Doctor Who: things you can't unsee

Feature Andrew Blair 3 Jul 2013 - 07:00
Matt Smith

Time for a bit of Who-related silliness now, as Andrew lists the things that, once spotted in an episode, you won't be able to ignore...

The other day someone pointed out to me that Matt Smith has no eyebrows. 

As a seasoned professional, I immediately did some research. Turns out he has quantum locks – sometimes they are there,  sometimes they are mysteriously absent, and sometimes they are sort of there but ghostly, like his lower forehead's being haunted by caterpillar spirits. 

Then, that weekend, it was all I could see during Nightmare in Silver. I couldn't tell you anything about the episode other than there were lots of Matt Smiths and I kept staring at the void where his eyebrows should be, were, and sort-of-were-if-you-squinted. Consequently I had to use Twitter as a barometer for the episode's quality. Some seemed to think it was less fun than watching a kitten being ironed, but none of the thousands of helpful mini-reviews mentioned Matt Smith's eyebrows. Turns out Tumblr has already made a big deal out of this anyway and I've just been out of the loop. Curses. 

So, as nothing more than a petty revenge against humankind, I've listed more things for folk to notice so hard and so fast they forget where they are or what episode they're watching. I'm a simple man, let's start with a classic:

5. The Master's Musical Staircase


The Death Zone on Gallifrey. It looked suspiciously like bits of Wales before looking suspiciously like bits of Wales was cool. What a hipster. Anyhow, it is introduced to us in a series of moody shots with a blaring synth-brass motif that effectively sets the appropriate tone of fear and dread. At its centre is the Tomb of Rassilon – in the Tower of Rassilon - where players of the Game of Rassilon are heading for. 

The Master is there too, because it's the Twentieth Anniversary story The Five Doctors, and you've got to have the Master, haven't you? He's having a mixed time of things, losing his teleportation device and clubbing the seal of the High Council, but making Cybermen neigh themselves to death on chessboards. Swings and roundabouts. Also, it is he rather than the Daleks who come a cropper courtesy of a staircase. 

Not content with an ambiguous squeaking noise (did it come from the wooden set, or did it come from a suppressed renegade bumgust?), the Anthony Ainley incarnation of the Master's camp value is forever set to Stun as he descends the stairs in perfect time to the jaunty accompanying score. Soon you too will be scampering down steps humming prime cuts of Peter Howell as you go. Any descent that remains unaccompanied will leave you bereft. You'll need cheering up. Time for some slapstick.


4. Falling Down/A Brief History of Split Trousers


If there is an aspect of Doctor Who that remains unappreciated, it is the Art of Falling Acting. The key thing is NOT TO FALL. I can't stress that enough. They key is to act like you're falling - irrespective of whether you've just slipped on your own shoelaces or been bested in combat by some rascal with an Impulse Laser - but not to actually fall. You too can indulge in the Art of Falling Acting in the comfort of your own hovel using these simple tips: 

A. Squat down gently as if you're not sure the floor's safe.

B. Slowly slump sideways. Time is not of the essence.

C. Fold yourself foetal at a speed that makes passers by assume you're a time-lapse photograph. The important things is that you are comfortable.

D. Relax. Breathe as conspicuously as possible, especially if you are meant to be dead. 

Occasionally, we hit the mother lode, and someone reclines so awkwardly that their trousers fall apart. Doctor Who's golden era for pant-splitting mayhem was undoubtedly Season 17. Not only do we have the Mandrels' wearing long-johns beneath their scales, but the stompy, shouty, 'WEAKLING SCUM!' bellowing pilot in The Horns of Nimon manages to make his death scene very undignified by doing some textbook Doctor Who Falling Acting and showing us the stitching has gone on his trousers. 

Still, it was a time of heavy inflation, budgets were tight, and no-one watches Doctor Who just for the craic.


3. Homo Reptilia vs Recreational Drug Use


While Nightmare on Eden might be unflinching in its anti-drugs message, a more subtle condemnation of the effects of marijuana comes in Season 21's Warriors of the Deep, where every single enemy combatant appears to be operating at two fifths of the speed of the human characters. The Silurians' introductory scene features dialogue delivered in the style of a particularly sluggish grindstone, or an old computer game that's having trouble loading. In a gripping scene, it later takes about five seconds for one of the Noble Silurian Triad to reach down and press a button. We then see the Sea Devils attacking an undersea base at the speed of moss. Finally, we have the Myrka with its little goatee beard and unfortunate reaction to bright lights, staggering along the corridors in search for some munchies. Kids, Warriors of the Deep is saying, look at these obviously high Doctor Who monsters. You want them to be scary and to carry a remotely potent threat, don't you? Well they can't if they're this far gone. Say no to drugs. 

There should have been another way. If only the Doctor had had some Jaffa Cakes in his coat pocket.


2. Eighties Cybermen Were a Bit Blokey


Earthshock may also feature a member of the production team in the background of several shots, but it also features a scene which is harder for Cyber-purists to explain away. When the gungest of the gung ho, Captain Shouty Moustache, is ready to zap a pair of Cybermen into oblivion, he uses his army training to wait for the optimum moment and mount a surprise attack. The optimum moment, in this case, is when the two Cybermen are mid-conversation, and gesturing like sloppy Eastenders extras trying to pull focus in a pub scene. 

We will never know what they were talking about, because they are then shot by Shouty Moustache and Tegan. Still, for one very wrong moment, we caught a glimpse into the tedious monotony of being a ruthless, implacable logic-driven cyborg, and how it's good to break it up with conversations with your fellow homogeneous nightmare along the lines of 'The trouble with Arsenal is that they try to walk it in,' and 'Did you see that ludicrous display last night?' 

See also: Attack of the Cybermen. After making the endearingly stupid decision to leave the Doctor in a room with exactly the right amount of explosives, the Cybermen who discovers that doom awaits them all indicates this atypically for an emotionless relic of humanity, and makes a motion to his colleague as if to say 'Oh corks, it's a bomb. Leg it Derek!'


1. The Eighth Doctor Loves Falling Off Stuff


I haven't read all the Eighth Doctor books, or heard all of Paul McGann's Big Finish work, but I do know this: the stories I have experienced are very keen to feature the Eighth Doctor propelling himself downwards through a variety of means. 

In his one TV outings, he and Grace abseil down the Institute of Technological Research and Advancement. 

In the only New Adventure to feature the Eighth Doctor, he escapes an exploding Ice Warrior spaceship ten kilometres above London by cleverly being thrown out of the cargo bay. 

In a Big Finish series finale, he goes a bit Reichenbach Falls on our asses. 

In the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip, he falls into a living sun because an ambiguous robot gave him a shove. 

In the BBC Book Range, he is last seen jumping into the Vore hive to save the Earth. These are but a few of the many examples you will find of the Eighth Doctor getting knocked over, spilled, or pushed off of spaceships. Maybe one day someone will write a definitive list. It's the reason to  join Tumblr that I've been waiting for.

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Disqus - noscript

There's a droning light airplane clearly circling the eponymous Colony in Space for most of one of the episodes. Once heard, always heard.

Ah, yes, things once seen, then always forgotten ...

Bearing in mind that he's clearly the people's choice for the role of the 12th Doctor (when I say people I mean me), I'd like to add to this list the fact that once pointed out you will never be able to unsee that Andrew Scott looks a lot like the love child of Ant & Dec...

No mention of the massive bogey Tom Baker has in The Keeper Of Traken?

And just seconds after that Warriors of the Deep photo, the Sea Devils slooooowly amble off, swaying alarmingly from side to side...

Here's one - in The Deadly Assassin, watch Angus MacKay's otherwise rather good performance of Borusa get totally sidelined when you notice the furious amounts of blinking he's doing in almost every scene as he's furiously trying to remember his lines.

As if there isn't enough hammy acting in Doctor Who, you promote Andrew Scott on EVERY SINGLE Who post. Seriously, this is getting disturbing now.

He's consistant I'll give him that

I honestly feel he'd be great in the role, not hammy at all, and I don't think there's a great deal of hammy acting in Doctor Who nowadays either. But each to their own....

I always loved the stage hand giving a rather camp "oooh" as a Cyberman is battered around the head in Tomb of the Cybermen (I think it's near the start of Episode 3).

There is now.

I could NOT take him seriously as Moriarty. He seemed to be screaming for a cape and a moustache to twirl during every scene. I know I'm in the minority on this one, but he was far and away the worst thing about Sherlock for me. There was no subtlety to his interpretation of the character, and I'd be concerned that he would bring that same ham-fisted, over-the-top approach to The Doctor.
I WILL retract my previous statement about the quality of acting in Doctor Who nowadays, though. It is much better than it used to be, and I mentioned it because my concern is that it would revert to that with Andrew Scott.

I'm not convinced I'd Andrew Scott, but I wouldn't be horrified either. His first appearance in Sherlock was goddawful (having said that, I wonder whether inadequate communication was the problem; it was magnified by his performance being out of place with the rest of the episode). But I thought his 2nd appearance was rather good, which I put down to either:

(a) he may have improved dramatically since the 1st episode (possible - he would have had about 6 months to take the complaints on board, so he may have deliberately toned it down); or

(b) He found it a lot easier the 2nd time around when he'd had a chance to see the first season's episodes and get a feel for the show; or

(c) It was more a problem with editing/directing than his acting (just see how many very solid actors were turned into ham by Doctor Who's ridiculous idea this season of eliminating 2-parters regardless of the amount of the script, after already cutting 15 minutes off the runtime to fit US tv).

There's a fine line between over the top acting and believable psychotic performance and I think he nailed the part of moriarty completely and he'd be a good solid choice as the doctor.

I know you pointed it out before but after looking at the picture he really really does look like them both.

We've all seen it in the cop shows. First the letters start, the attempts to convince others, then the bodies start being discovered and before you know it the fuzz are kicking in the door and finding scary Andrew Scott shrines.

Tell us please RichieC... are you a serial killer with an Andrew Scott obsession?

And I would've got away with it if it wasn't for those pesky kids...

No shrines here, can't help thinking about that Alan Partridge episode 'To Kill A Mocking Alan'. Honestly Guv, I'm no Jed!

Couldn't agree more.

I guess that's where my opinion is different to the majority (not saying I'm right/you're wrong, just my personal interpretation). I find his characterisation to be too one-dimensional. Moriarty (to me) should be portrayed with much more depth. Psychopathy and self-control are not mutually exclusive, and Scott seemed to ignore this in favour of the jovial/screaming cliched interpretation of a "psychopath". He's really supposed to be the mirror of Holmes in many ways. That doesn't make him a swivel-eyed loon, foaming at the mouth one second and dance on the spot the next. It was all a bit "early stage school" for me. But I reiterate that it's simply my opinion and I'm not arguing, simply voicing it.

You can't see it but I hear it and picture it so how about Adric throwing up behind the tree in Castrolvalva then coming back in to view looking really hungover?

Sacrilege! everybody knows that classic Who was perfect...

This is a mean article.

Ha - this is a great article.

Cracking job, Andrew.

Azrael, you seem to have imagined the circumstances where a) Andrew Scott's Moriarty was badly received by the general public at first and b) Doctor Who had regular hour long episodes.

This is getting a bit creepy and psychotic, RichieC. It might be time to give it up.

Ah, a great game to play.

We did the same thing with Buffy the Vampire slayer tv series. In the mid-to-later seasons, you can tell when Buffy is ready to get into a fight because she is wearing an oversized jacket, which means it is time for the "physical-opposite-to-Sara-Michelle-Geller" stunt woman will be replacing her any second!

RichieC Don't listen to them. I appreciate your commitment and I think your comments are very funny.

Long time lurker of denofgeek. Always enjoy reading the disqus comments, some funny stuff.
I'll back Andrew Scott for Doctor Who. Best alternative name I've read mentioned yet.

Yes, it was funny the first 25 times for it's just tiresome!


No more tiresome than the love given to Jason Statham.

Who's posting incessantly about Jason Statham love? No-one that I know of.

Type his name into the search box above, if Jason Statham farts denofgeek report on it. They have real man love for him. Mind you, I find it funny.

Didn't he win a Bafta for Moriarty?

I tell you something 'once seen never forgotten' in Doctor Who. My mate Julian is an extra. He plays the cameraman with ginger hair taking snaps in 'Rise of the Cybermen'. He gets fragmentized by a Cyberman. Ruins the entire episode. 'Oh Look! There's Julian!' we all chorus whenever it is on.

One I've always found amusing is the fact that the hands on the Robots of Death are very clearly Marigold gloves when seen in close-up.

He's only an "alternative" name because for some reason most media reports have overlooked him. Which in itself could be seen as suspicious...

My favourite is from 'Terror of the Autons' where the troll doll Auton is clearly "cued" just before he runs out to kill Farrell Snr. Whenever I see it I say "cue monster!"

It all its years I've never seen anything as stupidly awful and as awfully stupid on Doctor Who as when those six words appeared...


John Hurt
The Doctor.

There are many moments of Buffy "putting her fighting boots on", as Whedon called it. Especially cos SMG kept shrinking as the show went on...

Him and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

That's what I was thinking, there is no way they have not already decided on the actor for the 12th Doctor. look how far in advance Matt Smith was named, pretty much a whole year! Then consider how well Jenna Louise Coleman's appearance in Asylum Of The Daleks was kept quiet. It would be quite possible...

Well, I apologise if it's upsetting you. Certainly not what I was trying to do, I will cut back on the comments, keep them to a minimum.

Thank you :-)

I didn't get the memo where Zaphod99 was made keeper of the comments section. So until that goes out do whatever you like and ignore the haters, they always gonna hate anyway.

That's a bit harsh. I don't think the guys that serious and it's entertaining.

It's true. I do.

I don't believe it's a done deal yet (if it was, it wouldn't matter to them what the newspapers were saying), but that doesn't mean they don't have an actor or two in mind that they'd rather keep out of the limelight in the meantime.

Could be, but I think Stephen 'Tin Tin' Moffy wants to pull a real surprise for the fans and so is trying to keep it secret all the way up to the reveal.

Oh, I always ignore everyone, but thanks for the words.

Nice touch my friend, nice touch.

Don't worry, it's not upsetting me. I respect your enthusiasm, but it's just a little weird. Pay no attn to me; I'm just a grumpy guy. :)

Yaya. I'm just a grump. You guys must realise that by now.

Don't forget the wires on Toberman when the Cyberman throws him. Not important, but once seen, not forgotten.

Did... Did you take the 'blokey' lines from The IT Crowd episode with the website which generates blokey comments?

It doesn't matter...

Was there a reference to The I.T. Crowd in there? :D

Not as bad as the "TO BE CONTINUED" ridiculousness at the end of The Stolen Earth in my opinion!

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