Monday, 13 April 2009

Love And Pride

I now have very little of either: adult life seems to be a gradual stripping of pretensions. I see, in the light of the monitor, the creases in my skin, the folds of my ageing hands, the scars of accidental and deliberate wounds taking me back from the late nineties to the early eighties. The early eighties. John Nathan-Turner (dec'd) once wrote that he wanted to take Doctor Who "into the Eighties" and what he did was to cut the humour, cut the vagueness, cut Douglas Adams' Oxbridge surreal humour, bring in sharp and bright design, synthesised music, stories that made little or no sense but sounded cool or seemed cool on a first 25 minute week by week (no video initially) viewing, and a lead actor whose ridiculous vulnerability in no way fitted a trans-dimensional superhero.

JN-T got the 80s. He got them quick: The Leisure Hive Part One went out on 30 August 1980. It still looks pretty good today, apart from the Foamasi. I think if JN-T's Who had unlimited money, it would have been the definitive artistic expression of the British 1980s. JN-T got it, he saw it, he just never had the cash. Hence after The Caves of Androzani and drastically after Revelation of the Daleks, that vision was curtailed and abandoned. Oddly enough, just as the 80s began to generate money Doctor Who collapsed in an orgy of violence (Lytton's hands....), and nothing was ever the same again, instead becoming a fusion of outdated hippiness and slavering irony. But, there, in 1980, JN-T got it.

JN-T even got the dark turn of the 80s in 1984. Colin Baker was even cast and designed as an anti-Doctor, with his ghastly, evil costume and his character, which would weep over a dead sparrow but walk over a dead man (as JN-T put it at the time or in similar words). Season 22 was a fine cultural expression of Britain in the mid-80s: nasty, cynical, sexist and violent. Resurrection of the Daleks is the turning point here. But JN-T had seen it coming in 1982, with Eric Saward's script for Warhead - following that there was the turn of the sharp-edged coin - the children's show with the crushed hands, the suffocation, the cannibalism, the stabbing, the eating of the dead, the casual acid-bath murders, the drunk on his way to kill a man using the dying to make Daleks ("You forget, I am a doctor, when they torture me I'll know the name and function of every organ that pops out"), the presentation of violence-for-entertainment, the endless killing, killing, killing. Season 22 knows that dying is an art, like everything else: it does it exceptionally well.

And it did it at 1720 or 1745 on a Saturday: hardly adult viewing time. I remember Revelation of the Daleks Part One. I remember - the one and only time of my childhood - hiding behind the sofa. After Jim'll Fix It: mutated bodies, human protein, a vile boss of a funeral parlour, a lame and awful woman trying to impress this callous and selfish bastard. And a cynical businesswoman, a failed warrior, and bodies all over the place.

All good, family viewing.

It's not good and it's not funny. It's Doctor Who and it's 1985.

Also on tv in 1985: EastEnders, Threads (rpt), The A-Team.

The A-Team.

The A-Team.

I see the A-Team.


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Adrian P said...

Speaking of Dr Who, what if Westminster was a charade, bought and paid for by the Bank of Englan which wasn't really the Bank of england but was a Private company set up to syphon the wealth of Nations up into the Vaults of a few Elites.

Great Dr Who Script, unfortunately, it's TRUE.

Who Do Gordon and Cameron Work forHyperInflation here we come

Matt M said...

Revelation is excellent. There's a reason Graeme Harper is the only guy to have directed stories for both old and new series.