Osskah (Short Trips: Snapshots).

Audio Gary Owen's Snapshot is redolent of the Parliament of Birds sequence in Paul Magrs' The Scarlett Empress. The TARDIS crash lands on a planet and the Doctor falls in with the local sentient bird life. He spends a pleasant evening with their leader, Osskah Lonsgpan, swapping stories and providing some emergency care. It's told from the bird's point of view and his language, the Doctor's behaviour and words translated through Osskah's perception.  The Time Lord only ever referred to as Specific-healer.  It's a short piece, but delightful, packing at least two epic narratives, one for each character although there's one moment from the Doctor which seems surprisingly absent minded and callus, with shades of season 8's more alien Twelfth Doctor in his attitude.  Trivia question: Is this the same Gary Owen whose partner is sometime nuWho script editor and writer Helen Raynor, and co-wrote Baker Boys?
Placement:  The Greenpeace Gap.  The Doctor still feels like he's trying to reconnect with his mission and the slightly out of character moment could be explained if it happened in his previous incarnation.

Describe your most recent kiss.

642 No.

Describe your first kiss.

642 Deep breath. Fifteen years ago this was a mix of personal blog and links. If you have the relevant equipment to carry out a geophysical enquiry, you'll find all kinds of artifacts buried in the early noughties but there are some stories which you won't find interred even there either because the incidents were too fresh, or I had a sense of shame or just simply because I wanted to keep them to myself. Well, I'm 43 years old and even though my anxiety is bubbling away quite a bit tonight, I thought it was time to actually put this into words.  For most of you this probably come across as pretty unremarkable.  But it's still been one of those things which I've never really talked about and couldn't.

My first kiss happened in my early twenties.  Despite many crushes at school and through university and plenty of people I would dearly have loved to kiss, either I didn't have the courage or I valued a friendship more.  You can interpret what else that says about me.  There are a couple of occasions at university when I think it might have potentially happened but either I didn't see the signals (see previous post) or I did see the signals and freaked out.  Being an only child, being generally nerdy and going to an all boys school, my  sexual education amounted to television and films and whatever biology we were taught at school.  I couldn't really even talk to girls through most of my teens even on the off chance that I actually met one of you.  If our all boys school hadn't admitted girls into the sixth form, might not still be able to.

But I'm delaying the inevitable so here it is.  It was one night, possibly a Friday in 1996 or 7 at a friend's university student union on a night out with some of his class mates or his girlfriend's classmates, my memory is vague on this point as it is with so much of what happened.  I was drunk, which wasn't hard back then.  Having also not bought a beer until a year before, a bottle of Budweiser at a Jazz Festival (!), I didn't have a tolerance so could well have only had just a couple of pints.  Somehow, probably because we happened to be sitting next to each other, I was talking to a woman who's face I think was round?  She had short dark hair, possibly, and we were getting on well.  In my drunken memory she was laughing at my jokes and I was laughing at hers.  We were flirting.

We kissed.  I think it was mutual.  She was drunk too.  I also remember her saying something like "that was forward" and giggling.  I remember the taste, she smoked and I could taste that.  It was open mouth too.  Lasted no longer than a few seconds.  But I also remember feeling awkward afterwards, remorseful.  Soon afterwards we moved to the downstairs bar and she didn't sit with me there, she stood around the table from me talking to one of her male friends.  I think I went to the toilet shortly afterwards and by the time I'd returned half the group had gone, including her.  I never saw her again, that I know of.  If I ever knew her name, I don't now.  Twenty years on, I barely remember what she looked like.  For some reason, I think she might have been wearing a hat, like the one Kylie has on the cover of the Never Too Late single.

I'd like to say that my first kiss was with someone I loved, that was passionate and brimming with fulfilled longing, like so many first kisses I've seen in films.  But instead, I've always had this nagging sense of shame, of not being able to remember the details, doubting my own behaviour, who initiated what.  Within a couple of years I stopped drinking alcohol almost completely, not liking the version of me I became when drunk, the needless sarcasm, the tendency to let my mouth run off with itself.  It would be incorrect of me to say that this experience didn't contribute as well.  If I hadn't been drunk there might not have been this kiss, but equally if I hadn't been drunk I would be able to remember a damn thing about it.  I have vivid memories of whole evenings at that time, but this milestone is obscured by dirt, moss and mist.

Having written this do I feel better about it?  No.  It's going to take all my courage to click Blogger's publish button.  I wonder what you'll think of me which is strange because most of you are near total strangers.  Like I said above, this is probably an unremarkable story and I'm making far too much of this, but if you have an ego, you cultivate a version of yourself which you present to the world and are afraid of talking about something which contravenes that image.  I am 43 years old and I do need to put some things to rest and perhaps posting it up here will help.  Let's see how long it stays up before I hyperventilate and decide that this has all been some terrible mistake.  It's happened before ...

Think about your weirdest family member and write on short scene that depicts why he or she is such an oddball.



STUART, a slightly boring, non-descript man in his early forties is getting read for work.

He puts his hand in the sock drawer and pulls out two SOCKS from the mess inside. 

One is bright yellow, the other bright blue.

He puts them on each foot.

Without a second thought he then glances around the floor for his shoes.

They're not there. 

STUART leaves the room and commences the hunt.

Write about a time you broke: A promise.

642 "I promise I'll try." Ever since I saw this suggestion on the horizon, or rather page, I've been trying to think of a specific occasion when I've broken a promise, but I've come up naught. This isn't some attempt at implicating myself as a virtuous person, it's just that I don't make promises because if you make promises you have to keep them and you really shouldn't make promises unless you're a hundred and five percent sure that you can keep them.  There'll probably be occasions when I've said I promise, "I promise I'll remember to put bleach down the toilet at bedtime" but even if I then subsequently do forget, I'm not sure it really matters.  Plus I tend to remember.  Also it would be weak sauce for a blog post.

Then I realised that "I promise I'll try" exists and has been deployed far too much by me over the years, entirely to my own detriment.  Despite being an extrovert in some ways, in most other respects across the years I've been socially awkward and entertained a fairly low self esteem.  Partly that was due to being an only child who spent a lot of time playing Chuckie Egg and watching Moonlighting rather than playing out, being bullied a lot at school and overweight most of my life.  Whenever anyone did pay attention to me, or seemed to be a friend, it was always with an imaginary asterisk which suggested that the friendship only existed until someone better came along.  Which they frequently did and I'd find myself being pushed to the side.

Because of that, I'd always wonder exactly what it was that I did which led people to not invite me to that night out or decide not to sit next to me in class.  For years I had a friend who had also had a wider social circle also knew through school and regular quiz nights  and the like who also knew me, and he'd go out with them, even initiate social events, but not invite me.  Then he'd tell me all about what happened the next time we saw each other (the two of us would still go for drinks) and when I subtly indicated I was free and could have gone, he'd suggest that it was "very last minute" or "I didn't think you'd be interested" as though I didn't have the ability to drop everything at the last minute (I did) or a general curiosity about everything.

When this sort of thing happens (and it happened enough with him to become a pattern) it feeds into your social anxiety which leads you into a paradoxical state of wanting to make friends but not wanting potential friends to find you out, discover whatever personality flaw you have which has led people to keep you at arms length (even if, as I've come to realise, the flaw is imaginary) and so let the cycle begin again of finding yourself uninvited to social events, ignored or made to feel less than important.  Although for various reasons, on occasion, I know I've kept people at arms length myself for various reasons but that's just part of the spiraling self-destructive strategy which leads to "I promise I'll try".

"I promise I'll try" is what happens when you're invited to social events and although there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't go and there's a possibility that you might enjoy yourself but the whole thing of it, the process seems so huge that you just can't be bothered dealing with it.  You imagine that it'll be like those other occasions when you've attended parties, only really known the host and found yourself sitting at the very end of the table looking into space half listening to in-jokes, sat trying to look interested in a person's cd collection at a house party or wandering around a crowd of people who all seem to know each other without the guts to simply join one of the conversations because you don't want to interrupt or have them think you're strange for doing so.

So you'll be asked, "Would you like to come to this thing, it would be great to see you..." and you'll answer "I promise I'll try" even though you have no intention of going.  Of course in these sentences, "you'll" actually means "I'll".  Sometimes it has been because whatever they're proposing does sound horrendous for whatever reason but most likely it's because of all the images expressed in the previous paragraph and I simply don't want to be stuck in those situations again.  The fact that many of those situations are due to my own low self esteem and that I can't imagine why these people's lives would be enriched by my existence is ignored in this social spiral.  They like me now, they have this image of me now, I don't want to be constantly thinking that I could ruin that.

Of course, what ultimately happens is that people stop asking because of course they would and should.  If someone says no to them, and it is a no even though it has four words in it rather than two letters, and says it enough times, they'll assume that it's because the person isn't interested even though that couldn't be further from the truth.  I just want to be able to say "yes" on my own terms, for the resulting night out or party to be the opposite of the shit show I have playing in my head.  But I'm too afraid of that so "I promise I'll try" escapes from my lips even as I take all the details nonetheless even though the invitee already feels the preliminary senses of a brush off, knowing full well that I'll be sat at home that night watching FRIENDS.  Again.

Write about a time you broke: The law.

642 This post contains some law breaking. The above photograph above wasn't posted with the permission of the copyright holder, I just searched for a picture of movie Dredd on Google Images and grabbed this from an Ars Technica article.  Fair use doesn't come into play because it's not there for the purposes of criticism.  Saying that I wish the helmet wasn't quite so large probably doesn't count.  Perhaps if I recommend that you all go buy the Dredd film which is remarkably cheap right now on Amazon, it might count as a promotional usage, but I'm not sure.

Which is the problem with being online now.  We're all skirting on the edges of criminality, if not falling straight in.  YouTube is awash with material not uploaded by the original copyright holder and we've all watched it at some point.  It's impossible not to without incredible diligence.  Plus, given how protective corporations are of their material, its often assumed that there's a kind of approval that some of this material is out there.  The BBC often embeds third party videos of their own archive material on their own website.  What are we to make of that?

Write about a time you broke: A heart.

642 None that I know of, not really, and not on purpose. But that's the point isn't it? My relationship radar is so appalling I wouldn't have seen the signs to begin with. There's one occasion when I've realised that there might have been something there after the fact, months after I last spoke to the person, and that's probably for the best.  That was around twenty-five years ago.  Since then?  Haven't any idea.  Imagine if someone who reads this blog actually gets back to me and says, "Well ..." Shiver.

Remain in Light (Short Trips: Snapshots).

Prose The main theme of Snapshots is how the Doctor affects the lives of the incidental people he meets, those who witness his heroism. Remain in Light offers the first person recollections of Anton, who's staying at a friend of a friend's beach house and is startled when the Doctor calls him and asks him to retrieve a body bag from the beach containing an unconscious Lucie who he's then tasked with reviving. It's a killer opening which you could well imagine as a teaser in the Moffat era which then leads into neat little story about how some people seem to exist as myths and fairy tales and anecdotes rather than a real human being. One of the silent characters on The Archers, Nile's first wife Maris on Frasier or Tino in My So-Called Life.  Despite the brevity of the pagination, Eddie Robson captures the sense of place, Malibu in the 1980s superbly, aided by musical suggestions throughout as through he's constructing the soundtrack album for a film version.  On a couple of occasions, the lyrics of tracks subtly mirror the on page action without making it thuddingly obvious.    While reading, I asked Alexa to play each track as it was suggested and was amazed to discover a few songs which sound about as plausible as John Smith and the Common Men but are entirely real (and that the talking hockey-puck could understand what I was saying).  This was the first prose adventure for Lucie Miller and she's right there on the page - you can hear Sheridan voice behind every word, especially when the contemporary references come crashing in.  Also full marks for the Sugababes reference, Mr Robson, gold star.
Placement: Before The Young Lions in the slowly developing Short Trips mini-season.

Write about a time you broke: A bone.

642 Medically, I've been pretty lucky. Apart from this anxiety disorder which is dragging on, water infections, root canal and some rubella in my teens and many, many colds, the only occasions when I've needed to visit the hospital have been for a hernia operation and after a bully punched me in the face at school for some stitches.  Despite also having had my hand trapped in the door of a private hire taxi and a skidding motorbike knocking me over (after the rider was involved in a hit and run), none of my bones have broken.

What must it be like?  Shock followed by excruciating pain, I suppose, and in the very worst cases the ability to see something which is supposed to be supporting some vital physical function on the outside of the body.  With my disposition it would probably be the worst thing which has ever happened to me, as these things usually are, even though plenty of other people seem to take it in the their stride, at least after the event, even though some of them find it very difficult to take an actual stride then.  Rest assured if I am unlucky in the future, you'll hear about it.  A lot.

Tweet the story of your life.


Bafflement and Devotion (Doctor Who Magazine #289).

Prose It's March 2000, just under half way through the gap between the TV Movie and Rose and what many of us think of as the Eighth Doctor era. It's a year since I began reading Doctor Who Magazine regularly and I'm still generally baffled by anything written about the spin-off media, only really listening to the McGann audios amid catching up on the television stories. So this short piece of meta-fiction from Paul Magrs in which his creation Iris Wildthyme considers her own existence in relation to the Doctor would have passed me by as "interesting even though I don't understand much of it".  Now it's a fascinating glimpse into where the franchise was in that moment, optimistically ploughing forward away from television, servicing its diminishing fanbase but recently given a shot in the arm by the launch of Big Finish.  Meanwhile, DWM's in an unimpeachable phase, mixing articles consolidating the history of the programme, a comic strip at the peak of its powers (this issue has The Grateful Dead, part 3) with experimental pieces like this.  Iris and the Doctor are travelling on her bus shaped TARDIS to destination unknown, revealing through conversation elements of Magrs's own biography and how they relate to Iris as an entity and how she exists as a parody of the Doctor himself, experiencing unseen gender twists on his own adventures.  He's in his befuddled post The Ancestor Cell amnesiac version, slightly surprised to find memories of new adventures entering his mind as though these spin-off stories hadn't always "happened", that his own personal biography is in a constant state of flux within which Iris too has been inserted.  Amongst the new memories is Magrs's own Stones of Venice which shows this was written when everyone assumed the audios (and comics!) "happened" during the Greenpeace gap until that became blatantly absurd.  As always, we're reminded of how much of an influence Iris and Bernice Summerfield must have been on River Song.  Surely there has to be room in some future boxed set for three of them to meet up?
Placement: Because of the metafictional elements, I'm inclined to put this in the miscellany, so I will.

Now tweet the plot of the original Star Wars.


Phoenix (Indefinable Magic).

Prose Doctor Who does Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, pondering what might happen if that sort of book was granted sentience and went about trying to rewrite reality to reflect its contents. A perfect Short Trips concept, too small to sustain a novel but visually interesting enough that you would love to see it on screen.   The plotting is fairly simple, a bystander listening to the Doctor exposit on his foe before defeating it, but James Goss provides a few twists on the formula as he reveals the nature of the The Bestiary of Legendary and Magical Creatures and it's uncanny animals.   One of the features of Goss's writing is to misdirect his audience and take full advantage of the media within which he's working and arguably, despite what I said earlier, this story simply wouldn't work on audio or anything else.  Notably, for the purposes of this project, he has one of the adversaries seemingly allude obliquely to the Time War, as it was assumed to have happened when the book was published in 2009. 
Placement: Since it's ambiguous as to whether this is actually him, I've bunged it in "Almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the Eighth Doctor."

Boil down Hamlet, Shakespeare's longest play, to a tweet (140 characters).


Organism 96 (Tales of Terror).

Prose BBC Books's seasonal anthology publications continue with Tales of Terror, stories set in and around my birthday. Having done Christmas and Halloween now, perhaps they'll branch out into other holidays, although Big Finish already covered a few of those back in the day, not that most of us can afford to buy those collector's items now.  Organism 96 is Paul Magrs writing his first full on prose Eighth Doctor story in over a decade and it has everything you might expect from his stories.  A whimsical adversary born of mythology (albeit with a scientific origin), some hard core fan references and lashings of meta-fictional subtext.  The Doctor's enjoying a cruise when the ship takes on a passenger, an old lady, who isn't who she seems to be.  It's just the sort of simple premise which works well with these short trips.  The story's largely told from the point of view of a one off companion, Marie, one of the ship's entertainers, and is the sort of character who'd be played by a famous singer who can act or vis-versa in a television version.  Magrs's version of the Eighth Doctor is perfection.  Magrs was one of the key architects of the character back in the day (through his first novel about him The Scarlet Empress) and although this isn't some great continuity deep dive, this is very much the same man who originally appeared in those old novels.  So rare to find an Eighth Doctor story not set during the Time War now.  Superb. 
Placement:  My guess is pretty early, perhaps in the Greenpeace gap but it could be anywhere.  I've contacted Paul Magrs to see what he says [update: he "liked" the tweet so I'll leave it there].

Write last year's fortune cookie. It got everything right.

642 Everything else is horrible but you'll come out unscathed. Just keep your wits about you.

Write yesterday's fortune cookie. It got everything wrong.

642 You will be clear in focus, strong in argument and unflappably calm.

642 Tiny Things To Write About: Introduction.

About 642 Tiny Things To Write About is a book created by the San Francisco Writer's Grotto and contains six hundred and forty odd prompts for those who are short on inspiration for something to write about.

After spotting the book at the shop in the old John Rylands Library on Deansgate in Manchester, I realised it was just the thing I needed.

This blog has stagnated. I know. You only need to look at how monosyllabic the subject matter's been for the past few weeks to see that. Assuming I've even posted here at all.

Partly it's time. I'm not sat at my own computer half as much as I used to be, preferring to watch films or read or walking.  Lots and lots of walking, mainly to work and back.  Oh and working.  A lot.

Health.  The anxiety ebbs and flows and I'm currently in a bit of an ebb.

But it's also inspiration.  I'm feeling a bit drowned out, with so many other voices with a clearer message or indeed point making me feel a bit irrelevant.

So to try and get my brain cells firing again, I'm going to work my way through all six hundred and forty two prompts and post the results on here.  Daily.  That should be good for at least two year's worth of content.

Let's see how this goes.


TV Yes, indeed:

Bloody love everything about this, from the multi-coloured highlights across the t-shirt and coat to the boots to the piercings. It feels contemporary and old fashioned and above all alien.  Also, my fear was that the tradition "Edwardian" idea would have been carried over from her male incarnations and Jodie would have been stuck in a ball gown.  Of course the re-design of her new TARDIS is an abomination, but you can't have everything.

Dead Man's Hands (IDW Graphic Novel).

Comics A cursory glance through this volume might suggest that Eighth appears throughout. But the floppy haired gentleman is Oscar Wilde, pitched up in the town of Deadwood in the Old West, as a zombie Wild Bill Hickock is threatening the local townspeople, with Calamity Jane convinced that he's not himself.  It's the mother of all celebrity historicals, with Thomas Eddison also appearing for good measure.  As Eleventh Doctor comics stories go it's an entertaining romp, capturing his and Clara's essences superbly and writer Tony Lee navigates the Doctor's usual opposition to fire arms in a place where everyone carries them more successfully than in tv's A Town Called Mercy.  Wilde at some point ends up borrowing Eighth's clothes, so imagine my disappointment on reading the story properly to discover that the "real thing", although not actually, only appears on two panels during a matrix projection sequences deflecting the blame for the Time War:  "I wasn't the cause of the Time War!" he says, "You can't place that weight on my shoulders.  You don't understand.  You can't understand.  What I had to do ... I did everything in my power ..." Cue sideways glance to the War Doctor (who has nothing to say for himself).  Interestingly, despite the 2013 publication date, Mike Collins depicts him in his TV Movie form.  This was the final run of stories before IDW lost their license to produce the Who comics, so they decided to mark the occasion with cameos from all his previous incarnations, albeit in digital form.
Placement: "Almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the Eighth Doctor"

Supremacy of the Cybermen: Prologue (Titan Comics)

Comics This is a single page fragment of narrative tucked in at the back of fourth issue of Titan's Fourth Doctor limited series, Gaze of the Medusa. He's back and it's £2.39 - which considering the £7 odd pounds The Lost Magic audiobook cost for his not real appearance across about ten words still isn't the most expensive cameo I've witnessed this week. In what looks like a homage to now apocryphal Bill Potts preview Friend from the Future, Eighth and his comics companion Josie enter a random corridor and a cliffhanger which finds them confronted with Cybermen who seem to want their help. It's an interesting enough moment that you'd want to read what happens next but maddeningly, according to the TARDIS Datacore, Eighth doesn't appear in the ensuing event series, an effort which does however find room for Melanie Bush and Rassilon.  I can see that this is supposed to be just a cute bit of marketing, but if I hadn't been paying attention I might have headed off into the main series on the expectation this would be explained there but been disappointed.  Plus it's just another tease that we might get more Eighth and Josie stories in the future.  Perhaps, for the purposes of this project the most notable element is that the artist Lee Sullivan also drew some of Eighth's earliest comics adventures in Radio Times twenty-years ago, the first story of which also featured the Cybermen and there's something of his approach to drawing them in evidence here.  Placement: Before The Lost Dimension cameo.  I'll stick to the publication order.

The Lost Dimension #8 (Titan Comics).

Comics Titan's Doctor Who output is largely a mystery to me. I see them on the shelf in Forbidden Planet, dozens of stories starring recent and older Doctors and with everything else in which
 my disposable income is otherwise invested tend to leave them there. The covers seem to indicate that they're continuity heavy, with numerous multi-Doctor stories and cameos from the show's recent history which I tend to prefer in small doses.  Much like Big Finish, I've decided to keep to the Eighth Doctor contributions and dip into the rest, so here we are with his cameo at the close of a many issue event which features 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th, their respective comic companions, his biodump daughter Jenny Who and everyone else you might imagine.  Probably much like trying to dip into Game of Thrones in the middle of the third season, there are too many new characters to really get a handle on, but there's some rather lovely artwork and writing of the respective incarnations.  Eighth has little more than an extended cameo, volunteering to defend the collected companions of the various Doctors while they're off saving the universe.  It's the Time War incarnation and his comics companion Josie appears, wondering why the Ninth Doctor knows her name.  Although he provides some vital exposition at an important moment, Eighth's participation largely amounts to him standing around making presentational hand gestures and giving someone I assume to be Kate Stewart a hug.  Hopefully this won't be the final outing for this version of the TARDIS team.  Placement: After the Titan Comics series, I guess.

The Lost Magic (Twelfth Doctor Audio Original).

Audio Being an Eighth Doctor completist does take you to some strange places. The Lost Magic is the third installment of a four part arc across four audiobook cds featuring Twelfth and a couple of teenage companions from the United States co-written by George Mann and the author of this installment Cavin Scott. It's a quasi-historical set on the eve of the Spanish Armada in which the Doctor investigates why the astrologist John Dee knows High Gallifreyan and is "inventing" anachronistic technology years before it should exist.  Given everything, I think you can probably guess what kind of entity it might be.  The area around Plymouth is wracked by time winds and Eighth cameo happens when the Doctor finds himself at the epicenter of a storm which forces him to degenerate backwards through his incarnations.  Here's a transcript of Eighth's entire cameo:  "Another flash and he was young, long hair flowing freely in the wind: "Need to win back control."  Back in the day, there was a (probably) made-up rumour that one of the Christmas specials would feature just such a storyline with Tennant and McGann playing through large portions of the action.  If only.  Clearly this doesn't really count as an Eighth Doctor adventure.  He still has all the Time Lord's experiences and memories through to Twelfth, so although he looks like him and talks like him (I suppose), it's not really him.  But like I said, being an Eighth Doctor completist does take you to some strange places.  The real star of the cd is Dan Starkey, an expert and exciting reader who's rendering of some of the Doctors is extraordinary.  But much like Fraser and Pat, Dan's imitation of Peter is eerie in places, exactly the right area of whichever planet his Scottish accent is from.  If only he'd managed to sneak in a "Don’t forget to click below to subscribe to the Official Doctor Who YouTube channel."
Placement:  New category!  "Almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the Eighth Doctor".