Okay, maybe one more

This from Who author Jonathan Morris.

The last one for now...

This courtesy of Mike Maddox, my co-author on a forthcoming Big Finish Who story:

Back to regular blogging shortly!

A new Pete banner

This from the wonderful Russell H. It seems other Petes are now taking sides...

Peter War Banners

If you're on a message board, and want to proclaim your support for either Pete Wisdom or Peter Rasputin in the non-existent comics event of the summer, Peter Wars (the prize at stake being the hand of Kitty Pryde), then perhaps you could do with one of the following banners, courtesy of Mark Roberts and Nick Thompson. We've included one for any sickos who might be rooting for the Russian.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Pete Wisdom

I’ve been eagerly waiting to be able to talk about this for months now, and it’s finally been unveiled at this afternoon’s Marvel panel at the San Diego Comic-Con. The New Year before last, I made three resolutions, things I wanted to achieve in the next few years, and the first of them has now worked out. I’m going to be writing a comic for Marvel! It’s all thanks to comics writer Mark Millar, a mate and a gentleman, who made the introductions.

Wisdom is the story of X-Men supporting cast member Pete Wisdom, a British intelligence officer who works for MI-13, the department of the weird. He used to go out with Kitty Pryde (the girl in the X-Men movies who can move through solid objects… I’m writing this blog as always for many different audiences, some of whom won’t know any of this stuff). His team are all new characters, including John the Skrull, a shapeshifting alien invader from the 1960s who still looks and acts like John Lennon. And I get to use some of my favourite supporting cast members from various Marvel comics set in Britain.

You won’t need to know a thing about anything Marvel to enjoy the book, it’s entirely self-explanatory and looking for new readers.

The comic is in Marvel’s Max line, so it’s got an 18 certificate, the odd swearword, a dark sense of humour, nudity (infrequent, horny), a bit of sophistication, I like to think, and a lot of beery fighting. I hope the Britain it portrays feels real (especially the bits set in Wiltshire), even when we’re dealing with military missions against Fairyland.

The artist is the great Trev Hairsine, whose photo-realistic style and sense of storytelling and character make me look like I know what I’m doing. The editor is Nick Lowe, who's been laid-back and lovely throughout, and keeps making the best points about story, one of the best execs I've ever worked with in any medium.

Here’s the interview I’ve done with Newsarama, the comics website, about the project, complete with some lovely art (the colour piece is going to be the cover of the first issue):


I can’t believe I got away with the helicopter-related double entendre in that interview, but when else am I going to get the chance to say that and it be true?

And here’s Pete’s entry on Wikipedia:


I'll go the whole hog and provide the non-comics bods among our parishoners with details of how to order when the time comes. Got to do the audience crossover thing when one can.

I suppose I can't really decare the resolution sorted until the first issue's in my hands, but... oh, this'll do! Off to the bar I go! Wa-hey!

Doctor Who: Jackie Tyler Leaves the TV On

One of the most interesting things that the success of Doctor Who has done at the BBC is to rejuvenate the concept of hit broadcast drama. A hit means all the family watch, every family watches. Broadcast means that the primary means of getting to see the show is to watch it on a Saturday night. That is to say, it’s not just a show for people who carefully avoid whatever’s on either side of the few shows they like, and are otherwise away with their DVD boxed sets of American shows and their Xbox 360s. (People like me, that is, whose only broadcast fixtures right now are Veronica Mars and The West Wing, with nothing on terrestrial TV.) It’s also a show for people who leave the TV on all the time, tuned to BBC1 or ITV1. People like, as we discovered in the episode ‘Doomsday’, Rose’s Mum Jackie Tyler.

This is a significant change of direction for the BBC. Or rather a reversion to an ancient, and slightly forgotten, principle. For a while there, it looked as if the cutting edge of the Corporation had migrated to New Media. The prevailing wisdom was that families no longer watched TV together. This is simply not true. But the concept had gained a foothold, perhaps because those who look towards the future tend to think that future has already arrived, and because those that look towards the future in Britain tend to have a dystopian tinge to their thinking. In other words, the family is dead just like kids are running wild in the streets and the police are powerless to deal with them.

So it took a Russell to invest in the mainstream once more, to put the cutting edge in primetime, and not on a website, a mobile phone or a PC screen. (The series does those as sideshows, not the central gig.) To do that, he had to call upon what had previously made Doctor Who a primetime show. That is, a show unlike any other SF or fantasy genre programme ever except The X-Files (and that only in the USA). Buffy: never a primetime hit. Star Trek: never, in any incarnation. So there’s loads of humour, there’s a continual relevance to home and hearth, there are familiar recurring characters and familiar human relationships, and any big concepts are introduced lightly and simply.

Indeed, it could be said that if at the heart of science fiction is ‘cognitive estrangement’, that is: we’re way far from home and boggling at the huge new ideas we’ve been thrown into the middle of, then Doctor Who, particularly but not entirely in its new incarnation, isn’t actually SF. Because this is a cosy, familiar universe where Big Brother exists billions of years hence, where the cosmos was ruled by a bunch of British civil servants who use phrases like ‘face lift’ and where, by the look of the fashions, in the far future Top Shop is still in business.

(I would go on here about how the lovely new Battlestar Galactica has done something similar while also keeping big SF tropes going, but this is a blog, not a novel.)

Not that the rather craven phrase ‘it’s not SF’ has ever escaped Russell’s lips. Unlike those of virtually every other SF TV producer who craves such a mainstream audience, but runs a show about things the mainstream audience think they need a degree to understand.

The reception of this re-positioning amongst the Doctor Who fan community could generally be summed up as: ‘who cares as long as it’s a hit?’ Doctor Who fans now find themselves in the rather odd position of everyone once more knowing about the thing that used to be their terrifying and private love. It’s like Doctor Jekyll’s potion becoming available on the NHS. For a lot of fans, that was all they ever wanted. They are mainstream folk at heart, and this means that all has now reverted to being as it should be. (And who of us could say there’s anything wrong with that?) These guys are a bit suspicious of women’s ‘squee’ fandom, and other kinds of fandom that have evolved entirely within fanspace.

But for another group of fans, those who’ve always seen themselves as living outside the city gates of mainstream culture, it’s a more awkward proposition. Some of them accept the need for the changes, but look down on the audience they’re designed for: the mob need their bread and circuses. (Although ‘comic book guy’ in The Simpsons has the sublime disdain typical of our culture down to a fine art, part of the fan stereotype that nobody ever notes in comedy is that online we tend to talk like the members of a Victorian gentlemen’s club. One day I’m going to go on Outpost Gallifrey and declare my intention to travel around the world in eighty days. ‘I for one,’ someone will say, ‘welcome that’.)

Some of them campaign for things to be more like they used to be. These are the guys for whom the Dalek/Cybermen battle was the meaningful bit of ‘Doomsday’, and who ache that time was wasted on Rose and her family. Some of them think of the new series as a simple betrayal. All these sorts of fans are probably the DVD/Xbox 360 guys I mentioned above. They like their SF, not their British telly, and often not the non-SF bits of new Doctor Who.

The broadcast mainstream/narrowcast cult divide is something Russell Davies has always been aware of and interested in. In Bob and Rose, it’s not so much that he’s gay and she’s not, it’s that he knows catchphrases from The Simpsons and she’s never seen it. That doesn’t make her a bad person. (Were any of us thinking it did? Maybe a few of us in our more Fan Power moments. Maybe me at my most angry.) Her set of life choices never could make her a bad person. It’s a great example of what I’d call Russell’s central moral axiom: it’s not which faction you belong to, it’s what you do given that.

That section of fandom that regards ‘mundanes’ as lesser beings gets both rightly assaulted and also, perhaps surprisingly to those on the end of that assault, shown a lot of understanding in his work. Because here’s another of Russell’s axioms: taking any definitive stand makes you both a heroic upstanding individual and, also, suspect. Being too certain of anything, even something we’ve seen to be right and good in the context of the drama, is in itself wrong. Hence Prime Minister Harriet Jones, as utter an author point of view character as you’ll find anywhere, can suddenly be seen to be absolutely against our hero when she destroys the alien craft in the Christmas special. Hence Queen Victoria: hero and villain.

That, in effect, says that even the authorial point of view is suspect. That one’s own moral choices must be examined and interrogated continually. That you are not the hero just because you’re the one telling your own story. It’s a very Christian trait. I hope that if this most joyously atheist of writers is reading this, he takes that for the compliment it’s meant to be.

Oh, and there’s cognitive estrangement for you too. Interrogating one’s own volition isn’t exactly mainstream thought these days.

I’d guess he keeps coming back to that principle for a reason other than a moral one. Drama isn’t your puppy, it’s a tiger. It’s not meant to make you comfortable. It’s meant to make you feel alive. As I found out when The Second Coming bit me on the arse and made me realise that, like a lot of people I don’t respect, I can think something is blasphemous too. Russell doesn’t regard his own faction as immune from this examination and interrogation either. Bob and Rose, for daring to say the gay community had its own bigotries and hatreds, made the man who wrote Queer as Folk a bit of a pariah amongst his most obvious audience.

So there he is, look, outside the gates of his own city, with you and me and all the people who don’t do broadcast TV. But he does broadcast TV. He is the writer he is because, like me, he goes and drinks in that city and stays with friends there and sometimes enjoys it so much that he doesn’t come back to his little shack outside the gates for days. But the little shack has been home since childhood and will always be.

All this is leading up to me talking about my favourite episode of Doctor Who. It’s one that the general public and the fan consensus disliked equally, considering the Audience Appreciation Index and the online polls. And that shouldn’t be such a shock, because, to the comfort of Who fans, fan reaction is, in general, only an underlined version of what the mainstream is thinking.

My favourite episode of Doctor Who is ‘Love & Monsters’, the One With Peter Kay. It broke format and that’s always fun, but what was stunning about it was its depiction of fan culture as a vital, gorgeous, force. Elton’s folk, the ‘fans of the Doctor’, were diverse, artistic and creative, supportive and loving.

Some of the criticism the episode got is because the dark side of that culture showed up, in the form of the villain Victor Kennedy, selfishly trying to own the thing he loved, bullying other fans. Some of the criticism is because the fans looked like outsiders, were not laid back, utterly mainstream ‘normal’ people. Some of the criticism, and okay, maybe there’s some validity to this one, is because you can’t celebrate a rebel culture while at the same time trying to legislate on what parts of it are good and bad.

But these doubts are mostly wrong-headed. It’s as whole-hearted a celebration of a way of life as any the writer who always interrogates that which he loves has written. Look at that radical final line: this life of odd dislocation from the mainstream, of very personal and difficult moral choices, isn’t just different: ‘it’s better’. It’s better.

You wouldn’t even hear that on Veronica Mars. (Although the episode ‘Drinking the Kool Aid’ nearly said it out loud.) Only someone who knows the mainstream, who writes for broadcast, entirely has the moral right to say it. And I’m very glad he did.

As Leonard Cohen once put it about his own outsider status in the celebrity world, the distance between Manhattan and Berlin: ‘I’d really like to live beside you baby. I love your body, and your spirit, and your clothes. But you see that line that’s passing through the station: I told you, I was one of those.’


ITEM! This year’s Faringdon Arts Festival was excellent, and attracted a large audience. It’s growing every year. Dave Price brought his excellent fan-made Dalek along and exhausted himself giving delighted children Dalek rides all day on Saturday, and deserves much applause. The Society for Creative Anachronism also put in hard work to great effect. Some photos from the Friday night are here:


And you can still book for the following FAF events: ex-Squeeze singer Glenn Tilbrook in concert with his band The Fluffers (29th July, £15) and a dinner event with impressionist Rory Bremner (15th September, £45), details from 01367 243663.

ITEM! Anyone in the neighbourhood of Oxfordshire or Wiltshire who’s about on the night of Thursday August 3rd might like to pop along to my wife’s first professional gig as part of a band, at the Portwell Bar in Faringdon, from 8.30pm.. Admission free. They play country rock/folk covers and soon some of their own material, and still seek a name. Suggestions might be fun.

ITEM! The lovely Nick Pegg, who pilots a Dalek on TV’s Doctor Who, is also a professional writer of pantomimes, and has several out this Christmas. I can thoroughly recommend them. Patrons of the Harrogate Theatre in Yorkshire will be treated to Sleeping Beauty:


The Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch, Essex (on the District Line) will be presenting Jack and the Beanstalk:


While north of the border, the MacRobert Theatre in Stirling offers Aladdin:

www.macrobert.stir.ac.uk/MACROBERT/whatson/index.htm (Click “live” on the blue bar, and then on the next page click the little blue box that says “Christmas”.)’

ITEM! The writers and editors involved in the production of the new Doctor Who short story anthology The Centenarian have started a blog about the process. I for one welcome it:


ITEM! Chris Roberson, who always seems to find these cool clips, directed me to this hilarious revoiced Darth Vader, which is a work of genius:


ITEM! And for those of you who don’t like emo in your Who, here’s an alternative, and very funny ending, to ‘Doomsday’:



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