copious shots of Leela in her leather bikini



TV The recent Doctor Who Special Editions in which archivist Andrew Pixley explains in minute detail the production and promotion schedule of the fifth series includes tantalising glimpses at scenes deleted from episodes for time. Most seem to have gone well over time, with some losing a whole fifteen minutes (about the cost of a third eye on a Silurian). There’s the lengthy conversation between the Doctor and Amy on the subject of her engagement to Rory, the meat of the romantic subplot with Vincent Van Gogh, more of Bracewell’s quest for humanity. Sadly, none of these scenes turned up on the eventual shiny disc release.

But true to form, for this franchise at least, said shiny disc does not have these riches but instead other jewels, two specially crafted new scenes, collectively labelled Meanwhile in the TARDIS, meant to plug the gap between what’s left of the televised adventures. Such endevours are the foundations that spin-off fiction and canonicity debates are built on. A whole industry has sprung up from explaining why the fifth Doctor and Peri look quite so comfortable with each other in The Caves of Androzani having only apparently just met in Planet of Fire and giving the Sixth Doctor and Mel more stories than you’d ever want to have anything to do with (Body swapping?  Really?).

Shot during the production block that covered Vampires of Venice and Vincent and the Doctor and directed by Euros Lynn (when oh when will he return to the main series?), what’s especially interesting about these examples, despite 2Entertain’s apparent desperation to offer “something genuinely exclusive” (Pixley, 2010: 96), is that they deliberately deepen the experience of watching the fifth season back again. Yet the content is also a reminder of how far the show has come that Steven Moffat didn’t feel the need to include these plot points in the episodes proper. That he didn’t need to.

The first, set between The Eleventh Hour and The Beast Below is an FAQ in the TARDIS and somewhat the nature of the timelord, with Amy babbling the questions (in a way that reminds me of Catherine Tate’s Donna at her most verbose) and the Doctor providing the inexplicable answers. In his era, Russell T Davies included similar moments for each of his companions in various configurations, the most blatant for obvious reasons in Rose, the chat outside the TARDIS at the edge of the Thames and “Lots of planets have a North” and before that the various info dumps that threaded through the TV Movie with the Pertwee logo.

What was startling on first watching this is that I didn’t notice that these scenes hadn’t re-appeared in the fifth season, that Amy had just accepted the nature of the blue box, the Doctor’s alieness. It’s as though with so many years of seeing this conversation, these questions, I’d subliminally filled in the gaps. So at no point did I wonder exactly why Amy hadn’t even asked what a police box was, let alone why anyone would choose it as the outer shell of their magical spaceship. If the owner was being deliberately on the nose and self-aware they’d just as well make it look like a wardrobe or set it to random (though as we saw in Attack of the Cybermen with all the Colin’s organ playing that might not be such a good idea).

Except for all the talk of the exterior of the ship, Moffat does not include a cutaway, there’s no establishing shot of Gilbert MacKenzie Trench’s brainchild floating in the time vortex and it’s not missed. Through seeing the thing on television every Saturday and hundred other pieces of merchandise while Amy asks exactly what a police box is, we have it in our minds eye, especially since, because Pond is in her pyjamas throughout we have the anticipation of seeing how she ended up floating in space at the start of The Beast Below. Something of a contrast to the opening scenes of the TV Movie with the Pertwee logo which was widely criticised because the US audience wouldn’t necessarily know that the old man eating jelly babies in a cathedral like space was inside that floaty blue box.

The scene is beautifully directed. This isn’t the first moment Amy has entered the TARDIS, that was at the climax of The Eleventh Hour, yet it begins on a close-up of the same look of wonder Barbara had when she first stepped into the inexplicably big interior in An Unearthly Child, with the camera pulling back to reveal the immense interior of the ship. Matt and Karen are forever moving around that console, forever interacting physically. At this point in the schedule the actors have become comfortable with one another, and the director takes advantage of this to demonstrate the characters are slowly getting used to each other which feeds the detail in the script of Amy trying to work out if the Doctor is even properly a humanoid or hiding his own tiny appearance.

The second scene, wedged between Flesh and Stone and The Vampires of Venice offers more complex emotional ground as like Rose in School Reunion, Amy discovers that she isn’t the first and won’t be the last of the Doctor's companions. Unlike that second season episode which also saw the return of Sarah Jane Smith, which also dealt with the horror of the ones that have been left behind as the Doctor lives ever onward, this revelation is played for laughs as Amy is presented with the stead stream of nubile young Eliza Doolittles the timelord has travelled about with across the years, the TARDIS jealously offering revenge for having to watch the apparently closeted Doctor not noticing the attentions of his serial best friends.

Moffat’s able to bring humour to the revelation because unlike Nine and Ten's chaste relationship with Rose, this takes place in the aftermath of Amy literally throwing herself at Eleven on the eve of her wedding. The scene opens with a slow pan up Karen’s long legs to her short skirt and come hither pout but Lynn doesn’t cut to the Doctor’s reaction which from a Mulveyan point of view should nullify her symbolism as a sex object (no doubt pleasing the Daily Mail if not Daily Mail online). What we’re about here is a discussion of why the Doctor hasn’t properly taken advantage of any of these serial best friends (at least not in the fiction of the series), why he’s loved them without being “in love” with them (however arguable that is in the case of Charley and Rose).

Moffat’s answer, which adds to Donna Noble’s suggestion in The Runaway Bride that he needs someone to “stop him” (little did she know it would turn out to be her) shows how far the show has come since Pertwee’s silent Bessie off in to dusk. The idea that the companion is the Doctor’s prism for seeing the universe was I think first muted in the spin-off novels whose textual real estate allowed for such philosophical thoughts. And the argument there was even more complex than that with the suggestion that he also needs his companions to be witnesses to his good deeds that without them he simply fall into myth or become an unheard tree falling in a forest. Which might explain why his choice of friends can sometimes be a bit suspect and he chooses to share his gifts with people the rest of us would cross the road/pub/supermarket to avoid.

There is something rather refreshing about Amy seeing the publicity photos for all of his previous companions with room for Polly, Victoria, both Romanas, Barbara, Peri and copious shots of Leela in her leather bikini (perhaps Sam, Anji, Charley, Lucie, Erimen, Benny and Izzy are all on screen during the robot dog cutaway) and not offering jealousy as her first reaction. Some suggested that it's unrealistic that Amy would want to throw herself at the Doctor with Rory enjoying his stag night, that it makes her seem at best heartless at worse the kind of insult which can lead you to resign or be sacked from Sky Sports but I think she’s simply experience the kind of distracted personality that you can develop when led into extraordinary circumstances.

That’s perhaps one of the reasons Amy wasn’t universally liked in the fifth season but both of these scenes suggest another. Unlike the main series, where the viewpoint character is the Doctor and Amy as well as companion is part of a larger mystery he’s trying to solve, in these scenes, she’s back in the companion's traditional position of being the viewer’s eyes and ears again asking the questions we want answered and is somehow more immediately likeable because of it. My suspicion has been (born out by Pixley companion) that the very best of Amy’s character, the tiny moments in which she might have connected better with the audience were lost. A typical example is Cold Blood in which the episode was restructured away from Amy discovering the city beneath the Earth to the Doctor instead.

With such short episode durations and the drive back toward plot based series and fantasy adventures, there simply isn’t the time for these kinds of Tardis scenes which is presumably why they are being created as deleted scenes. But there’s no denying that some of the best moments, the ones which resonate with us audience members are those which ruminate on the situation the companions find themselves in. For all the big moral choice at the heart of Parting of the Ways, the beat I always return to is the one in which Jackie Tyler cautions her daughter not to spend too much time travelling because she might lose a sense of who she is. Similarly that notorious lost scene from The Hungry Earth might have been the best thing about that episode had it survived.

But my favourite line from either of these new scenes? “Gandalf. Space Gandalf.” It’s again played for laughs and he’s using it to deflect the idea of being a Casanova figure to a cuddly bearded sorcerer with a lightsaber (Obi-Wan presumably) but the level of intertextuality at play here is wonderful, because if you steep yourself in the kind of folklore I played with at university, with reference to the trickster (no not that one) who most popularly expresses itself in Merlin (no not that one) which Tolkein used as the mythological basis for Gandalf, if the late 80s story Battlefield is anything to go by the Doctor isn’t lying or being sarcastic. He really is a space Gandalf or eventually will be since his regeneration into the Arthurian derivation is in his future, concepts would would later be explored in spin-offs. Doctor Who – the franchise that enjoys filling in the gaps.

No comments:

Post a comment