Tuesday, 27 April 2010

School's canceled on account of the aliens.

Hands up here who's read "A Brief History of Time" cover to cover?

Now for those of you who are sitting in a library or something with their hands up, you might want to put them down. Other people have started looking at you strangely. For those who didn't put their hands up, join the club. I - like probably 80% of the world's population - own a copy of this esteemed organ, and yet I'll be buggered if I can make it all the way through. Don't get me wrong it's not like my experience with, say, the first Harry Potter or The Da Vinci Code (Gee Note: Both of which ended up being thrown against the wall with a fair amount of velocity, followed by a cry of "To Hell with this. Let's watch Monster Truck Carnage 3000 instead"). No I enjoyed reading the bits that I understood. It's just there was a lot of it that, well, I didn't. And then I felt a wee bit thick that I didn't understand it and so I gave up. I don't know. Maybe if they'd have tried throwing some Monster Trucks in there instead I would have got through it. You know, something like "That black hole’s so dangerous it makes Bigfoot 12 look like Bigfoot 2!". That kind of thing. No. Maybe not.

Still it looks good on the shelf.




Anyway the reason I bring this up is that the book’s author, celebrity scientist and all around boffin Stephen Hawking (Gee Note: Which I initially wrote out as Sir Stephen Hawking, until Wikipedia corrected me. Apparently he doesn’t have a knighthood. I mean Michael Caine has one for Chrissakes, but Hawking? No. Not so much. Although to be fair while Hawking may have worked out the whole “black hole radiation” thing he never battled 3000 Zulus to a standstill, nor did he ever plan and execute the most audacious bank robbery ever to use a Mini Cooper. So thinking about it Hawking sucks in comparison. Yeah that’s right. Stick it point dexter) was in the news recently. As part of his new documentary entitled In bed with “Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking” he tackles various subjects. Kicking of with a Big Bang, so to speak, in the first episode we have Hawking talking about… Jersey Shore.

Nah I’m just messin’, he be talking about them aliens.

See according to Stevie, intelligent extra terrestrial life almost certainly exists (Gee Note: With which Sir Patrick Moore agrees. Wait. Patrick Moore has a knighthood. And he’s a space expert. But then he was also the Gamesmater. Which for our overseas readers was basically a game show in which Sir Patrick would, for reasons known only to himself, challenge teenage boys to play videogames while he was dressed up as some kind of futuristic cyborg thing. It was of course awesome. My point is Hawking, if you want that knighthood you’ve got to work for it. Being clever and changing the way we look at the known universe is one thing, but you’ve got to back that up man. Get yourself a television show or star in a movie or something. Dammit if all else fails post a video on Youtube of you fighting Nazis with a flame thrower. If that doesn’t do it, nothing will). And he even speculates that they’d be able to travel to earth with out much of a hullabaloo.

Well I say not much. It basically revolves around them opening up a wormhole using solar energy. Obviously the amount of power needed to do that would be ginormous, but again Hawking has the answer. Apparently these little green men would

"Collect the energy from an entire star. To do that they could deploy millions of mirrors in space, encircling the whole sun and feeding the power to one single collection point".

Now I have no idea how the f*** you actually get millions of mirrors in to space in the first place. And normally if somebody said something like that I would make a joke about it. But, as we’ve already established, Stephen Hawking is a far more intelligent man than I. So I’m just going to shut my mouth. Mirrors huh Steve? All sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

However, we shouldn’t be looking forward to a visit from off-worlders any time soon. Simply because those aliens are a bunch of bastards. According to Hawking

"Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach. If so, it makes sense for them to exploit each new planet for material to build more spaceships so they could move on. Who knows what the limits would be?"

He goes on to say

"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans. We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet."

Which I totally agree with. I mean obviously Stephen knows what he’s talking about and…

OK I give up. I don’t agree with this. I don’t agree with this at all. That’s not to say that Hawking is wrong. When all’s said and done he may be sitting a top a throne made of pure smug after a bunch of yahoo extraterrestrials have raped the Earth for everything they can (Gee Note: If of course they haven’t enslaved him first that is). But the truth is there’s no way knowing what would happen when aliens visit Earth. And the reason for this is a simple one. Aliens aren’t going to be human.

You see we humans are, quite frankly, insane when you think about. We fight over land, we fight over religion, we even fight over whether some dude is looking at our girl in a bar. But all that is due to the Earth’s elements and our evolutionary need to battle for our survival. Now you change any part of our history, whether it be a 0.0001% decrease in one of the gasses floating around in our atmosphere or an evolutionary path where we grew little toes before big toes, and not only does it change us physically but also - maybe - psychologically as well. I mean there’s no way you could say for sure that it wouldn’t. So aliens may very well be murderous, blood thirsty, scavengers hell bent on wiping us out and living off of our fat. But they could just as easily be benevolent souls wanting to give every man, woman, and child a Playstation and a balloon with a smiling pony on it. My point is, you never know. And seeing as there’s a lot of folks out there who subscribe to the “ancient astronaut” theory, if men from Mars have already visited this planet them I’m sure we’d all be a hell of a lot worse off if they just wanted to violate our natural resources.

Speaking of things that are ancient, Hugh Hefner saved the Hollywood sign everybody. I can’t wait for the movie about brave Hugh standing up to big business and sticking to his principals (Gee Note: I bet they get Keanu Reeves to play Heff. I mean after “The Day The Earth Stood Still” I’m guessing Keanu isn’t going to be picky over work).

Speaking of other things that are ancient, the crypotzoological world has gone in to overdrive over reports that The Loch Ness Monster may be real after all. Or at least was at one time thought to be real. A series of records released by the NAS (Gee Note: The National Archives of Scotland that is. Not the rapper Nas. Because, really, the rapper Nas proving the existence of the Loch Ness Monster would be way too trippy for words and I’m not sure I could deal with that shit on a Tuesday), show that in 1933 the Scottish Office was asked a question along the lines of “Yo! That monster shizzle in Loch Ness. Wassupwitdat?!?!”. This then made it’s way to the House of Commons where ministers apparently put genuine thought in to such subjects as “Should we, like, put some people around the Loch with torches and binoculars?”, “How in God’s name do you catch a monster without hurting it? I mean what? Do we try and make a harpoon out of sponge or something?”, and “Who would win in a fight? The Loch Ness Monster or… yo Mamma!?!? Oooooooh. Burn.”.




Furthermore a letter written in 1938 by the chief constable of Inverness-shire William Fraser to the Under (Gee Note: PANTS! Ahahahahaha. Ahahaha. Ahaha. Ahem.) Secretary of State at the Scottish Office, goes on to claim that

"That there is some strange creature in Loch Ness seems now beyond doubt, but that the police have any power to protect it is very doubtful."

Sounds ominous huh? Turns out that Fraser was in a flap about a chap named Kraven the Hunter Peter Kent turning up and causing all sorts of chaos on the bank of the Loch.

"Mr Peter Kent visited Fort Augustus on Friday, August 12, and was seen there by my officer stationed at Fort Augustus, to whom he stated that he was having a special harpoon gun made (Gee Note: Out of sponge?) and that he was to return with some 20 experienced men on August 22 for the purpose of hunting the monster down. I have, however, caused Mr Peter Kent to be warned of the desirability of having the creature left alone, but whether my warning will have the desired effect or not remains to be seen."

Now all this really doesn’t amount to a whole lot other than 60 years ago people’s perceptions of the “wee beastie” were a lot less cynical than they are today. To the point where, even with reservation, the subject of something lurking in the murky waters was still treated with respect.

Thing is if our attitudes can change so dramatically over a short space of time, then maybe by the time the aliens arrive theirs will have too.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

You're fired.

So I was watching the Apprentice last night (Gee Note: The American version not the British one. For the record however I have to admit I prefer the British one. For three reasons actually. One the British version has no budget, and so rather than get the contestants to design an ad campaign with Right Guard using superstar basketball players, in Blighty you're much more likely to have a task where the teams have to shovel horse crap for six hours and then try and sell it as some sort of new age health treatment. Secondly Donald Trump is a hell of a lot more lenient than Sir Alan Sugar is. You always get the feeling with "The Donald" that his tough guy boardroom act is all just a show for the cameras. With "Shugs" however it's not hard to imagine him firing some poor sap, before following them outside and beating them to a bloody pulp with a stick just for wasting his time. Thirdly with the last couple of seasons of the American Apprentice being "celebrity" based, everyone is just so damn nice to each other. In Britain the contestants generally hate each other almost instantaneously, making it way more entertaining. Maybe that's a cultural thing though. I mean all the Americans I've ever met in my life have been really nice. Including that dude who worked in our local KFC who was so good at his job it used to confuse me. "Uh honey. I've just got us a chicken meal and at no point did I have to complain about them forgetting the Pepsi. Or the fries. Or the chicken. What the f*** is going here?") when Australian chef Curtis Stone made an observation about team mate and ex professional wrestler Bill Goldberg.

"Strewth, that Goldberg's a bit of a gallah!" he said (Gee Note: OK he didn't really. It's just I didn't write down exactly what he said and, you know, all Australian's say stuff like that right? Right?). "The funny thing is that when he gets angry or annoyed about something he growls.". They then, of course, cut to a shot of Goldberg growling at something off camera. The thing is upon seeing this the future ex-Mrs. Davies immediately looked up and said:

"You do that."

"Do what my sugar dumpling?" I replied.

"Growl at things that annoy you."

"No I don't"

"You do."

"No I don't. I've never growled at anything in my life."

"Yeah right. You growl at the television when there's a soap opera on. You growled at the guinea pig hutch you had to build. You growl at people who walk slowly in front of you in supermarkets. Hell last week you growled at those Jehovah witnesses who knocked on our door."

"Well I was in the middle of someth… Wait. I don't growl that much surely?"

"Yes. Yes you do."



Convinced however that my sweet little Irish flower had lost her mind (Gee Note: It was bound to happen at some point. I mean there's only so many times she can come home to find me wearing a feathers on my head pretending to be Sitting Bull before it gets too much ya know?) I decided to make a note of how many times I grumbled in frustration over the course of the following afternoon.

Now many of our eagle eyed readers may (Gee Note: Want to invest in some plastic surgery and gets some less weird looking peepers?) have noticed that I haven't posted anything on here in a while. The truth is that, well, I think I have a case of bloggers block. For some reason nothing I sit down and type is coming out right at the moment. It's not for a lack of trying either. I mean take today for example. I woke up, booted up the laptop, opened up a Word document, stomped off downstairs for a cup of coffee, accidentally poured a small amount of boiling water on to my slippers, swore very loudly, stomped off back upstairs having forgotten to actually make said cup of coffee, typed five lines in to the word document, stopped, stared at the screen, deleted the five lines, stared at the screen a bit more, realised I didn't have a cup of coffee in front of me, sighed, stomped off back downstairs muttering dark omens under my breath, made the coffee, stomped back upstairs, settled in front of the laptop, placed my fingers on the keyboard, and then…

Nothing.

Not a damn thing.

So, despite myself, I growled. Heartily. And then I found that I continued to do so at the slightest things as the day wore on. Children playing outside in what seemed to be a game based around who could shriek the loudest? They got a growling. The Tory politician on the television who looked like a slug with an inflated ego shoe horned in to a cheap suit? He got a growling. The toaster managing to burn everything while being on the lowest setting? That got a special, extra long, you sonofabitch growling.

My point is the future ex-Mrs. Davies (Gee Note: And it pains me to say this) is right. I do growl an awful lot.

Thankfully something has brightened my day to the point where I'm actually growling a lot less and typing a lot more. The reason? Well it turns out my lot in life could be much worse. I could be living in Tehran.

Now Tehran is the capital city of Iran. (Gee Note: You remember Iran right? The country George W. Bush was always on the brink of blowing up but never quite got around to it?) It is also the 20th largest city in world. This sprawling metropolis is situated at the foot of the Tochal mountain range and is basically the centre of all industrial and cultural activity in Iran. Alas when the architects decided to build Tehran obviously none of them were well versed in seismology, as the place is sat slap bang on a series of tectonic fault lines that make Madonna’s craggy face look like a satin gown. This led to devastating consequences in 2003 when in the township of Bam a massive earthquake claimed the lives of 25,000 people.

Such is the concern about this potential natural nightmare that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has started to publicly announce that, really, people should start getting the heck out of Dodge Tehran and relocate somewhere where the ceiling might not fall in on them at any given moment. Plans have even put forward to build a new capital city near the calm and non-shaking Qom.




However there may be an easier solution to not getting covered in tons of rubble. And all it requires is Iran’s women to stop acting so slutty, cover up their cleavages, and cease leading poor men astray by making the sex with them. Or so says Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi.

Sedighi is an Iranian cleric who said just that last Friday while addressing a crowd of worshippers in the nations capital. Delivering a sermon on the subject of “general repentance” (Gee Note: Which is repenting for nothing specific I guess. It would be like walking in to a Catholic confessional box and saying “Bless me father for I have sinned”. “What are you sorry for my son?” “Well… um… oh just, you know, my whole vibe. It‘s like “Woah bad stuff happening here!” ya know?”). During this speech, displaying a level of scientific knowledge that would rival the dude who thought drilling a hole in to your skull was a good way to get rid of a headache, he said:

Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes.

What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? (Gee Note: We’ve already been through this. Maybe not building your house on top of a fault line would be a good place to start?) There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes (Gee Note: Oh. Sorry. My mistake.)

Now before we all start scratching our heads and going “Wah?” the good cleric does at least try and back up his argument. By making absolutely no sense at all of course.

If a natural earthquake hits Tehran, no one will be able to confront such a calamity but God's power, only God's power. So lets not disappoint God.

OK here’s the thing. Let’s say for a moment that God exists and that He’s all powerful and what not. Don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, He has a bit more on his plate than worrying about young Iranians showing hair under their headscarves. “Oh those armies in Afghanistan blowing each others heads off for no reason at all is rather tiresome. But what really get’s my goat is when I see those girls in Iran flashing their ankles like nobodies business. It makes me so angry. Grrrrr”. 

You see the truth is that if God exists then surely one rule fits all right? I mean you can’t claim that you have to live under a certain set of circumstances to avoid His wrath if other people elsewhere are managing to do just that without any consequences. My point is, if God thinks “promiscuous women” are so horrendous, then how in the names of all things Holy is Las Vegas still standing? Or New York? Or London? Or in fact any place in which women aren’t encouraged to melt away in to the background so as not to upset the men folk? It’s simply a redundant and stupid argument.

God doesn't cause earthquakes. Nor does he look the other way when they happen just to smite people for the type of clothes they wear. Instead God moves through the people who work for the emergency services, risking their own lives trying to save others. Through the people who bring aid to those effected. Through those who offer their prayers hoping for the safe return of as many people as possible.

The truth is that God may work in mysterious ways. But killing people for expressing themselves with the way they dress probably isn’t one of them.

Although if it does annoy Him, I wonder if He growls?

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

It's all in the game though, right?

Tuesday was a big day as far as news was concerned.

The date for the UK General Election was announced. That’s right folks, on May 6th the homeland goes to the polls to choose which middle of the road politician they want as a fearless leader. Considering the fact that the major topic of discussion at the moment appears to be “We’ve got to somehow try and climb out of the horrible financial mess we’re in.” the Labour party has proposed a tax on National Insurance. Alas when - for obvious reasons - big business didn’t jump all over this idea like Kelly Clarkson and a banoffee pie, the Labour party responding by calling them morons. Which it turns out was a bad idea. So now we have Labour looking rather embarrassed and the Tories looking rather smug. And this is only after one day. I fear it’s going to be a long spring.

More importantly however, the Daily Torygraph Telegraph outdid itself yesterday with the news that, somehow, one of cyptozoology’s most sought after creatures had finally been nabbed. With the breathless headline “'Oriental yeti' discovered in China” the article went on to explain:

The hairless beast was trapped by hunters in Sichuan province after locals reported spotting what they thought was a bear.

Local animal experts now plan to ship the mystery beast to scientists in Beijing who will perform DNA tests on the beast. (Gee Note: In case you hadn’t noticed, this thing is a BEAST. Speaking of which, does anyone remember that episode of He-Man where Beast Man gets thrown out of Skeletor’s clique and then kidnaps He-Man’s father for, er, no real reason at all? God I love that show. Awesome theme tune as well. Dur dur dah dah dahhh dur dah dah dah dah dahhhh dur da-dah dah dah dah dahhhhhhhh. Fantastic)

Sounds fascinating doesn’t it? Well the Telegraph’s readers certainly thought so, as it became the most read article on their website that day. Problem is though, being the crack team of journalists they are the Telegraph posted a picture of the “wee beastie”.




Ummm. OK. Where’s the Yeti? No really. I don’t see it. I mean Yeti’s look like this.



That looks like, as pointed out by Loren Coleman on Cryptomundo, an Asian palm civet with a bad skin disease. Either that or an Asian palm civet with a gambling addiction that’s, quite literally, lost the fur off it’s back (Gee Note: “Hi, my name’s Charlie and I’m a gambler. It’s been three months since my last bet. I guess it all started when I was a kid growing up in the forest. See back then, we didn’t have videogames or mp3 players. I mean we had to make our own entertainment you know? So me and my brothers used to bet on who could eat the most mango without passing out. I mean it was just harmless fun. But then I reached adolescence and things really started to get out of hand, Before I knew it I was challenging tigers to see who could do the biggest poo. Tigers man. What the hell was I thinking? I just couldn’t stop though. I was sure that I was just that one big win away…).

You see the truth is that animals who normally have fur look very weird without it. For example, in old school freak shows in the 1800’s it wasn’t uncommon to find the odd pig-lady or two. Rather than being some mutant human being discovered in the deepest darkest jungles of South America as was billed, these performers were instead bears that had been put in a dress and shaved. (Gee Note: Although imagine for a moment having that guy’s job. “Hey Bill it’s good to s… HOLY SHIT WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?” “Well, put it this way. Joining a travelling carnival isn’t as fun as you would think”). They were then passed off as oddities simply because without their fur they looked alien.

Now it would be pretty easy to get annoyed about the Telegraph using a blatantly misleading headline in order to generate interest in a story about a mangy Chinese racoon (Gee Note: The Raccoons! Another great show. Although why was the evil aardvark pink? And why did his son look older than him? And how the hell did he make all that money? I mean he’s an aardvark right? You don’t see many of them employed as CEOs. You know, I’m not sure the writers thought this through). But the really frustrating thing is that they published an even stranger story that day which, due to the hullabaloo over the whole NOTAYETI thing, was pretty much buried.

Meet Phil Hoyle. Mr Hoyle is a member of the Animal Pathology Field Unit (Gee Note: Or APFU for short. Which, as it happens, is really fun to say out loud. Go on. Give it a bash. Unless you’re reading this in a library or something. Then you might want to wait until you get outside. Actually shouting it out in the street might not be the best idea either if you want to avoid strange looks. My advice is wait until you get home, run a nice bath, pour yourself a glass of wine, and then go mad with it). According to the 53 year old, a heck load of sheep in the Shrewsbury area are being found with missing organs and the like. But what could be causing it? Natural predators like foxes? Weird satanic cults? Godzilla? Well none of those actually, says Phil. Instead he claims these mutilations are caused by aliens. That's right Jack, ET grew up, got himself a laser, probably had a bit too much to drink and fancied a kebab. Maybe.






You may be forgiven for wondering why the Telegraph, a supposedly serious newspaper for serious people, would be publishing such a tale. Well it turns out that the reason is simply because The Sun published it first. And as The Sun is Britain “best loved” newspaper (Gee Note: Although at times it’s easier to love Charles Manson) the Telegraph looks to get any help it can. Indeed all of the quotes and “facts” from the piece are lifted directly from The Sun’s article.

Still it’s a good idea to jump on a bandwagon when you see one coming. After all cattle mutilation is always big news in the paranormal world. Linked with either sinister government experiments, unknown scary predators with red eyes, or them goddam little green men, cattle mutilations are a one size fits all “See? I told you something strange was going on” anomaly that has been doing the rounds since 1967.

On September 9th that very year a young farmhand was working on the family land in Alamosa, Colorado when they discovered the body of one of their horses. Harry King (Gee Note: Not to be confused with Larry King of course. Although it would be fantastic if he attempted to interview the dead animal. “So, I hear you’re in talks for a movie with George Clooney. Tell me a little bit about that” Silence. “Fascinating stuff. Stay tuned because after the break we’ll be joined by Pamela Anderson. Right after these messages.”) found Lady, a three year old horse, after it had been missing for a couple of days. According to Harry the head and neck of the mare were stripped entirely clean of flesh, to the point where the bones were white. King thought the cuts looked to be precise, as if a surgical instrument was used. He also noticed a strange smell, not of rotting flesh but rather one he described as “medicinal”.

The next day Harry and his mother Agnes returned to the scene with Agnes’s brother, Berle Lewis and his wife. Upon arriving they found a lump of skin and horse flesh that was inexplicably oozing a green liquid. When Mrs. Lewis accidentally touched the liquid it burned her hand, displaying acidic like qualities. Searching the surrounding area for more evidence of just what the hell happened to this poor critter they found fifteen "tapering, circular exhaust marks punched into the ground". The medicinal smell, although less pungent, still lingered in the air.

The Kings called the United States Forest Service, who sent Ranger Duane Martin to investigate (Gee Note: It’s a shame his name is Duane really. Because otherwise he’d sound like an action hero. For example how great would it be if his first name was John? Or better yet, Shotgun? “My god, one of our deer has gone missing!” “There’s only one thing for it. Send for Ranger Shotgun Martin”). Martin was quoted as saying “The death of this saddle pony is one of the most mysterious sights I’ve ever witnessed ... I’ve seen stock killed by lightening, but it was never like this.”. He also took a PKE Meter Geiger counter with him which picked up increased radioactivity readings in the area.


Fast forward to about a month later, October 5th, and an account of UFO activity sighted in the area on the day Lady disappeared was published. According to the witness, Superior Court Judge Charles E. Bennett, they spotted “three reddish-orange rings in the sky. They maintained a triangular formation, moved at a high speed, and made a humming sound.”. On the same morning that Bennett’s story was made public, an article about Lady’s carcass written by Mrs. Lewis was picked up by the Associated Press, which steadily gathered steam on the back of others reporting woovy bezerk lights in the Colorado sky.

Intrigued the Condon Committee (Gee Note: Which was basically a brief stab at trying to turn the study of UFOs in to an academic subject.) sent Robert Low and the head of Colorado State University’s Veterinary and Biomedical Science School Dr. Robert O. Adams down there to find out all they could. After some serious study Adams saw "no unearthly causes, at least not to my mind.". Upon noticing that Lady had an infection in her (Gee Note: Obscure “The Wire” reference time) hind parts, he hypothesised that someone had found the animal suffering and slit it’s throat to put it out of it’s misery. Then parasites and scavengers removed the flesh and organs from the body. This satisfied most interested parties. Except for the Kings that is, who asked questions such as “Umm. What about the lack of blood? And the medicinal smell?”. To which Adams and Low responded “La la la la la la la la la la la la. Not listening. La la la la la la la la.”.

Still after Low and Adams’ judgement, it was felt by the authorities that no further follow up was required. Which is a shame as there’s enough, just enough, unanswered questions to make the case of Lady the horse worthy of further discussion.

There is one thing that bothers me about the whole deal however. And that is why would aliens be “lasering” farmyard animals in the first place? I mean these are supposedly super intelligent beings that have the ability to travel across monumental distances, distances we ourselves are not physically or technologically capable of, and they can’t find any other way to study a cow’s brain than cutting it out of the poor sod? I mean they couldn’t, like, take an X-Ray or something. And even if that was the case, why would they want just the brain and organs. I mean a circulatory system is of absolutely no interest to them? Hair growth is a boring biological subject to an extraterrestrial? I don’t buy it.

But hey, if aliens are stealing our sheep’s brains and what not, at least they’re probably not mistaking it for a Yeti.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Hello. I'm The Doctor. Basically... Run.

 A brief return of our occasional feature "Gee watches a Science Fiction television programme and give his opinion on it.". This post deals with the first episode of the new season of Doctor Who, which has yet to air in the US. It is however free from spoilers. Well kinda. It's not like I've typed in big bold letters THE BUTLER DID IT or something. Oh. Wait...

Strangest thing happened the other day. On Saturday the future ex-Mrs. Davies went shopping for what she we like to call “open chequebook day”. You see it happens to be her birthday this weekend and so, as has become tradition, she goes from store to store looking for things that tickle her fancy while I trot dutifully behind her, handing over my hard earned cash when prompted (Gee Note: I should point out that this all started a couple of years ago when I completely forgot about the love of my life’s birthday and had to pull something out of my arse at the very last second . I hastily came up with “Heyyyyyy. Rather than get you something you might not like, why don’t we hit the town and you can get anything you want? No expense spared. And then we can have a slap up meal for a lunch as well? Make a day of it I mean”. Sadly that first trip was a rip-roaring success, which means that every year around this time I am resigned to spending an entire afternoon humping my tired carcass from shop to shop, while steadily being loaded with shoes and hats like I’m f***ing Buckaroo).

So anyway, we mosey on down to Swansea where upon we were quite unexpectedly greeted by a spaceship. No really. An honest to goodness spaceship. Better yet this wasn’t just any old flying saucer. Oh no siree Bob, this son of a gun was your all singing, all dancing, travel through dimension, space and time and then back home for a nice cuppa, off-world vehicle. For standing in front of us, positively glowing in the spring sunshine, was the one and only TARDIS.




For those not familiar with the TARDIS, it happens to be the chariot of choice for The Doctor, Britain’s very own home-grown icon of science fiction. The Doctor is the lead character in Doctor Who, record holder for the longest running Sci-Fi television show in the world now in it’s 47th glorious year. The good Doctor has wowed audiences for decades, thrilling generation after generation as a time travelling alien who battles the forces of evil and tries to make the universe a better place.

However 47 years is a long old time to hold everyone’s interest, and it’s not been all plain sailing for Gallifrey’s finest. In 1989 the show was cancelled after suffering diminishing viewing figures and being deemed too old fashioned for the slam bang action style television of that era. Then in 1996 a television movie was made with the hope that it would become a backdoor pilot for a new series. Sadly, for reasons only known to themselves, the producers decided to give the lead villain role to Eric Roberts of all people (Gee Note: Although to be fair I thought he was excellent in The Dark Knight. And he's also in Raptor, one of my favourite "B" Movies of all time. I mean a dude running around in a cheap dinosaur suit? A sex scene that uses just three shots and then loops them over and over again? A plot that, without any warning, shoe horns in a mad scientist just for the hell of it? What's not to love?) That coupled with an aesthetic that looked like it had been cobbled together by a drunken intern at Stan Winston’s Studio, meant that those that did tune in abruptly switched the channel after about five minutes.

And then nine years later, something truly wonderful happened. Doctor Who was given a new lease of life. Handed over to Swansea’s second favourite son Russell T. Davies (Gee Note: Yeah that’s right. I said second favourite. I mean sure, Russ has won tons of awards, made millions, and is now being paid an extortionate amount of money by FOX to help save their Friday night schedule. But has world renowned historian and werewolf expert Linda Godfrey ever called Russell T. Davies “clever”? I don‘t think so Jack. Tell you what Russell, call me when Loren Coleman says “My, that Russell T. Davies is a smart fellow.”. Then we‘ll talk.), the show was brought back in to the noughties with a modern look and attitude. It became phenomenally successful too, spawning no less than three spin-off shows as well as a merchandising juggernaught second only to Star Wars and Harry Potter this side of the pond.

Now it should be noted before we go on that I love Doctor Who. And I’m really not that ashamed to admit it either. You see often when you say something like this people start to look at you funny. For example, I’m a fan of professional wrestling. And yet I don’t tell anyone about it because I’m tired of people looking at me in all seriousness and saying “Professional wrestling? You know it’s all fake don’t you?”, as if they feel the need to broaden my horizons for me by revealing a truth my simple brain has been unable to work out. I love comic books, except I wouldn’t dare mention it to someone until after we’ve either got horrendously drunk together and are now fast friends, or I’ve saved their life from a freak boating accident or something. And yet with Doctor Who it’s a lot different.

You see my love for DW stems not from the fantastical tales of other worlds filled with weird and wonderful creatures. I mean, of course, I enjoy that aspect of it too. But really the reason why I adore DW so much is that it’s quintessentially British. Made using a budget consisting of a top hat and a large turnip, it lives and dies by being truly creative. Sharp scripts, top drawer acting, special effects created by a department well versed in the art of making a pound stretch, that‘s how it rolls. And when it works it’s phenomenal, like a real life version of The Little Engine That Could. For example I was watching an episode from the late 70’s the other day where the Doctor’s main threat was obviously, and I swear to God I‘m not making this up, some dude in a duvet that had been spray painted green, crawling along the floor. And yet somehow this genuinely came across as tense and foreboding, rather than “Um, it’s a duvet right? I mean what’s it going to do? Snuggle us to death?”. This was due to those behind and in front of the camera really excelling at making the best out of what they had.

It’s easy to fall in love with a programme like that. When you consider how polished and bloated shows like FlashForwad have become, all bells and whistles and yet almost completely devoid of a soul, then Doctor Who is like Rocky Balboa. The plucky underdog who doesn’t have the tools to match the big boys, but does it anyway through sheer wit and courage. And sometimes it can scale to heights that others can only dream of. Sometimes, just sometimes, it can make you proud to be British.

Problem is in the last couple of years Doctor Who has fallen off a cliff. In the last regular season of the show, the entire series was built towards the idea that the Doctor’s companion would die, only for a bait and switch to occur at the very last moment (Gee Note: Leaving a lot of people, myself included, pissed. Now I’m not saying that I’m a blood thirsty psychopath who would enjoy watching someone pop their clogs just for kicks. It’s just when you spend the entire sodding season referring to ominous prophecies of “one will die” and sad violin music only to renege on it in the lamest way possible, it makes you want to burn someone’s little toe off with a red hot fire poker for having wasted your time). Last year we had a collection of specials in place of a regular season, in order to allow star David Tennant time off to play Hamlet in the West End. Problem was each one became worse than the last, displaying a level of sloppy writing and self indulgence previously only known to bad fan fiction authors. I ended up reviewing the penultimate special “Waters of Mars” on this very blog, and I could barely hide my disdain. I was supposed to review the final special “End of Time” on here as well.

But I simply couldn’t bring myself to do it. Because, believe me when I say this, the entire thing was beyond awful. You see, in the past couple of years it appeared that RTD had simply got lost in his own adulation. What had started as a smart contemporary show had dissolved in to a cacophony of bum notes. First you had the juvenile humour, such as farting aliens and the like. Then you had the jarring gay references. Now RTD is, if you don’t know, gay. Great. Good for him. Unfortunately he appears to have taken it upon himself to use Doctor Who as a launch pad for a “soft sell” of the concept of being gay to mainstream Britain. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t so poorly executed. I mean I agree, there aren’t enough gay characters in mainstream British television. But in RTD’s Whoniverse almost every other secondary character was gay, to the point where it became a cliché. And what’s worse, these characters were more often than not so ham fistedly introduced that it made one roll their eyes more than anything else. Instead of the audience going “Oh look at that, two elderly women living together in bliss and nobody bats an eyelid. What splendidly relaxed and tolerant times we live in“ you got “Aw man. Two squabbling old lesbians living in a car? They're not even funny. This blows”. Then you had the unbelievably bad plot devices, deus ex machina’s aplenty, and the above mentioned “bait and switch”.




In essence it was like watching someone kick a puppy over and over again. I hated watching it, and I hated myself for watching it. There used to be a time when I would forgive the occasional poor episode of this new Doctor Who. Hell if it was spectacularly awful, I might have even invited some friends around for dinner and had a jolly good time tearing it to pieces with them. But it was always in the knowledge that either the next episode or the one after that would set everything right again, and we’d be back to normal in no time at all. When “End of Time” had finished however, I’d realised that it had been a long time since I’d actually come anywhere near enjoying an episode of Doctor Who.

And so, when confronted with the TARDIS in the middle of my very own city centre, I simply didn’t care. Two years ago had I seen it I would have done cartwheels, before pushing a fat kid out of the way to get my picture taken with it. Now? No, not so much. What’s worse I knew the reason it was there, and still couldn’t give a toss. See that night, a new season of Doctor Who was going to kick off. This time with a new lead star in Matt Smith. Better yet Russell T. Davies had left the show all together to seek more fame and fortune in the USA, and had been replaced by the critically acclaimed Steven Moffat.

But I wasn’t all that excited about it. I mean I’d been here before with the Waters Of Mars. I remember how anxious I was to see it, but ending up feeling like I’d just given a balloon to a midget thinking it was a child only for it to get very angry and punch me in the stomach by the time it was finished. Screw Doctor Who, thought I. I’m tired of hoping against hope that it will redeem itself. I’m going to watch Glee instead and see what all the fuss is about (Gee Notes: Turns out I quite like Glee even though it stands against everything I believe to be good and true about TV. Which means I’ll either have to re-evaluate my belief system, or kill the people responsible for making Glee. And seeing as I’m already working on my first as yet unpublished book “Gareth Calls It Like It Is”, if you’re reading this and you made Glee… might wanna invest in an underground bunker. Just sayin‘).

However, a wiser person than myself once said “Boredom is the mother of discovery” (Gee Note: Probably. I mean I doubt I just came up with that without someone having said it before me. Unless I just have. In which case… Hellooooo title of second as yet to be unpublished book) and so late on Saturday having exhausted an entire weeks worth of Daily Shows and Come Dine With Me’s and with nothing else left, I booted up BBC’s iPlayer (Gee Note: Rejected slogan ideas for the iPlayer “iPlayer - putting the remains of the VHS industry out of it’s misery for good”).

I have to admit, I absolutely loved it.

The first episode of the new series is fantastic. No, scratch that, the first episode of the series of Doctor Who is perfect. It’s as if Moffat sat down and worked out exactly what was wrong with the previous incarnation and decided to wipe the slate clean.

Matt Smith is absolutely spot on as the eccentric, charming, and ever so slightly pompous Doctor. As I mentioned, I was watching Tom Baker's Doctor the other day, and there was this wonderful moment where he accidentally screwed something up. There was this brief flash of panic on his face followed by a delicious smile, as if being completely out of his depth was something he looked forward to. Smith reminds me of that, a combination of reckless abandon combined with this noughties vision of the Doctor's child like enthusiasm. Karen Gillan, the Doctor’s new companion, is not only unbelievably good looking, but seems to have worked out that a female companion can be annoyed at the doctor without resorting to nagging him. The introduction of interesting new techniques like showing the Doctor's thought process using stop motion cameras is also a major plus. And even if the whole "monster of the week" was a bit much ado about nothing, it still managed to knock spots off almost every RTD penned abortion.

Best of all though? No jarring gay references. No over reliance on the sonic screwdriver or the TARDIS. No deus ex machina. No cloying sentimentality. No juvenile humour. No David Tennant displaying his "steely determination" by SHOUTING. EVERY. SINGLE. WORD.

It was like a breath of fresh air. Like the potential of what a modern Doctor Who could and should be has finally, oh sweet Lord finally, been realized.




Of course it had it's slight niggles. Such as the ropey CGI and Moff's over reliance on the "repeated phrase in spooky voice" technique to build tension. But I don't care. I found myself laughing and clapping and actually enjoying the show for the first time in ages. Compare that to wanting to bang my head against a brick wall almost constantly throughout the RTD specials and it's like a revelation has suddenly dawned upon us.

See, I'd forgotten that this is what made me fall in love with the good Doctor to begin with. If I could pick one scene that sums it up for me it would be the rousing speech he gives to some random guy with a laptop about how in ten minutes time he will be offered any job he wants by a collection of world leaders, but before that he has to be magnificent. This is something that RTD never got to grips with, the idea that what makes the Doctor so unique isn't his intelligence or his bravery but his ability to inspire the every day person to be better than they ever dreamed they could be. Yet in one 30 second sequence Moff not only does that very thing but makes it light, funny, and quite beautiful.

And this is why Moffat’s debut is, in my mind, an absolute triumph. It's managed to make Doctor Who feel special again.

Long may it continue.