Sunday, 25 June 2017

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermannys Part Two


Because there are only three parts to Delta and the Bannermannys we are now already at the middle of the story! While there are some two-part stories in Doctor Who that are even shorter, three parts is shorter than the great majority, and it is not helped here by having a significant recap of the end of part one - it takes two minutes before we get back to the cliffhanger, as both Mel and the Doctor's separate situations are reprised.


Gavrok blows up the suspicious manny and so saves the Doctor and Ray by mistaik. We never find out who he was, just that he was a bounty hunter. Maybe he got lost while looking for Han Solo?

Delta decides to trust Mel and Billy and tell them what's going on, but not us viewers because for us it cuts to the next scene and the next day, where the Americans have met a mysterious Welsh manny who tells them about butterflies.

At first it seems this has nothing to do with the main story (like the rest of the Americans' plotline), but it turns out this is a metaphor for Delta when we cut back to her finishing telling her story. This is a much more effective and novel way of conveying the situation than if it had been a pure dump of the exposition, which I'm sure is how Terry Nation would have done it!


Naughty Doctor!


When the Doctor and Ray wake up from their sleeps, they tell Mr Burton that the Bannermannys are coming but he doesn't believe them and makes a joke and a skeptical face. Seeing inside the TARDIS convinces him the Doctor is telling the truth. Mr Burton asks to come with the Doctor in the TARDIS - he would have made a great Companion but sadly it is not to be.

Like Billy, and Ray, Mr Burton now takes everything in his stride, with only one scene of self-doubt that is a nice touch. He says
"I am still not sure what I saw in that police box, but I cannot risk my staff for it."
and they start to evacuate all the mannys from the holiday camp.

While looking for Billy and Delta, the Doctor and Ray finally meet the Americans but they soon bounce off them which means the Americans still don't join in the main plot.

The Americans then see Gavrok's spaceship land and they think it is the satellite they are looking for because they are silly. After this there is a change of tone - things get more serious now that the Bannermannys are on the scene. Gavrok captures the Americans but, luckily for them, they don't know anything at all about the plot that Gavrok is interested in so they cannot tell him anything useful. Phew!

Things get even more serious when the Bannermannys blow up the spacebus as it tries to escape from them, and Gavrok captures Mel. Mel tries to be brave and lies about Delta being ded in the hope that it will make Gavrok go away - it nearly works except that Delta arrives right then and there. Oops.

Mr Burton is also brave and allows himself to be captured as well so he can persuade Gavrok not to kill Mel, so they are both prisoners instead. Prisoners? At a holiday site in Wales? That gives me an idea for a TV series, except I think it has been done already...


The Doctor goes to confront Gavrok under a flag of truce. He interrupts Gavrok while he is having noms, which may make him even grumpier than he normally is. In what is easily Sylvester McCoy's best scene as the Doctor up to this point, he brazens it out with Gavrok and tries to bluff him into releasing his prisoners.

It almost works, and the Doctor, Mr Burton and Mel start to walk away from Gavrok. But at the end the Bannermannys point their pewpewpew guns at them for a cliffhanger!


This is a great episode that starts to pay off some of what the first part was setting up, but it is still tonally uneven in mixing the comedy with the serious bits - even the magnificent dramatic cliffhanger scene has a misjudged moment of comedy as the Doctor, Mr Burton and Mel do a synchronised double-take look back at the Bannermannys, somewhat undermining the carefully built up tension.

Despite that drawback it is still definitely a step up from part one, with the arrival of Gavrok and the Bannermannys on Earth making for a significant escalation of peril, so we have some properly rising action heading in to the final episode.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermannys Part One


Delta and the Bannermannys is the third story of season 24 of Doctor Who. It stars Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Bonnie Langford as Mel. It has the unusual distinction of being only the third ever three-part Doctor Who TV story, and that is counting The Two Doctors from season 22 which had episodes twice as long as normal. So in a way it is the first three-parter since Planet of Giants all the way back in 1964!

The consequence of being three parts long instead of the more usual four is that it has to tell its story much more quickly. This is immediately apparent when the very first scene begins with action! We are straight into a battle, with mannys firing pewpewpew guns at each other and falling off things like they did back in the glory days of HAVOC.

One side is all in black - they are the obvious baddys led by Gavrok - while the other side is green except for Delta who is in white. Because having her in green would have given her one less point of comparison with Princess Leia from Star Wars. All the green mannys get killed - we know this because Gavrok tells us so - and Delta escapes by stealing a spaceship.

The TARDIS arrives but in a completely different scene. The Doctor and Mel are for once expecting trouble when they venture out, so clearly this is just to set up an immediate reversal whereby they instead get good news from Ken Dodd. They have won a holiday.


The Doctor does not look as thrilled as Mel to have won this prize, perhaps because the holiday is on Earth, and they will be going along with a load of aliens disguised as mannys in a spaceship disguised as an old bus. This is quite a clever idea for a spaceship and saves on the special effects budget - it parallels the TARDIS itself both in and out of the narrative.

This is made especially clear in the adjoining scene where we see the TARDIS on Earth in a country scene - except that it is actually a real police box in the 1950s, which is when the main part of the story is set. It is used by two comedy American CIA agents to 'phone the President.

The Doctor decides to travel in the TARDIS so it does not get left behind in space, and as he goes he sees Delta, still trying to escape Gavrok's spaceship, arrive in time to get on the spacebus as well. This means he knows something is going on, although he does not yet know that he is her only hope.

One of the mannys on the bus is suspicious of Delta, but we rapidly move on from this blatant bit of foreshadowing when the bus crashes into an Earth satellite (the one from the Americans' plotline) and they both go out of control.


The Doctor does something technobabbly
"Well, I simply applied the TARDIS vortex drive to generate an antigravity spiral to halt your descent."
in the TARDIS to allow the bus to land safely. Bus, satellite and TARDIS all land in Wales at the Shangri La holiday camp. It is run by Burton (played by Richard Davies who I know from Whoops Apocalypse where he was very funny). He has a doggy!

Billy, a local mechanic, tries to help repair the spacebus's engine, and much comedy is made of a manny from the 1950s being confronted with warp drive technology... lol, actually he just sort of gets on with it, because there isn't time for anything like that in this episode!

The Doctor meets Ray, who is very Welsh, and he gets a saying wrong for the first time since Time and the Rani part four. Although he did not get any sayings wrong at all in Paradise Towers, it seems we have not after all seen the last of that character trait.

Meanwhile Mel does her best to try to get involved in Delta's plotline, but Delta does not trust easily... at least not until the story requires her to.

Gavrok has met Ken Dodd and finds out from him where the spacebus went, and then he shoots Ken Dodd anyway to show us that he is a properly evil baddy. If you think it was a good thing that Ken Dodd got shot then you may also be a baddy - just because he was an outrageous piece of stunt casting, doesn't mean he didn't deserve to live!

Lots of 1950s things happen to hammer home that this story is set in the 1950s, with references to "rock and roll" and "hula hoops." Billy and Delta begin a romance so lightning quick that it surprised even us cats (definitely a lot less than three minutes), but then there isn't time to develop their characters when there is a dual cliffhanger to build towards.

In the first cliffhanger, Delta's egg hatches and a green alien head is inside. Mel sees it and screams, which is something of an overreaction considering how it is actually really cute and not scary at all. This would have made for a rubbish cliffhanger by itself but fortunately there is another one for the Doctor.

The suspicious manny from earlier uses a space telephone to call Gavrok. The Doctor and Ray overhear him but give away that they are there when the Doctor sneezes (he must have known he needed to get caught for the cliffhanger to work). The suspicious manny has a pewpewpew gun and says he is going to kill them, leading to not so much a crash zoom to their faces as a shot of mild concern to end the episode on...


This is a very fun first episode to the story, but it is lacking in some technical respects. A lot of action is crammed into the 25 minutes and it feels rushed. We meet a lot of characters but none of them are developed - not even Delta or Gavrok. We only know Delta is a goody and Gavrok a baddy because Gavrok is such an obvious baddy that Delta must be good by comparison.

This could be quite clever, in a way, by leaving us viewers to infer motivation and fill in the gaps for ourselves, but that is not how it comes across when the same episode is happy to spend precious minutes repeatedly drawing our attention to the 1950s setting. We get it already! Now move on please.

There are so many characters to be introduced that, when you think about it, none of them actually get to do all that much, not even the Doctor or Mel or Burton's doggy. The two Americans don't even get as far as meeting any of the other characters, and so the only reason they appear in this episode is to give us some exposition while telling each other things they should already know.

Sylvester McCoy seems to have taken a backwards step in his portrayal of the Doctor, making him more like he was in Time and the Rani than how he was in Paradise Towers. He is good in his scene with Ken Dodd, but he really needs to work on his cliffhanger face - he could take some lessons from Colin Baker on that.

Despite these criticisms, the episode never gets boring and it does a good job of establishing the dramatic conflict in time for the next part - the middle act of the story already.

Doctor getting sayings wrong count: 2
(Season running total: 19)

"A stitch in time fills up space."
"There's many a slap twixt cup and lap."

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Cat Election Results: Shock Landslide


The most sensational upset has occurred in this week's Cat Election. It was expected that Larry, the sitting Cat Prime Minister, would once again be returned to his home of 10 Downing Street, London with one vote - the same number of votes that all cats normally get in a Cat Election - and resulting in yet another hung Cat Parliament.

Instead Larry has been overwhelmingly elected with a majority of over 100, as a lot of cats unexpectedly voted for him instead of for themselves. When asked for an explanation as to this unusual behaviour, one cat source said it was "for the lolz."

Now with this massive majority over his opposition, Larry will be able to do whatever he likes. Although most cats will probably carry on ignoring him, because we're cats.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Wouldn't it be terrible if...

Wouldn't it be terrible if Britain was the only country in the world that didn't have nuclear weapons?
That would leave us completely at Gandhi's mercy!



There are over 200 countries in the world according to Richard Osman of Pointless (also Wikipedia), only 9 of which have their words backed with NUCLEAR WEAPONS!

Of the more than 190 countries whose words are not backed with NUCLEAR WEAPONS! only one of them (Japan) has ever been on the receiving end of said nuclear weapons.

So I think Britain would be just fine if it did not have nuclear weapons, since it would not in fact be the only country in the world without them, it would be in the company of the great majority.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Eurovision 2017

Despite mannys voting to leave the European Broadcasting Union last June, United Kingdom is still in the Eurovision Singing Competition this year. They even did quite well (by the standards of recent years), coming 15th out of 26.

This was good because I thought they might even have come last, but that position was reserved for Notorious Eurovision Cheats Spain. That is if we don't count Perennial Eurovision Baddys Russia, who were banninated from taking part/withdrew in a huff (delete as applicable depending upon propaganda) and did not even join in for the voting.

While the final winner of the Singing Competition was from Austria, it was not my favourite song. My best three were from, in reverse order:


Sweden

Sweden is a country that knows how to do Eurovision well. While not as good as the song that won it for them two years ago (by Måns Zelmerlöw, who returned to Eurovision once again in a sketch, as seen in the above picture) I liked this entry, it was fun. The performers, Robin Bengtsson, started singing while still backstage - it reminded me of the opening scene from Warriors' Gate.


Croatia

This manny, Jacques Houdek, was very fabulous, with a proper Eurovision style gimmick (few and far between in these days, alas) of singing a duet and being his own best friend.

And my favourite of all was...


Italy

Francesco Gabbani was accompanied by a monkey! If a monkey can take part in the Eurovision Singing Competition, then maybe cats can too! Although cats are obviously much better at singing than mannys are, so maybe it would not be fair on them if cats won every year.

Some mannys complain about countries that are not in Europe taking part in Eurovision, like Israel, Australia or United Kingdom, but this year there was a performance from the moon!


A very rude and naughty manny showed his bum, lololololol!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Big Gay Longcat and Scary Cat review Doctor Who: Paradise Towers Part Four

"I am Kroagnon, the Great Architect, and I will put an end to you and everyone in Paradise Towers!"

Part four picks up the plot from this point, which is good because it lays out the situation nice and simply. Then the Doctor gets caught by the Cleaner, oh noes!


The Doctor has form for gurning when he is being strangled, so it could be that this is entirely in character and not Sylvester McCoy overacting at all.


Exhibit A.

The Kangs help the Doctor get away from the Cleaner and they run away. Richard Briers comes out possessed by Kroagnon, with a silver face and an even sillier voice. His overacting is completely out of control.


Also his moustache looks less Hitlerian now, for some reason. Kroagnon has control of all the Cleaners and is now going to use them to wipeout all of the mannys in Paradise Towers.

Mel is in the water where the robot attacks her. What a silly manny, choosing to get wet like that! Mel shoots the robot with Pex's pewpewpew gun when Pex gets scared of the robot. The Doctor and the Kangs arrive at the roof and meet up with Mel and Pex.


The Kangs troll Pex for being scared, calling him "a cowardly cutlet" which is a much worse insult than "scaredy cat" since it does not contain the word "cat." For all that Richard Briers is doing his best to ruin this story, there are still good bits in it, such as the witty way that "taken to the Cleaners" is a Kang euphemism for being made unalive.

The Doctor sees this trolling of Pex and he recognises that, as long as all the groups of Paradise Towers are divided, trolling each other and noming each other, then Kroagnon can defeat them separately.
"That's Paradise Towers in a nutshell, I'm afraid. The Red Kangs didn't trust the Blue Kangs, and none of them trusted the Caretakers. And the Rezzies, from your account, prey on whoever they can and trust no one either. And all of them despise poor old Pex. Oh, the Great Architect must be delighted. How are we going to unite the people of Paradise Towers to defeat him?"

The "Rezzies" (residents) join them in the roof, as they understandably don't want to be nomed by Cleaners like Tilda and Tabby were. Like the Doctor, they have realised that they need help, and the Kangs agree to team up with them.

Kroagnon meets the Deputy Chief Caretaker, and the Deputy realises that it is not the Chief Caretaker any more (perhaps because his moustache is wrong) so he runs away. The Caretakers soon also arrive at the roof and team up with the Doctor, the Kangs and the Rezzies. Well that was easier than the Doctor thought it was going to be two paragraphs ago!

Kroagnon is alone in the Caretaker base, but even by himself he is still overacting. Nobody is offering any competition to him and it seems that nothing in Paradise Towers can stop him now!

The Deputy Chief Caretaker knows where explosives are kept, and the Doctor begins to formulate a plan. He wants to lure Kroagnon out from the Caretaker base, but he will have to use himself as bait - he knows Kroagnon will not be able to resist the chance to settle the acting contest once and for all:
"Well, you see, Kroagnon is undoubtedly a very clever and very proud being, and like many clever and proud beings likes to be appreciated by his equals. Now, I think if he had the chance to meet such a person, he would leave his lair to do so."
"Doctor, you're not going to go and..."
"I've no choice, Mel. I mean, in all honesty, I am the only obvious candidate."

Pex volunteers to help the Doctor so he can prove he is brave really. The Doctor 'phones Kroagnon up and trolls him over the TV screen, while the Rezzies and Kangs work together to destroy Cleaners with the Caretakers' explosives.

Pex pretends to betray the Doctor by telling Kroagnon where he is. Kroagnon suspects a trick but he goes along with Pex anyway, because by this stage he is supremely confident in his superior acting ability.

The Doctor tries to push Kroagnon into a hole in the wall, a callback to when the Doctor fell through it back in part two, but Kroagnon is too strong and his overacting too powerful for him to be pushed. Pex runs away at first but then manages to be brave and goes back to help the Doctor, knocking Kroagnon into the hole with the explosives but falling in himself as well.


Richard Briers has one last moment of overacting overkill (by this stage nobody can possibly be in any doubt that he is the winner) and then, just like that, it's all over. The story ends with peace in Paradise Towers.


Paradise Towers is a whisker away from being a good story, but in the end all the good bits that are in it are spoiled by Richard Briers playing the baddy about as wrong as he could have. In the end, nobody is left a winner by that.

The other actors are, for the most part, not outstanding, but they play their parts properly and don't let the show down. The exception to this is Howard Cooke as Pex, who is great and makes Pex a really sympathetic character. Scary Cat liked Pex a lot and, even though he is the bravest cat evar, he still managed to empathise with Pex trying to be brave when he was scared really. We were sad when Pex died but happy when, at the end, it says that PEX LIVES after all. Maybe he is a cat and has nine lives?



Paradise Towers contains a lot of good ideas in the writing. It is a satire on different kinds of mannys in the real world, such as the juvenile delinquent violent girl Kangs of the 1980s and '90s, the elderly mannys who are housebound Rezzies and may or may not be cannibals, and the bureaucracy-obsessed civil service Caretakers who do everything literally by the book. And then the plot is about what would happen to them if the mannys who do proper jobs and W-word for a living went away and left them at the mercy of their Hoovers. As you can see, this is a very clever idea for a story and not something Doctor Who had done before, so a big departure from the somewhat safe and formulaic nature of the previous story.

Paradise Towers has less obvious use for SFX than Time and the Rani, with most of its sci-fi setting being demonstrated in the sets themselves. While obviously not up to Hollywood movie standards, and unable to compete with the likes of Flash Gordon, Blade Runner, or Superman 3, they do the job they were designed for quite satisfactorily.

The most memorable aspect to Paradise Towers (in a good way, so not counting Richard Briers going way, way over the top) are the unique monsters: the Cleaners. They may not have the timeless, elegant design of the Daleks, but then they are not supposed to. These are not metaphors for the stylish and stylised Axis tanks, invading your country and exterminating your doods. They are boxy, cumbersome and noisy, and as such are scary not for what they look like but for what they can do... one moment they lie silently in the corner of the kitchen, then the next they roar into life and pursue you round and round the room, mew! And it can't be bargained with, and can't be reasoned with, and doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, evar, until you are NOMS!

Paradise Towers presents us with a terrifying world in which there are many Hoovers, clever enough to hunt in packs (several years before Jurassic Park would borrow that idea for its dinosaurs), and then shows us that the way to deal with them is to work together, all cats and doggys and bunnys and monkeys together, and then blow up the overacting Queen Hoover that lives in the basement controlling them.

At least I think that is the message of Paradise Towers.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Big Gay Longcat and Scary Cat review Doctor Who: Paradise Towers Part Three


Part three takes us into the second half of the story, and the Doctor, Mel and Pex are all separated, with the Doctor and Mel both in danger but facing different perils.

Mel is saved when a Cleaner's arm grabs Tabby and takes her away through the wall. Pex breaks in through the door (again) and rescues Mel as the Cleaner's arm grabs Tilda as well. They wanted to nom Mel but ended up getting nomed themselves, this is a form of poetic justice. Pex is happy at having really rescued somebody at last. He doesn't realise that this is the second time he has saved Mel from becoming noms.

So that the Red Kangs can escape, the Doctor stays behind and gets captured by the Deputy Chief Caretaker, who has a name that reminds me of Stevens from The Green Death Peele from The Sandbaggers. The Chief Caretaker wants to talk to the Doctor before killing him, as he is now not sure if the Doctor is really the Great Architect or not. His confidence has been shaken by the recent events and he feels he is losing control, which the Doctor picks up on as they have a confrontation scene.


"Like everyone else you seem terrified to face up to the reality of what's happening in Paradise Towers. I mean, killing me won't help you find out who's sending out those robotic Cleaners to kill people. And that's a problem that isn't going to go away, unless, of course, you're giving the orders yourself."
"What a ridiculous idea."
"Perhaps. But I do have a better one."
"And what is that?"
"No doubt you've been allowing the Cleaners to kill off some of your people as well as the Kangs, for reasons which are at the moment beyond me but then I'm not a power crazed psychopath."
"What did you say?"
"Listen, you're going to kill me anyway so you may as well make use of my brain. What I also think is happening is that, besides your activities, is that the Caretakers, the Kangs, Red, Yellow, Blue and everyone else are being killed off without instructions from you. And that's why you're worried. You don't know who's doing it."
"Oh, don't I?"

The Doctor has rattled him even more, causing Richard Briers to start overacting badly while the Doctor stays cool, and the Chief Caretaker is only saved by the other Caretakers interrupting with the news that Tilda and Tabby have been nomed, giving him an excuse to deal with something other than the Doctor. This is the opening skirmish in an acting battle between Sylvester McCoy and Richard Briers that will slowly but surely take over the rest of Paradise Towers, and while there can only be one winner, there will be many losers.

Richard Briers is quite good when being funny, such as when reassuring the residents that "there is no cause for panic" and "there will be no cover up, no cover up whatsoever" in a not-at-all convincing manner. But he is not good at playing the serious side of the story - the character needs to be sinister to work dramatically, but he is too... sitcommy.

The Red Kangs rescue the Doctor while the Chief Caretaker is away and go back to their base, where they watch a video about Paradise Towers and from it the Doctor finds out about Kroagnon and "Miracle City", which the Doctor has heard of before and so he knows Kroagnon is a baddy. He thinks Kroagnon is here, in Paradise Towers.

The Blue Kangs arrive in the Red Kangs base and say
and then they team up. The Doctor, Fire Escape, Bin Liner, Air Duct and one of the Blue Kangs (maybe their leader, I don't know if she has a name) all go to the basement to investigate.

Meanwhile, Mel and Pex have been busy being chased down carrydoors by Cleaners, getting stuck in lifts, and presenting baking themed TV programmes. These bits have just been padding though, they have not really helped advance the plot at all.


Now they go to the roof where there is a pool of water with a robot in it. Pex thinks this is where "the unalive" live and that they don't belong there, but this is obviously just some silly manny religious belief. Even though they are at the roof there is no sign of Ceiling Cat.

The Chief Caretaker gets chased to the basement by a Cleaner. The Doctor and the Kangs see the Chief Caretaker talking to his pet. At last all is made clear: who else could it be that lives in the basement and is in league with an army of Hoover-like Cleaners? It can only be... Basement Cat!

No, it is Kroagnon.

Kroagnon decides to nom the Chief Caretaker, and Richard Briers disappears in a moment of such incredible overacting that it is as if he is competing not with Sylvester McCoy but with Colin Baker and Paul Darrow in Timelash.


However, Sylvester McCoy is not to be written off yet, as the Doctor gets caught by a Cleaner and the episode ends on him overacting enough to match anything Briers has thrown at him.


Paradise Towers has started to go a bit wrong, and has been totally taken over by this contest between the Doctor and the Chief Caretaker. A last-second equaliser from McCoy sees this episode end on a draw. Who will win the war and, more importantly, will the story be irreparably damaged as a result? Find out next time...