor and Bill becomes one of, dare I say, friends. She mentions not having any photographs of her real mother and the next day a boxful of photographs suddenly turns up. With a photo that shows the Doctor doing an impression of the famous cover to The Killing Joke. If you get this reference, award yourself a chufty badge. If you don’t, congratulations, you have a life.

During these months, Bill follows the Doctor and Nardole to a weird vault. What is in the vault? The reason for the reboot (it isn’t a reboot!)? Big doors on the vault. Gallifreyan symbols on the doors? Maybe…

Bill, when not following members of the faculty, meets a girl during these months. Bill kinda falls for her. “What, she is a Lesbian? Damn it, I will write a letter to The Times!” Hah! Again, being a lesbian is fine, really. Love is love is love is love. And a crush is a crush. Besides her lips taste like cherry chap sticks, probably.

The girl is called Heather. She seems nice. She is nice. She also has a star in her eye, a defect that is. In the other eye, she has another star, Elvis Presley. Bill likes Heather a lot, she is intrigued. A-huh-huh.

Hold on! Bill and Heather? Bill = William Hartnell. Heather = Heather Hartnell (Billy’s wife but you knew that already, right?). The sloshingly undercrackered greybeard Whovians must really be squealing with excitement now.

Heather asks Bill to look at something. Bill says yes, maybe she is hoping to be shown something naughty? Y’know, maybe a fart orchestra? But no. Heather takes Bill to, what in America would be called an empty lot, a playground for homeless people. Bits of rubbish around the edges, burn marks and a puddle. As first dates go, hardly one to remember.

What does Heather want to show Bill? It is a puddle. Yeah, woo-hoo not. Bill is told to look into the puddle. Nothing alien going on here. Just a puddle. Heather asks if Bill can see anything wrong with her reflection. “Yeah, man,” says Bill. “I need to comb my afro.” Bill doesn’t notice a thing (besides her afro) and when she turns around Heather has gone, flown the coop etc. But within the puddle, an effect-laden voice mentions finding a pilot. And that is the title explained. Huzzah! Everything alien going on here now.

I was wondering what the Big Bad would be. If it hadn’t turned up, I might have had to turn the show off and watch the Ferris Bueller TV series (Cthulhu bless DVD boxsets). I know what you are thinking. Yes, they made a TV series too. Cool or what?

Bill tells the Doctor about the puddle, as you do, and before she can finish talking he has made off like a Scottish Speedy Gonzalez. “¡Arriba arriba! ¡Andale ándale, hoots mon!” Bill follows him straight to the lot and finds him poking about with the puddle.

The Doctor notes scorch marks in a circle with the puddle towards one edge. He theorises that the puddle is intelligent spaceship fuel. In space, nobody can hear you call for a mechanic. No other water either. The only water in the empty lot is the puddle. Is the alien puddle called Puddle Song?

The Doctor sees what Bill didn’t. The reflection is not a reflection. The puddle is copying whatever looks into the puddle. So far this sounds more like a case for Torchwood or Mulder and Scully. Heather found out because when she looked into the puddle, her Elvis was in another in the other eye.

Bill goes back home to the flat worn out by all the puddle excitement. Someone is in the bathroom, Possibly her mother but judging by the background music probably not her mother. She enters the bathroom, nothing there. She pulls up the toilet seat, nothing there. She pulls aside the shower curtain, nothing there. Not even hair in the plug hole, just a yellowish eye. Yawn! Wait! An eye?!? Yikes! See Bill run. Run, Bill, run! A puddle is chasing you!

Bill arrives at the university, nightlit and misty with it. She hears something and sees a shadowy figure under a tree. Heather appears from the dark mistiness and tells Bill, “Tonight, Matthew, I will be possessed by an oily puddle.” If you remember the ITV show Stars in Their Eyes and that the original title for this episode was going to be A Star In Her Eye, then you will realise just how funny I am (not funny at all [I concur, also not a reboot]).

Bill barges into the Doctor’s office. The Doctor gives a quizzical look. She blabbers. The oily watery thing arrives and enters along the bottom of the door. “Crivens, a wee puddle!” cries the Doctor.

The wee puddle comes in and in an effect more impressive than the similar one in Terminator 2, Heather (all see-through and oddly attractive) raises up from the puddle. “Why do you never call? Don’t you like me any more,” she doesn’t say. “Puddle off,” cries out Bill (she doesn’t, I’m just being witty [no, you aren’t, so unfunny]).

The Doctor bundles Bill into the TARDIS which, like rocket scientists, Brad Pitt and men who own cars, don’t impress her much. She calls it a kitchen, a kitchen! Best bloomin’ kitchen in the universe, darling!

Nardole is there (no longer making mechanical noises with his arm), oddly nonchalent about her presence although he does ask the Doctor whether he should have her shot out of the TARDIS cannon. The Doctor assures Nardole that she is kosher, fine, not a problemo.

The Doctor whisks them off the vault. Sonic screwdriver out, scanning, no wifi signal. Damn. Heather appears. Uh-oh. Heather doesn’t seem interested in the vault, just Bill. Curious. Back into the TARDIS and off to Erinsborough, Australia, where Long Wet Sally finds them again. This is really getting bothersome now.

The Doctor is a cunning man though, he takes them gazillions of years into the future. This should fox the Soggy One. Erm, no. She finds them again. The Doctor reckons she can travel through time but doesn’t that seem a bit wrong? It is sentient spacerocket fuel, yes? So why would you fuel your spaceship with something that can travel through time? Unless you want to warm up your engine whilst still in bed, nuh-uh, I think not. Oily Heather must have waited for Bill to reappear and then found her when she detected her biodata (yes, a nod to the Whovians weaned on Faction Paradox, don’t thank me).

The Doctor’s final gambit, he takes them to a ship/space station/branch of IKEA where there is a battle between the Daleks and, wait for it, wait for it, the Movellans. Yes, them! Was I the only one to punch the air when we saw them? Yes? Oh, alright…

A Dalek goes to shoot Bill but Heather takes it. The Dalek tries to exterminate Heather, to put the Skaro whammy on her but it just ain’t doing a thing. “SOR-RY! THIS DOES NOT US-UAL-LY HAP-PEN TO ME! LET ME TRY A-GAIN IN A FEW RELS!” Dalek gets puddled. Nice.

Heather assumes the Dalek’s appearance but it really isn’t fooling anyone so it quickly turns back into her normal dripping waif look.

The Doctor tells Bill that the puddle possessed Heather like a demon or a bad curry. Why? Because it found someone, like the puddle, who simply wanted to leave. Heather fancied Bill and so the puddle confused love with navigation and voila! Instant Bill-addicted puddle monster. Same old story of girl meets girl, girl becomes possessed by sentient puddle, puddly girl stalks girl; a classic story as old as time.

Bill convinces Heather, in a maelstrom of CGI gimmickiness, that she should let her go. And so she does. Heather melts away and that is the problem solved. Hurray, now to go back home for tea and crumpet.

Not quite.

If the Puddle Girl travels through time, and there is no proof or reason why this is true, then end of story. But if she merely waited millions of years, does this not mean that she isn’t as gone as we might assume? If the Dalek/Movellan war is set before the lemony planet scene, then what happens is this: Bill persuades Puddle Heather to let her go, then millions of years later, Puddle Heather goes back on her word and starts stalking Bill again which is why the TARDIS gang saw her on that planet. This could be what really happened, right?

Anyway, back in the Doctor’s office he tries to wipe Bill’s memory of all who he is and what happened but he can’t. He tells her to get away as fast as she can. And like the gingerbread man, she is gone.

No sooner has she gone outside then she sees the Doctor, with TARDIS, behind him like the best ever time ship ever. He changed his mind (why?) and this is where it starts for good: Bill and the Doctor’s excellent adventures!

Trailer of the upcoming episodes which I won’t discuss until the episodes happen. No spoiler warning needed.

Episode one and this is a good jumping-on point for rookie Whovians. All you need to know is mentioned, except for the bits which aren’t mentioned. All we know is that at St Luke’s University is a man called the Doctor. Doctor what though? He has been teaching for fifty or so years which Bill accepts quite easily to my amusement. There is a vault (on the grounds of the uni?) and something is in the vault which must be protected, guarded, against alien threats maybe.

Yes, The Pilot echoes other episodes of the show but this is not a problem. You’d be hard-pressed to find any story after 1965 which doesn’t riff on things previously shown or done or alluded to. All TV shows are like this and when you have one that has lasted for other fifty years, well, it is to be expected.

Oh! Oh! Oh! Bill said that the Doctor has been there for fifty years, yes? Could he have been there since 1963? Is this a vault containing something akin to the Hand of Omega? The Foot of Rassilon? The Spleen of the Other? The Lung of Lungbarrow? I dunno but I cannot wait to find out.

Some snarky fans have complained that the Puddle Heather is too similar to the waterthing in Waters of Mars but, how can i say this, Heather isn’t water! She is oil! If the snarky fans had compared her to the gloop monster which killed Tasha Yar in Star Trek: TNG, then they might have had a point. Meh.

So the acting. Was that alright? Yeah, pretty much.

I’ll skim over the other actors of the piece. This is really Pearl Mackie and Peter Capaldi (or P-Mac and P-Cap as a few of the more street Whovians have renamed them. Urgh!).

Pearl was alright. Understated acting, naturalistic, loved it. The character of Bill is a delight. First ever person to point out that the TARDIS acronym only works in English. As all planets have a north, they also all have an English language which is why all the aliens on the show speak English.

No complaints about Pearl Mackie yet. She plays all her scenes well, from the nightclub and the blossoming of love to the Dalek IKEA and the puddle monster, all fine.

Peter? He is always good. He reacts to Pearl’s performance in a way that, I think, he never did with Ms Coleman. I wonder why? Peter Capaldi is always the best thing on the screen. Always. But in this story, he allows Pearl to bloom and strut her stuff. Which is a good thing.

Is this a good story? Hell yes! Should you watch it? Hell yes! Should you watch the TV version of Ferris Bueller? Probably not; stick to the film.

Loved this story. Can’t wait for the next.

Posted in BekHobbes, doctorwho, fandom, memories, opinion, questions, review, unreview, whovian, whovians | 4 Comments

Earthshock Unreview

The Cybermen are popping out all over the shop in a bid to do something evil and terrible and…um, hold on, let me just rewatch.
Right! Nope, still not getting it. Ah…maybe just one more watch…
Hmmmm. OK.
The Cybermen are fixing to put the humans into a stone cold grave by blowing up the Earth with a big bomb.
That is the plan. Simple as that? Not quite. The Doctor defuses the bomb. The Cybermen then decide to crash a space freighter into the Earth instead. But luckily it goes back in time by 65 million years and wipes out the dinosaurs (which is bad) and Adric (which is good).
So why should you watch this story? Besides Adric copping it, there are many reasons for watching.
The Cybermen are a pretty good reason to watch this story. They hadn’t been on the show for a good number of years, so their return was mostly a surprise.
The Cybermen have also been drastically redesigned. No more silver wetsuits, so last century, dahling! It is now silver flight suits ahoy. They still have the handles though. While I like these flashy new cyborgs, I do feel that they look more cute than scary. These are Cybermen that you can invite to a cuddle party.
I love how you can see the human jaw of the Cybermen move as they speak. It makes me wonder how much of their bodies is still organic.
Back to the Cyber-plan though. I’m not saying it is not a good plan but as far as plans goes, it is very Wile E Coyote. I would have thought that there was better ways to destroy the Earth such as plagues or secretly converting the population into Cybermen before setting them to delete, delete, DELETE! Using androids is weird since the Cybermen are not known for being needlessly cautious. But hiding on an Earth freighter spaceship, monitoring the bomb and repeats of Doctor Who? No, the Cybermen should have gone in with a space armada, mass-converted the whining pink fleshbags and then enjoyed a cup of tea and a plate of cucumber sandwiches amongst the smoking ruins. Simple. Job done.
There is, of course, a reason for the bomb (and the crashing of the freighter later on). Earth is about to get all Star Trek and join up with a bunch of planets to put the kibosh on the Cybermen. Pretty straight forward, right?
Wrong!
The crew of the freighter, from Captain Briggs to Mittens the ship’s cat, don’t have a clue who or what the Cybermen are. Or that Earth is about to join up with other worlds to combat the cyber menace. To which, I assume, you are all asking, “What the hell?” How does Earth’s government think it is alright to get into a war with a group of aliens that nobody has heard of? How will that pan out? Will the Earth ruler go on national TV and say, “Hello, citizens of the Earth. Please attend carefully. We are going to war tomorrow with to fight these cyborgs called the Cybermen. We have not told you about the Cybermen before because we just forgot to tell you. So sorry. Sorry. Soz. Heaps of soz to you! So, yes, um, if you hear a lot of lasers and gunfire and screaming, don’t worry. Just keep calm and stay indoors until either the lasers stop or you are dragged from your beds by the Cybermen. This war may take a few years but, hey, I am sure that
we can get through this altogether. Have a nice day!”
Maybe the Earth government has told everyone but what with nobody watching the news, they just didn’t…meh! No, I am just making excuses for the production team’s goof.
Peter Davison is acting his cotton socks off in this story. Bless. Just watch him being epic as he defuses the bomb. He champions the beauty of emotions to the emotionless Cybermen (they claim to be emotionless but that is so not the case).
I’ve not much to say about Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton as Tegan and Nyssa. They are good in this story but since this is really Adric’s story, the two ladies are not as exceptional as they usually are. Well, they are but for the sake of argument, no.
Matthew Waterhouse is the only companion of note. The Jar Jar Binks of Doctor Who is finally acting to an adequate-ish level,.. Huzzah! And then he dies… Huzzah! Sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble: Adric, death, crash, ka-boom! Huzzah!
Adric wants to go back to his swampy home planet in E-Space. He is not getting on with the girls because they seem to not like him stealing their panties and then running around the TARDIS with them over his face while pretending to be Spider-Man. Adric is even annoying the Doctor by claiming to be lactose intolerant whenever all the milk is used. Dude, he can see the spilt milk on your green-and-yellow pajamas!
Adric’s mathematical abilities are put to the ultimate test here when he tries to figure out the logic codes of the freighter to stop it splatting into the Earth. Sadly (not sadly at all) he never knows if he was right and he dies not knowing whether he was right or not. But worse still, he never had the pleasure of drinking Um Bongo.
As the end-titles appear, we hear Matthew Waterhouse singing The Knack’s My Sharona, Mittens laughing, and we see Adric broken star badge… So sad… *sob sob*
So, yeah, that is it. I hope it sounds good enough to tempt you into watching the story.
What are you waiting for? Adric gets deaded and the Cybermen look really cook, what more could you ask for?
Posted in BekHobbes, cybermen, doctorwho, fandom, memories, opinion, review, unreview, whovian, whovians | Leave a comment

Dream of Cities

I often dream of cities, of wandering down roads and streets and alleys, looking at different buildings as I pass under their shadows.

There are no people, at least not many, in my dreams. This is something I am thankful for. It is bad enough having to deal with people while I am awake without having to do so as well in the Land of Nod.

I have had these dreams for years now. There are no changes to the details, no major plot twists. There is a cathedral which has a star-shaped ditch, lined with granite blocks, around it. Lots of hills covered with grass and trees and the occasional squirrle (sometimes it is a fountain). Railway stations and rivers often appear. The trains are just trains, the path by the river usually overgrown with grass or trees or triffids.

I love these dreams. I feel more at home in my imaginary cities than I do in the city I currently inhabit.

I think that my dreams must seem boring to other people but for me they are adventures, explorations, excitement.

The typical flying dream sometimes happens in the cities. You know the one; the one where you tuck your legs up underneath you and, somehow, this allows you to fly. The classical foetus/womb dream. I never fly too high though because if I do, I always get stuck over some steep hill or gully or river.

I am never scared in these dreams. Although I was once chased by people (I survived, you’ll be glad to know).

No deep meaning to this blog. Just sharing.

Posted in BekHobbes, dreams, fantasy, memories, reallife | Leave a comment

Mutiny on the Bus

Yes, yet another bus blog.

This is a conversation that I overheard between a seven-year-old and what, I presume, was his mother. Might easily have been his granny though.

“You’ve got your shoes on the wrong feet!”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Put them on the right feet.”
“No.”
“Put them on the right feet.”
“No.”
“Change your shoes over.”
“No.”
“Change your shoes over.”
“No.”
“I won’t tell you again…”

And in the same breath she goes on to make herself a liar.

“…change your shoes over.”
“No.”
“Change your shoes over.”
“No.”
“Change your shoes over.”
“No.”

This young boy has outfoxed his mother. She is on the ropes but she has one more punch left.

“Give me your phone.”
“No.”
“Give me your phone.”
“No.”
“Give me your phone, now.”
“No.”

This continued for thirty minutes, the entire length of the bus journey. By the end, I was willing to snatch the boys shoes and jab them back onto the right feet but that sort of thing does not go down well with parents.

In five billion years, when the Earth is just a burnt cinder hanging in space, the mother and child will still be arguing I’ll wager.

Posted in BekHobbes, bus, exeter, family, humanity, humour, memories, reallife | Leave a comment

Story I Wrote When I Was Ten 1

This is a Sherlock Holmes spoof/parody that I wrote when I was ten years old.

Entitled The Adventure of the Brick in a Sock, it is the earliest story that survived the ravages of age, cats and general soiling in the various attics that housed it.

As mentioned in a previous blog, https://greebohobbes.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/short-story-discovery/ I had written quite a few stories from this time period. Some are alright, some are better left forgotten.

I am going to share a few. They have been written down faithfully from the original exercise books. In some cases, I have modernised references to pop culture or untangled torturous phrasing. The names are exactly the same though despite it probably being easier to write names as Foxley instead of Ffoxley-Ffinch. Wherever it works or not, I can’t judge.

So with that said, I hope you will enjoy what you are about to read. Please forgive me for I knew not what I did.

The Adventure of the Brick in a Sock

The year 1925 saw my friend Benjamin Ffoxley-Ffinch at the very height of his inconsiderable powers of guessing and waxing lyrical. Reading through my dog-eared journals for that year, my somewhat random attention is caught by a number, nay a score, of cases; some commonplace, some bizarre, some just stupidly macabre plus a few that would be a cause of brown underwear if they were ever published (by that, I mean, right proper bowel-blubbering capers).

For example, I recall The Enigma of the Cold Fusion Teapot for which Ffoxley-Ffinch received a telegram from the king, a pint of Crowley’s Amber Flame from the landlord of The Liar and the Wireless public house and a trip to the lay of the land (Miss Sally Sin, tuppence for her favours and no questions asked). But that case would present some embarrassment to those of a nervous disposition. Other cases like The Mystery of the Headmaster’s Leather-Clothed Harem would only interest the degenerate editors of specialist journals.. Even our easiest cases, like The Case of the Cat in a Tree, wouldn’t be of any interest, except to those that are anally retentive enough to know all about our private lives or about the bouncability of a ginger tom.

Recently, Ffoxley-Ffinch had been feeling quite blue. His powers of guessing and waxing lyrical had not been, or so he thought, taxed sufficiently enough recently. Even that incident involving Roger Beccesley the self-taught hypnotist of yew trees (The Adventure of the Man Who Mesmerised Yew) had not raised one iota of improbable guess-work.

It was not until the last few weeks before Christmas that he finally cheered up. I fell down the stairs. He laughed and laughed for days about that. So happy was he that he gladly accompanied me to my sister’s marriage to the inventor of the decaffeinated coffee table.

Returning from the shindig, it was a cold-chilled night and the frost struck my bones like a blind archer. Ffoxley-Ffinch, on the other hand, was striding down each road like a drunk with the keys to a brewery. He was in unusually good cheer, he had imbibed a great deal of sherry, I fancy.

It was in this state that we arrived at our digs. Ffoxley-Ffinch leaped up the steps of 1701d Bacon Street. Inside his cheer turned to a mood of lucid contemplation as his eagle-like eyes spied upon a worn business card. His face turned to one of utter disgust. He looked like an asthmatic dust mite.

Upon the card, printed in crayon, was this:

Gerald St. b’Arnaby esq
25 Lamarr House
Hollinsworth Road
London, Earth, the Universe

Turning to me, he asked, “What do you make of this card, my dear Doctor Pond. Pray tell. Use those grey cells for once.”

Using all of my brain power, I remarked, “Dunno, mate, I haven’t the foggiest, old bean. My only experience of cards is from Christmas or telephone boxes.”

Giving me one of his patented ‘why I oughta’ stares, he said, “Pond! By the worn edges I can see that it has been kept in a pocket or maybe an envelope rather than a wallet or a cat. Cotton pockets may I add so perhaps not an envelope at all.” Turning over the card, he continued. “There is no crayon marks on the back of this card so I can safely say that he has a selection of cards which he has cut out for him. As blank as a politician’s promise. Presumably, made just for us.”

“But Benj…,” I started.

“The person who placed the card upon the hallway floor? Our landlady, Mrs Tarwhine. I’d wager a bushel of Skinnen’s finest shag tobacco on this. The fact that she rang me up at your relative’s house to tell me is neither here nor there.” He rested upon his weighty laurels. I don’t know why. A cane or a mantelpiece would have been much easier to rest upon.

“You rotter!” I sputtered as he picked himself up from the floor, the laurels having been inadequate to the task.

“Not so much a rotter as the dubious b’Arnaby!”

“What do you dislike about this jackanapes?”

“He is a bloody know-it-all!” cried out Ffoxley-Ffinch. I remained silent as I did not wish to be beaten with my friend’s mallet. “The worst in London and possibly Luton for that matter.” Still perusing the card, he held it up to the light. “My giddy god,” he blasphemed, “he has only gone and had the cheek to watermark the card with a message. Blasted gonk!”

The watermark read:

Will come at 10.10pm, dear oiks, December 18th. Ta ta!

“The cur,” growled Ffoxley-Ffinch. “That is today and in a few minutes. What a cunning git!”

To which you may ask a pertinent question: Why did we return home at such an early time of night? You have to remember that this was 1925. People simply didn’t stay up too late in case they were set upon by errant orcs. The past is truly a different country, eh?

“Don’t you like him,” I asked, adding to the conversation what I felt would be an amusing comment.

“You ignorant bloater!” my dear friend ejaculated. “Don’t be shy of sense, you utter buffoon! I hate the cad, I wish he wasn’t coming here but alas I doubt he would cancel. It is my own fault anyway,” he mumbled this last part, “since I was the one who invited him. Aargh!”

“Why did you…”

“I don’t know! I had too much of my three percent solution and one thing led to another and now he is coming and I simply look a fright. I need to put on a dressing gown. Also some underwear.”

“Oh.”

“Now make haste, you portly ponce and hide the silverware under your mattress! He is a thief.”

Ffoxley-Ffinch snatched his dressing gown and underwear from the cat who had been strutting around our humble digs like lord of the manor. After a few mistakes, my friend managed to dress himself.

“What does this cad do? Besides thieving,” I asked, reaching for the silver goat slicer.

“He is a copper’s nark but not in the good sense of the word. Reporting people’s secrets to the police unless they pay him not to. A blackmailer. He is a criminal genius, better than Wright the Ripper even. There are no flies on him which is surprising given what he is full of.”

“Ripper as in that horrid man who did in those ladies of the night in 1888?”

“Erm, no, Pond. I meant that bloke in Bethnal Green who rips ladies’ undercrackers off their washing lines. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Woe be to those who cross b’Arnaby’s path. He makes his money by finding out the compromising matters of the gentry, then he bribes the blue blazes out of them before selling their stories to the newspapers. He is a racist of whom even the London Metropolitan Police hold in awe and with great esteem. I recently found out that he had scammed three pence out of the Lairwites, the wealthiest family in Yorkshire. Forgive me for my digressing but he really gets on my goat.”

Ffoxley-Ffinch’s goat look quizzically up at him.

“Not you, Ponsonby.”

“What does the law say of this bribery and blackmail and the getting on of your goat?”

“They say, ‘Rightio, you’re nicked, old son. What? Thirty sovereigns for me? Well, ta, mate. On your way now. Gawd bless’, and not much besides. Bribery doesn’t get you many years in gaol, and anyway what is that compared to the damage he does to his so-called clients? Folks such as us most find ways beyond the law to punish him. Such as a half-brick flung at his head or a brick inside a sock swung to clonk his noggin. That usually works for me.”

My friend was right. He had used the brick in a sock technique during our last case, The Adventure of Why Not Enough Is Being Done For the Apathetic, which involved the aforementioned sock-brick combo, a deformed pseudo-Victorian circus performer and a cat called Gin-Gin. Now I come to think of it, all of our cases tend to end with a socked brick.

Suddenly the door flew open and out through the window. Ffoxley-Ffinch and I looked at where the bedroom door had been and shook our heads. Not again, I thought. I made a note to buy a new door.

Suddenly the apartment’s front door whammed open. WHAM, it whammed.  A figure burst into our quarters, splattering the walls with entrails. We were about to clean up the mess, by which I mean to ring the bell to summon Mrs Tarwhine to scrub it up, when a man entered. It was b’Arnaby. The cur.

“Wotcher, Benji!” he grinned like a piano that had been walked upon by an elephant wearing jackboots. “What is the name of your chum ‘ere?”

“Pond,” I said. “Doctor Knatchbull Pond. I’m a doctor.”

“Bully for you,” said our guest. “Benji, I need yer ‘elp. I’ve got a nutty assassin after me.”

“Well, well, well,” said Ffoxley-Ffinch.  “What gives you that idea?”

“My cronies are being wiped out, yeah. Beagle Perkins was murdered at Lords cricket ground. Skegger too. My last dodgy pal, Cain Prawn, was murdered a couple of days ago by suffocating on gerbils! Now it is my turn!”

“Hmmm? Have you any reason to be assassinated? Are there any people you think are the culprits?” smirked my friend.

“Well, Sheikh Yehbommbomm isn’t too keen on me for revealing his goldfish addiction. Nor is Lady Edwina of Snood. I bribed that one about her collection of bovine moisteners. Heh. Last but not least is the famous wireless chef, Archie Dribble, and his cutlery cats. Let me just say that some of his food would delight the cannibal tribes of Milton Keynes, eh.”

“Is that all,” the great defective drawled, scratching himself on the skirting board.

“Inspector Ghoul of Scotland Yard hates me for finding out his secret…”

“Horsley Ghoul?” perked up Ffoxley-Ffinch.

“The very same. He does laps.”

“Nothing wrong with swimming, old sausage,” I said.

“No. Laps as in ‘dancing’. Lap dancers, yes?” said the cur. Turning to my friend, he touched the side of his head with a finger and twirled it. Ffoxley-Ffinch nodded. I did not know what any of that gesture business meant but I figured it to be a gesture belonging to some secret society such as the Freemasons or the Boy Scouts.

“Anyway,” my friend said, “what makes you think that you are next?”

“I received a call on the blower from my foe. Disguised their voice. I’m to be killed on Christmas Eve or the day after depending on whether my killer can catch the early morning train. Two weeks and my gizzard will be cut.”

“Interesting,” said Ffoxley-Ffinch. “Now, b’Arnaby, how much will we be getting for our services?”

“Eh? But what about the…”

“Hush, buffoon,” hushed my colleague. “Don’t worry, we’ll sort that out. Now about our fee?”

“Would a thousand pounds sort you out?”

“Certainly,” I burbled.

“I’ll be off then,” said b’Arnaby. “I’ll forget about blackmailing you about the you-know-what.”

After the cur had taken his leave (but not the silverware), me and my friend played a rousing game of Strip Scrabble. Which I lost.

***

Over the next few days, I didn’t see much of my friend. When he came home, his hair resembled a haystack, his gaze was meteoric, and he had lipstick stains all over his starched collar.

“Where have you been?”

“Out. About. Spying upon our bribing Gerald b’Arnaby. Getting the plans of his house from London City Council. And, also, making a plan.”

“A plan?”

“Don’t repeat everything I say, you rapscallion pig-dog!” snarled my gentle friend. “Anyhoo, my plan is to break into his house tonight, watch over him and catch the assassin at work. All without the permission and knowledge or arousal of our client.”

“Isn’t that illegal? Breaking and entry surely?”

“My dear Pond, that is for the law to decide. And it is trespass not breaking and entry. No breaking is required. Idiot.”

“Well, when do we go ahead with your ‘plan’?”

“The 25th of Decembermas, dum dum. At one minutemas past twelvemas, midnightmas. Todaymas. Don’t worry, our client won’t die. We’ll be watching him.” My friend took a purse of florins, ha’pennies and shirt buttons out of his pocket. “We’ll be protecting him until I’ve completely spent our fee on hookers and gin,” he joked. “Now, my dear friend, I’ve got a cab waiting outside to take us to where the cur lives.”

“Tally ho,” I muttered, reaching for the Prozac.

“Don’t forget my oafish friend, you owe me a bushel of Skinnen’s finest shag tobacco.”

***

To cut a tedious story short, we stole in through the attic skylight after abseiling from one of London’s Hackney skycabs. We were criminals. Afterwards, I vowed to take sterner measures against myself with a birch cane.

The musty air of the attic playic havoc with my nostril hairs, plucking at them like a manic harpplayer. Ffoxley-Ffinch was in his element, the element of air, which was handy for breathing.

My friend found a trapdoor amongst the various forgotten objects. He beckoned me with a finely gloved finger and we were soon in a hallway. I followed him, my podgy footsteps making the floor vibrate like the bedsprings of a ninety-year-old wannabe lothario living la vida loca in Berkshire. Why Berkshire? Why not?

Eventually we arrived in the study where b’Arnaby slept, worked and got rat-arsed in. Upon his shelves were purloined library books by Byron, Dickens, Keats and Titpecker; all were selected for their ability to impress the lasses I would have imagined.

Hearing footsteps, we dashed towards his bed, collided, and rolled underneath amongst the dust-bunnies and socks as the cur himself entered the room.

From our highly disadvantaged viewpoint, we could only see him from the knees downwards. From what I can tell, judging from the sounds he made, he was counting out his money. The odd muttering could be heard.

“Kelviscio owes me ninety. Sir Faces owes me his first born child plus his horse, Saffron. Spake…” he broke off as a shattering filled the room like treacle filling my mouth. Hmmmmm, nom-noms…

Gerald St. b’Arnaby fell to the floor with a muffled thud.

“Crikey!” I ejaculated.

“Crikey schmikey,” smirked Ffoxley-Ffinch, getting up.

I followed my friend from beneath the bed. Wiping the smuts from my brogues, I gaped as I realised what he was doing. He was at b’arnaby’s desk, packing the aforementioned money into his voluminous pockets.

“Benjamin!” I cried. I must have been quite shocked because normally I would never be so crass to call him by his first name unless we were in bed. “Benjamin!” I repeated. “You cannot steal from him!”

“Hard cheese and actually he is dead.” He held up a hand to belay my querying this diagnosis. “His dentures are loose and he has no pulse. As for the gold loot, the dead have no need for material gains.”

“You are not a doctor. How can you tell for certain?”

“Well, Pond… I… Erm… Shut up!” Ffoxley-Ffinch continued with his theft, now stashing the coins and notes away into a hessian sack. I was agog with shock.

“But how was he murdered?”

“Idiot, Pond, I beg thee to turn your attention to the sash windows where there is a hole. This hole could only be caused by a brick in a sock flung by a wicked man. A red sock judging by the strand of wool snarled among the shards. You nut.”

“But where is the socked brick?”

“It bounced off his noggin and went straight back out the window.”

I rushed towards the window. I was stunned. In the road below, I could see a figure holding up the evidence. I couldn’t tell much about him but I was able to vaguely describe him. Also, I described the cats that surrounded the culprit, each of them carrying a spoon in their little kitty mouths. Aw, how cute…

“Checkered trousers, a white shock of hair, a peg leg all equal up to one suspect, Archie Dribble! The cutlery-carrying cats only seal the deal.”

“How so?”

“Note the trousers. Only a chef would wear trousers like that. Add that to the cats and it really is quite elementary, Pond. Also, Dribble is the only long-haired chef in England.”

“Oh.”

“‘Oh’ indeed,” said my friend, only pausing to stick a Ming vase down his trousers. “Indeedy doo. We’d better scarper. We’ll be done for breaking and entering.”

“I told you so!”

“Shurrap!”

***

The next few days were uneventful. Christmas passed like wind from the bottom of a lover of baked beans. I gave my dearest friend a packet of bath salts whilst he got me a subscription to the wireless criminal’s periodical of choice, The Radio Crimes. I was quite pleased, Ffoxley-Ffinch less so after he tried to eat the bath salts. The rest of the festive holiday I was grinning like the cat that had hijacked the milk float. Ffoxley-Ffinch, on the other hand, was about as impressed as a bishop in a brewery, especially after having his stomach pumped to rid his bowels of the sweet-smelling sudsy gloop.

We had partaken of breakfast (eggs and bacon wrapped around a dormouse and burnt to a crisp. Yums) when Mr Ghoul of Scotland Yard was ushered into the room by our landlady.

Horsley Ghoul was a strange person. Most people thought he was conceited, then they realised he was conceited. To top this off, he was sometimes drunk. Or rather, more honestly put, he was sometimes sober. He shrugged off his drunkedness by claiming that if his wife had not driven him to drink, she would have been unbearable.

Ghoul had joined the force in 1888 and was, to his onw mind at least, the acclaimed champion of justice. To his superiors he was reckoned as useful as twenty foxes in a dimensionally transcendent chicken coop. Dogsbody of the Yard we called him, kept on by pity by the police force who were loath to lose such a valued racist and bribe-taker.

“Bhrp!” he burped. Wiping the saliva off his lower lip, he said, “Hullo, Mr Ffoxley-Ffinch. Hullo, Doctor Pond, still cuttin’ up little old ladies in pursuit of medical fame?”

This was an outrage. It was only the one little old lady. I thought she was a roast potato. Honest.

“What do you want?” I asked, trying to not remember the way she tasted with butter drizzled over her potatolike body.

“Mr Gerald St. b’Arnaby was murdered a few days ago. I forget exactly when, sometime in the past it was. Recentwise though which is why I am here. That devious blackmailer was being spied upon by stout members of the law, also us police.”

“Do you know who did this crime?”

Ghoul gave me a look of pure hatred, it quite reminded me of my wife and put me off my stroke. “Yeah, we do. You two! We saw you leave the premises just after the git was deaded by a brick inna sock. Have you anything to say?”

Ffoxley-Ffinch suddenly smiled. “Mr Ghoul,” he said, carefully foling his legs to hide his single naked ankle. “I believe you have a rather singular interest in dancers of the lap variety.” At this, the inspector’s face went purple, red, white, purple again before returning to the usual blotchy grey hues. His eyes a-boggling, his jaw a-gaping, his hands a-clenching.

“Now, my dear thing,” went on my friend smoothly. “It would be an utter shame if these incidents of lappiness should become known to the gutter press, would it not?” Now let me show you door. On second thought, let me open the window and I’ll show you that instead.”

Ghoul’s jowls were shaking ten to the dozen. ” Wha? I mean, where did you get that information?”

“I’d like to say from b’Arnaby but actually it was from youur mother who asked me to tell you “Why do you never write anymore?’ Now I suggest you buzz off or else you will be the laughing stock, and possibly envy, of Scotland Yard.”

Horsley Ghoul’s face seemed to shiver with anger. “I’ll go but be warned, I will be keeping an eye on you!” And with that, he took out his glass eye, placed it on the mantelpiece, exited the room, fell down the stairs and spent the rest of the day with concussion.

“Ffoxley-Ffinch,” I said, formal to the last. “By golly, molly and dolly, tally ho and all that, what were you thinking? He could have thrown us in gaol or beat us up. Have you not heard of police brutality?”

“You idiot,” he exclaimed. “He will never lay a hand on us because of what we know about him and his transvestite problem.”

“What?” I spluttered.

“Did you not see the visible panty line below each buttock, straining beneath his tweed trousers? A tight fit me thinks, clearly thinks he is much smaller than what he actually is. Don’t worry, Pond. He won’t hurt us as long as we have means of revealing his habit of wearing frilly knickers.”

“But what about Archie Dribble and his cutlery-carrying cats?”

Ffoxley-Ffinch gave me his trademark enigmatic smirk. “Pond, have you seen today’s Daily Scream?”

I picked it up and read out aloud for the benefit of any nosey passers-by.

Archturo Dribble, wireless chef, was yesterday arrested on suspicion of murder and cannabilism. A mysterious source had given the police some vital documents relating to Dribble’s crime. His cats were also arrested on suspicious of carrying catnip

“But who would have told the police about him?” I asked.

“Pond, old chap, remember our little adventure in b’Arnaby’s home?” asked Ffoxley-Ffinch.

“Yes?”

“Let me just say that I didn’t just steal his money and Ming vase, wh?” Grinning, he passed me a glass of whiskey. “Cheers!” He raised his glass towards Heaven and the flies on the ceiling.

And with that final cheer, the most interesting case for Benjamin Ffoxley-Ffinch, in the year of our tentacled Lord 1925, finished with us many thousands of pounds richer. Which we promprtly spent on making cats wear capes and domino masks.

 

THE END

…or is it?

(Yes, it is! Now go away!)

Posted in BekHobbes, fiction, humour, rubbish, SherlockHolmes, shortstory, writing | 2 Comments