Happy Leap Day!

Time for some bissextile fun! Which doesn’t mean what you think it does. Sadly.


Interview with Simon Guerrier

On February 18th, 2012, while attending the Gallifrey One convention in Los Angeles, I was privileged enough to get a bit of time with Simon Guerrier, a long-time Doctor Who fan, and currently a writer for Big Finish! We sat down to chat about the so-called “Oliver Trilogy” of Companion Chronicles audio adventures, which introduced a character with a unique past.

Guerrier said that the idea for “The Cold Equations” originally started a story he pitched to producer David Richardson. It would have focused on Romana rather than Steven. It would have been a bit more of a hard sci-fi story than often turns up in the series and would have focused on entropy, which was a major plot point through much of season 18. Then he found out that the writer of “Full Circle” was going to write a story for the season 18 time frame. This left him having to cast about for a new companion to use.

Eventually they settled on Steven (played by Peter Purves), who was, among other things, a space pilot, and Guerrier wanted to work that into the plot, since, “…they never used that on the screen. They never dealt with it.” They found a good place to wedge it, and then came the discussion of a new companion for Hartnell.

Guerrier had originally wanted the TARDIS to show up with the new companion on board and we’d find out through the story exactly how he came to be with the Doctor. There would have been an alien invasion going on where the aliens were sending down humans with implanted memories, and possibly the new companion might have been one of them.

They decided that what they would do have this new companion be a “real” person and not an alien. Then the next story would be the “origin story” for the companion. “We were rather pleased with that,” Guerrier said. “Then we pitched it to the BBC.” They realized that even the pitch was so complicated that it was probably better to do just do the character’s story in a standard linear fashion.

Since they had an idea for what the character’s origin would be, they created the story “The Perpetual Bond”, which introduced the character, now named Oliver and voiced by Tom Allen (who apparently used to hang out with 11th Doctor Matt Smith, and was represented at the time by Wendy Padbury, known to Who fans for her role as Zoe during the Troughton years). Guerrier and Richardson gave the character a three story arc, did some research and went with it.

Happily, he reports, no one at any level had any problems with the idea of Oliver being gay. He said the only real concern was that the Doctor’s reaction must boil down to “who cares?” That to Oliver it was a great secret that could destroy his life. To Steven it was just some part of Oliver. To the Doctor, however, it must be something supremely irrelevant.

Guerrier also confirmed that the death of Oliver was something that was planned from the beginning. He said that throughout those first few seasons, characters often had very abrupt endings (Katarina and Sarah Kingdom, most notably, though to a lesser extent Vick and Dodo), and that they wanted to keep that sort of thing going with Oliver. He also confirmed that there are no plans to bring back the character in any form, though he probably will get the occasional shout-out.

As for future projects? Guerrier is still working on Who material and was recently involved in the audio revival of Blake’s 7 that Big Finish launched earlier this month. He’s also been working on Graceless, which features original characters created by Big Finish who were initially featured in the “Key 2 Time” stories.

Rick Santorum is Fundamentally Anti-American

I’d say that any true American (which is, I suppose, like any true Scotsman, but whatever), probably at least believes in the values in our Constitution. Among these are, as it were, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (yes, Declaration, not Constitution, but still). One of the most important values, up there with freedom of speech, trial by jury and the right not to suffer cruel and unusual punishment is the separation of church and state.

Now as we all know, the words “separation of church and state,” don’t appear anywhere in the Constitution. But then again, it also doesn’t explicitly say, “Everyone has the right to own whatever and how ever many guns they want!”, and Jefferson coined the phrase “wall of separation” when talking about the subject, so there’s that. But I know that people like me believe it’s important, and I’d like to think that most religious people believe it is, too.

Rick Santorum is an awful, horrible human being. He honestly believes that gay sex should be illegal, that abortion should be illegal, that gays should not be allowed to adopt children, that gays should not be allowed to have civil unions and that birth control should be outlawed. He would carry this nation into the Dark Ages if he had his way. One commentator I once read described him as “the finest mind of the 13th century,” which I feel insults…well, pretty much everyone significant back then, but there you go.

In Santorum’s America, church and state are one, with the church being the more powerful and important. He really, honestly wants this sort of thing. I’m not making this up and I’m not engaging in election year hyperbole. He’s been very up front about what he wants. He is a fundamentally reprehensible human being with views that should make people on both sides of the aisle shudder with horror.

For a really good take down of what Santorum believes and wants for this nation, check this article. Also, if you live in Arizona or Michigan, please, please vote for anyone else. Gingrich, horrible though he is, would make a better president than this ass-clown. Same with Ron Paul. Hell, Herman Cain would have been better. I’d even accept John McCain over Santorum, because at least McCain, dishonest though he was, wasn’t a theocratic nutjob like Santorum.

I know some of my friends really hope Santorum gets the nomination because they feel Obama will then have a cakewalk to back to the White House. I believe they are likely correct, but likely isn’t the same as certain. If the economy tanks again and unemployment goes back to double-digits, people would vote for him out of fear. So bear that in mind, guys.

And again, if you can vote against this guy, please do. He’s really, really quite dangerous.

Smarten Yourself Up!

And enjoy doing it! Check these videos, which are each the first videos in their respective courses. I find the history ones to be more entertaining, but, well, I actually get history, and biology…I’m getting a C in my biology 100 class. This does not make for a happy person. Anyhow, here’s the vids.

The World’s Strangest Ad

Look at this ad. It’s very odd.

This is weird on so many levels. First, her depression is apparently a sentient being. That’s horrifying enough, but it gets even stranger. Pay close attention to the video at about 37 seconds in, when the doctor who is standing in the room plays a video of himself talking. Notice what happens?


Dear god, what sort of horrible creature is this?! Not only is it a sentient being, but it takes note and, later on in the video, hangs out with the patient and her family!


I am horrified. I think I agree with a commenter on the video who said if their depression came alive and started following them around, they’d consult a priest and not a doctor.

Big Finish Review – Doctor Who – “The Fourth Wall”

(special thanks to Big Finish for providing me with a review copy!)

We been spendin' most our lives livin' in a troper's paradise...

Business is bad for intergalactic media mogul Augustus Scullop, whose Trans-Gal empire is on the rocks. But, having retreated to his own private planet, Transmission, Scullop is about to gamble his fortune on a new show, made with an entirely new technology. And the name of that show… is Laser.

Back in the real world, far from the realms of small screen sci-fi fantasies about monsters and aliens, the Doctor is interested only in watching Test Match cricket… but finds himself drawn into Scullop’s world when his new travelling companion, Flip, is snatched from inside the TARDIS.

So, while the Doctor uncovers the terrible secret of Trans-Gal’s new tech, Flip battles to survive in a barren wilderness ruled over by the indestructible Lord Krarn and his pig-like servants, the Warmongers. And the name of that wilderness… is ‘Stevenage’.

Starring: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Lisa Greenwood (Flip Jackson), Julian Wadham (Augustus Scullop), Yasmin Bannerman (Dr Helen Shepherd), Hywel Morgan (Nick Kenton/Jack Laser), Martin Hutson (Matthew Howland/Lord Krarn), Tilly Gaunt (Olivia Sayle/Jancey), Kim Wall (Chimbly/Head Warmonger), Henry Devas (Junior/Warmonger)

There’s a website I love visiting on a regular basis. It’s called tvtropes.org and it’s full of all sorts of interesting things, many of which apply to this audio. We have Show Within a Show, Bond One-Liner, Card-Carrying Villain, Dangerously Genre Savvy, Contractual Immortality, Fourth Wall Observer, Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, Large Ham, and probably at least a dozen more I didn’t spot. Yes, ladies and gentleman, what we have here is a trope-fest, and one that spoofs Doctor Who just as much as it does everything else.

This was an excellent audio; truly one of the best I’ve heard so far. It helps that I’m fairly well versed in these various tropes, so that I was able to laugh at them, but I think even people who, you know, have lives, might enjoy this one. It really is very entertaining.

I must give my usual kudos to Colin Baker for proving yet again that he wasn’t the reason he got fired from the series back in the day. I must also give extra-special recognition to writer John Dorney for managing to pull-off such a feat as this and pull it off so very well. I also loved the return of the time-space visualizer from “The Chase”.

In fact, the only complaint that I have centers around Flip. Part way through episode one, she leaves the story. This is very odd to me. If you’re trying to establish a new, long-term companion for the Doctor, you don’t do so by having them wander off in the middle of their second proper story. Had this been done a few stories down the line, I think it might have worked better. AS it stands, I’m left with a feeling that it was an opportunity wasted for her character.

That complaint aside this was a winning story and one that I very highly recommend!

File Under, “Stupid, Pointless Politics”

Seven states have announced they’re going to sue the federal government over the requirement that religious employers who aren’t churches and cater to, and employ, people from outside their religion, have to provide birth control through their employees’ health care insurance. For those who haven’t been paying attention, there was a compromise a couple weeks back that got rid of that requirement, and even if it hadn’t, there are similar laws in something like twenty-seven states. So, yeah.

You know, I hate it when politicians use the courts to make political points. It’s a waste of time, effort and money and I don’t care what side is doing it. This issue is already settled case law in many states. If, and I say if it makes it to the Supreme Court, they’ll likely say that the employers have to comply with the law. So in fact the side that is against birth control might end up undermining their own cause. I also have to say that I find it baffling that nearly fifty years after Griswold v Connecticut we’re having to refight the issue of birth control.

On a related note, how hilarious was it that the two very loudly Catholic Republicans at last night’s debate didn’t have ash on their foreheads, but Stephen Colbert did on his show? I guess that’s because their handlers realized that the extreme evangelical right loves Christians, but considers Catholics to be kind of icky, so rubbing it in their faces, as it were, might have cost the two votes. Whatever, it’s their faith and they can do what they want, but I still find it silly.

Big Finish Review – Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles – “The Selachian Gambit”

(special thanks to Big Finish for providing me with a review copy!)

The Doctor doesn’t normally need money, but when the TARDIS is immobilised and a fine has to be paid, a loan from a bank in the sky seems the solution to his problem.

But then the Selachians arrive, and the Doctor and his companions find themselves as hostages in the middle of a heist.

Death seems an absolute certainty. But the Doctor, Jamie, Polly and Ben have outwitted death before…

Starring: Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Anneke Wills (Polly Wright)

Well, here we are: my first companion chronicle story to feature the Second Doctor (more or less). Yes, I’ve had quite the saturation of First Doctor stories and one Third Doctor, but this is my first with number two. And how is it?

Quite excellent, actually! The plotline, and especially the outcome of it, seem right at home in the Troughton era. I could easily picture rubber costumes for the actors playing the aliens, and I really loved the notion that the TARDIS gets clamped, thus preventing the crew from leaving until a fine is paid.

As for the performances? Well, here we hit a very slight snag. Most of the Second Doctor’s adventures are missing, and there’s only one intact story with Ben and Polly. That story, “The War Machines“, is the only story I’ve seen with them, and that I only saw once. My brain was so full of the awesomeness that was WOTAN saying, “Doctor Who is required!” that I’ve largely forgotten everything else (though Dodo just sort of wandering off and not coming back was pretty memorable, too). As a result, I can’t say how good of a job Wills and Hines do in channeling the spirit of Ben or how good of a job Wills does slipping back into her role as Polly. I will say that I enjoyed hearing her and that both performances were very good. I must also give particular note to Hines’ excellent work as the Second Doctor. I heard he was very good in the role, and now I’ve got proof. He really is exceptional.

So an excellent story and wonderful acting. Easily the one of the best companion chronicles I’ve heard, right up there with “The Perpetual Bond”. It’s only $8 to download, so go download it, already!

Gallifrey 2012 – Update Three

So the third day of Gallifrey was a Sunday. Day three of a three day con tends to be interesting. Most people partied hard the night before and frequently sleep in until, oh, about ten minutes before check-out time in their rooms. Chaos then ensues. It’s vastly entertaining for those of use who don’t party.

Anyhow, the upshot of this is that any panels or events that happen before noon tend to be poorly attended. The one panel I was on at Gally this year, talking about Game of Thrones, was at 10am on Sunday morning. The attendance was…not bad, actually. Better than I thought it would be.

Here’s a pic of myself and the other two panelists. It’s a bit blurry, but the best one from several.

Not much happened after that, though I did snag Tony Curran’s autograph and got a pic of the man himself. Also spent some time chatting with him. Very nice guy!

Then the convention was basically over for us. We packed up our stuff, I made sure Arthur knew where to get the shuttle bus to get back to LAX for his flight to Seattle, and we left. But not without a special stop. As I said before, my friend Jess had never been to another state. It was a given that, therefore, he’d never seen the ocean. So we drove about four miles and saw the Pacific. It’s like seeing the elephant, only wetter.

Jess said this was the best moment of the entire weekend.

We then headed home, and I personally got back just a few minutes before midnight. It was a good trip and a good time was had by all.

As usual for one of these cons, I got autographs! Here’s a pic of what I had signed.

Left to right, then top to bottom, we have John de Lancie (next to impossible to see, I know), Tony Curran, Nicholas Briggs, Camile Coduri, William Russell, Morgan Sheppard, Eric Roberts, Paul McGann, Yee Jee Tso (Daphne Ashbrook signed it the previous year, and producer Phillip Segal’s autograph is on the back), Louise Jameson, Richard Franklin and Maureen O’Brien.

Last but not least, we got shirts!

Friday's shirt

Saturday's shirt

Sunday's shirt

The organizers haven’t announced who will be there next year. We had nearly 3,200 people this year, and at an average of $75 per badge, that means the con took in nearly a quarter of a million dollars. I hope that leaves them with a big war chest for next year’s guests, because 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the show, and I’d love to see them do something special. Here, in fact, are my ideal guest lists from least likely to most likely.

Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvil, Alex Kingston, Stephen Moffat – Not impossible, but very unlikely due to the fact that the eighth series will be filming at about the same time as the con.

All living Doctors and Companions (excluding Eccleston and the above names) – Again, not impossible. I don’t imagine Eccleston will get anywhere near the convention, but the others might.

Tom Baker and Mary Tamm – I think this one is actually very likely. Baker has never been to a Gallifrey convention, and until recently seems to have been reluctant to have much to do with the series at all. Now that he’s doing audios and now that the convention has a large budget, well…maybe they can get him over here. I know he doesn’t like the idea of flying that far, but let’s face it: dangle a few thousand dollars in someone’s face and tell them all they have to do to earn it is spend three days in LA in February (as opposed to England in February), and that might get the job done. Mary Tamm canceled this year, but I would be willing to bet she’d be happy to come next year, especially since the audios with her and Baker will be released at around that time.

Gallifrey 2012 – Part 2B

Day two began fairly early for me. I wake up at cons far earlier than I tend to in “normal” life, at least in part because I don’t want to sleep through everything good. In this case, I woke up at seven, which is a bit extreme by my standards.

Now I don’t normally attend tons of panels or discussions or anything like that, and this con was no exception, though I did go to a good Big Finish panel. I had intended to go to a few other panels, but go distracted by the arrival of a friend, and we spent a large part of Saturday together, so I missed quite a lot of the events. On the plus side, I did get to conduct an interview with someone from the Big Finish panel, so that may end up on whatculture.com. I’ll keep you guys informed.

Aside from hanging with my friend, much of Saturday was spent in an autograph line. Yes, I wanted to get autographs from just about everyone that was in the Eighth Doctor movie, and I did, snagging them from Paul McGann, Yee Jee Tso, and Eric Roberts. I already had one from Daphne Ashbrook. I also snagged one from the producer. Not bad! Even more not bad, I got a good look at Jake McGann, who made me swoon a little.

Really, though, the best part of the autograph line was watching my friend, Jess, who had never come to a con before. Jess is a little shy around strangers, doesn’t like being touched, and is madly in love with Paul McGann. When he got to McGann’s table, McGann put down his pen and shook Jess’ hand. It was like watching a child meeting Santa for the first time. You know, when they’re so overwhelmed they, to paraphrase Pratchett, don’t know if they should laugh, cry, or crap their pants? It was that kind of thing, but clearly Jess had a great time with it and walked off with an autograph.

Also of note was my friend, Arthur, getting his first autograph at a con. In this case, he got it from Mark Sheppard, who’s been in…well, just about everything sci-fi related in the last fifteen years or so. The two talked for a good three or four minutes and he gave Arthur some wonderful advice about getting autographs. I’ll let him tell the whole story on his blog.

I also snagged autographs, and a bit of conversation, from John de Lancie, who signed my TNG blu ray, and W. Morgan Sheppard, who signed my series six blu ray and kindly explained that all actors are whores. Ah. Refreshing honesty!

Good on yer, Mr Sheppard!

Of course this being Saturday, there were tons of people in costume. Costume pic parade time, you say? Oh, yes. Let’s start with the First Doctor!

Yes, the First Doctor even flubbed product placement.

Then we have a Ganger and…someone who I don’t recognize, but should. Sorry, whomever.

Of course no con would be complete without a Cyberman.

Not pictured: Adric's corpse.

Then, Dodo. Jackie Lane may want nothing to do with the series, and I can’t say as though I blame her, but her spirit lives on!

I don’t know how to describe this next one, except to quote from Roger Ebert’s review of Star Trek: First Contact where, when talking about the Borg Queen, said she, “…looks like no notion of sexy I’ve ever heard of, but encourages me to keep an open mind.”

Then, because everyone needs a hug, one of the most adorable creatures ever to menace anyone.


Lookit the cute! Lookit!

Then this.

Harry Sullivan cospaly for the win!

Then an acquaintance of mine named Brian who looks like he’s barely old enough to shave, yet nevertheless pulled off an excellent costume as the Brig!

Still bringing the sexy.

His girlfriend was dressed as Idris, from “The Doctor’s Wife,” which I found vaguely ironic, since the two of them seemed to hate everything about series six.

Then finally, myself and two of Rob’s friends relaxing after a long day.

Yes, I do indeed look just that creepy in real life.

That’s it for the Saturday coverage! Next post will contain my summary of day three, including my conversation with Tony Curran, how I failed at flirting with Philip Olivier and my friend visiting the ocean for the first time!


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