Friday, October 24, 2014

An Excursion to Salt Pond Beach

Pocket: Did you hear where we're going today?
Denim: Master & Mistress said something about Salt Pond Beach.
Pocket: I hope this weather clears up then. 

Denim: According to my information sources, it's not supposed to rain so much on the southern and western sides of Kauai.
Pocket: You want to tell the weather gods that, or should I?
Denim: There's no need to be sarcastic. 
Pocket: I just wish I could EXTERMINATE this rain! The fierce downpour has already forced Mistress off the road. She'll probably just turn around now and head back.
Denim: Have faith in the Mistress, and in my information sources. Optimism may not banish the clouds, but it will help you accept what you cannot change.

Denim: Hooray! The weather cleared up, and we made it to Salt Pond Beach, on the westernmost coast of the United States!
Pocket: Thanks for helping me adopt a more optimistic viewpoint so I could EXTERMINATE my blues. 
Denim: No problem. Even Daleks have moods.

Pocket: I suggest we reduce the reception on our visual sensors. 
Denim: An astute suggestion, sir. With the clouds clearing, the colors might overload our systems.

Denim: Master's sketching, the Mistress is taking photographs and collecting shells, and the locals use this beach to make natural sea salt. What shall we do?
Pocket: Let's just sit here awhile. There's so much to see.

Pocket & Denim Dalek

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

John Nathan-Turner And The Sociopathetic Abscess

The "With-drawing" room in Tamworth Castle,
designed as a grand public room for the noble family and visitors

Part 3 in a series on the Doctor Who story "State of Decay" by Terrance Dicks

Romana and the Doctor looked around. They were in a huge circular chamber, walls decorated with rich and somber hangings. On a raised dais at the far end were twin thrones, side by side. The whole place had an atmosphere of gloomy splendor, and was obviously some kind of formal state room. There was a man and a woman, tall and thin, with white faces and glittering black eyes, both gorgeously robed. The man said, "Greetings." His voice was cold, with a hissing quality. "I am the Lord Zargo. This is the Lady Camilla."

--from the novelization Doctor Who and the State of Decay by Terrance Dicks

In his attempt to prepare "State Of Decay" for production, John Nathan-Turner's (JNT) new Script Editor Christopher H Bidmead had gone to war with writer Terrance Dicks. After ceding a draw, Bidmead had taken it upon himself to comprehensively rewrite Dicks' script. While the new version might reflect JNT's ideas for updating Doctor Who to meet contemporary tastes, it also caused director Peter Moffatt to tender his resignation. 

This placed John Nathan-Turner in the worst position possible. Should he alienate a former Script Editor and long-term writer for the series, who had novelized many of the Doctor's previous adventures, a writer so beloved by Doctor Who fans? Remember: older Doctor Who stories weren't repeated very often in Britain. Nor had the home video revolution yet occurred, which would make it possible to purchase and replay any story that BBC Enterprises had released on VHS videotape. The only way fans could discover and relive those old stories was to purchase the Doctor Who novelizations, many of which were written by the prolific Terrance Dicks. 

But then, Terrance Dicks didn't work for John Nathan-Turner, and wasn't responsible for commissioning, shaping, and shepherding scripts through the preproduction process. That duty fell to new Script Editor Christopher H Bidmead, who shared JNT's ideas, and worked hard to incorporate them into commissioned scripts. Peter Moffatt might have been JNT's friend (or at least a director he admired), but like writers, directors only worked on individual stories. They came and went, as their schedules and interests dictated. Should he allow Peter Moffatt to walk away from Doctor Who, after watching him masterfully direct episodes of All Creatures Great and Small? Regardless of what he decided, JNT risked disappointing and alienating people who could prove tremendously valuable to him in the future. And then there was the fact that it was his first time producing any show, let alone one as popular and long-running as Doctor Who. Whatever decision he made, the BBC hierarchy would be watching.

"What is--is," said Lady Camilla, as if that explained everything. 

"Ah yes," said the Doctor argumentatively. "But what is--is wrong. Look, societies develop in varying ways, but they all develop. Yours seems to be sliding back into some sort of primitivism. Don't you agree, Romana?"

"Oh yes. A society that evolves backwards must be subject to some exceptionally powerful force."

"The rebels seem to think that force emanates from this Tower. From you."

"They flatter us," said Lady Camilla."

"After all," said Lord Zargo smoothly, "in any society there is bound to be a division between the rulers and the ruled."

"A division!" The Doctor was indignant. "More of a yawning chasm, I'd say, wouldn't you, Romana?"

"I'd say a sociopathetic abscess, to be precise."

"A very good diagnosis, couldn't have put it better myself. Yes, a sociopathetic abscess. I've never seen such a state of decay."

As in our own lives, TV shows run to a schedule, and it's just as important to complete a project on time as it is do it as best as you possibly can. As John Nathan-Turner was Lord of the Doctor Who castle, so the responsibility for the entire production was his. This was a test of his ability to be a producer: his time to demonstrate his worthiness for the huge responsibility with which he had been entrusted. So he walked into Christopher H Bidmead's office, and when he walked out, he handed Peter Moffatt a version of the script that better represented the story Moffatt had fallen in love with, that fired the director's imagination, and made him yearn to deliver the best TV show possible. Then he no doubt returned to his office, shut the door, and attempted to not think about the possible repercussions of making such a draconian decision.

I may not agree with all of the decisions John Nathan-Turner made during his tenure as producer of Doctor Who, but I respect the fact that he made decisions to reflect the evolving nature of British society in the 1980s. Just like JNT, we all have to make hard decisions, and they're hard because we know that those around us may disagree with them. Those decisions risk negatively impacting those we care about and rely upon. Yet, we must make those hard decisions, or watch our lives, work, and relationships evolve backwards, or to decay. 

And let's face it: no one wants an abscess. Of any kind. 

Dragon Dave

Monday, October 20, 2014

John Nathan-Turner Encounters A State Of Decay

The Antechamber, or Pantry, in Tamworth Castle

This post is Part 2 of a series on the Doctor Who story "State of Decay" by Terrance Dicks.

Adric followed much the same route as the Doctor and Romana when he left the TARDIS, taking the track that led along the edge of the forest, past the ploughed land and into the Village. It was, he thought, as unattractive-looking a place as he had ever seen. He saw the open door of a large building at the end of the street, walked up to it, and slipped cautiously inside. 

At first, the big room seemed deserted, but the smell of food led his eyes to a kitchen area in the far corner, where he saw a homely old woman slicing vegetables into a cooking pot. Adric suddenly realized he was very hungry, and began sidling mouse-like along the edge of the room. He reached the kitchen area undetected and was just reaching out for a particularly tasty crust of bread when some instinct made the woman turn around. She grabbed Adric's wrist with a work-toughened hand and dragged him forward. "Got you!"

--from the novelization Doctor Who and the State of Decay by Terrance Dicks

Taking over the top job as Producer of a popular BBC TV series like Doctor Who was never going to be easy. Having never worked as a producer before, John Nathan-Turner (JNT) knew many in the BBC hierarchy doubted that he was up to the task. After all, the current (fourth) Doctor, played by Tom Baker, had connected with the public as never before, and become a national hero. So, in a highly unusual move, the BBC hierarchy commissioned Barry Letts, who served as Producer for all five years of the Third Doctor era, to oversee the show as Executive Producer. Although a normal role in America, BBC TV shows in that era did not usually employ Executive Producers. So JNT knew he had much to prove during his first year at the helm of the long-running series

Thankfully for him, John Nathan-Turner had laid the groundwork for his new role earlier in his career. While working as Production Unit Manager for the TV shows Doctor Who and All Creatures Great and Small, he had a chance to observe and work with many talented people. One of those was director Peter Moffatt. One day, on the set of All Creatures, he had approached Moffatt, explained his career hopes, and asked if the director might work for him if he became a producer. He felt insecure in doing so, as he was younger than Moffatt, and had worked under him up to this point. Moffatt graciously replied, "Don't be silly, young man. Of course I would work for you." After JNT became producer for Doctor Who, he remembered Moffatt, and sent him the preliminary notes for "State of Decay," which Terrance Dicks was then in the process of writing. Moffatt, directing a play in South Africa, loved the story, and readily agreed to direct it.

Unbeknownst to Peter Moffatt, or apparently even John Nathan-Turner, Terrance Dicks had refused to make the sweeping changes Script Editor Christopher H Bidmead demanded. So Bidmead had rewritten the script to suit his interests (as well as those, he believed, of JNT). When Peter Moffatt returned to England, and arrived in the Doctor Who offices to begin preproduction work on "State Of Decay," he was handed a much different script than he had anticipated. Tearing through the pages, he grew increasingly frustrated, until he finally walked into John Nathan-Turner's office and asked him to find another director. 

Surprised, Nathan-Turner sat Moffatt down and asked him to tell him why he wished to leave the production. As the two men talked, Moffatt explained that the script did not represent a fleshed-out version of the treatment he had been sent. Gone were all the Gothic aspects of the story. Instead of the medieval village and castle, the story was set in a future. A focus on blood and vampires had been replaced with (what to him seemed like) techno-babble. All this confused Moffatt, and in no way represented the ideas that had fired his imagination when he read the initial proposed story. This being the case, he could not commit his time, effort, and enthusiasm to directing this story. So John Nathan-Turner found himself little further along than when he had begun his tenure as producer. He had commissioned two stories, but production of this second one, "State Of Decay," seemed on the verge of falling apart. What's more, he had disappointed Peter Moffatt, a director he greatly respected and admired, by delivering a script significantly different than the one he promised. 

Sometimes, we don't realize that a state of decay has entered our lives, or our workplaces, until we are caught in that "Got you" moment, just as the Doctor's young companion is caught when he tries to take something he has not earned. At such times, it suddenly grows apparent to us that this decay, hitherto invisible to us, has wreaked untold damage in our lives. Still, it's up to us to figure out how to eradicate the decay, rebuild relationships, and repair what has been damaged, if we wish to progress and accomplish our goals. Otherwise, we risk further decay, with our lives, careers, and relationships eroding, as has hindered the health and social development of the Village in Terrance Dicks' Doctor Who story "State Of Decay."

Dragon Dave

Friday, October 17, 2014

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Pocket: Where are we going today?
Denim: Master & Mistress mentioned something about trying Waimea Canyon again.
Pocket: What? After last time?
Denim: I know, sir. But the weather's supposed to be better today.

Pocket: It is as I feared. Look at those dark clouds! And after all the time it took us to get up here!

Pocket: Say, a break in the clouds. Maybe today won't be as bad as I feared.

Denim: Ooh, look sir! A waterfall!

Down in the valley, 
The Waimea Valley so vibrant and green, 
I lost my dear sweetheart,
Her Dalekanium housing had such a lovely sheen.

Pocket: Poetry alert! Poetry alert!! POETRY ALERT!!!
Oh, let him have his moment.

Denim: So sir, were Master & Mistress right to attempt a second assault on Waimea Canyon?
Pocket: According to my analysis of the situation, the odds favored a day at the beach. Still, you can't argue with a triumph.

Pocket & Denim Dalek

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Invasion of Poipu Burgers

Denim: What? Twenty-Five Miles Per Hour? It's Lunch Time! Order Mistress to put her foot down!
Pocket: I'd better not. Poipu is a notorious speed trap, and the Police track vehicles by lasers.
Denim: You mean by radar?
Pocket: No, the sign said by lasers.
Denim: The Police on Kauai sure are high-tech. I'd applaud such inventiveness if it wasn't delaying our lunch!

Denim: Say, this place looks promising.
Pocket: Yeah, we might even find authentic Hawaiian cuisine here.

Denim: Mistress' Teriyaki Chicken Burger looks good.

Pocket: I'm sure Master will enjoy his Kalua Pork Burger. Since I've removed the raw onions, it's even safe for him to eat it.
Denim: You know, we should dip into our savings, and surprise Master & Mistress with a special dessert.
Pocket: Yeah, we should be completely selfless in our generosity.

Denim: Well, there it is: the Kilohana Crater. I suppose we had better taste it, to make sure it is worthy of their sophisticated palate.
Pocket: You know, I thought Master explained us well to the waitress.
Denim: Except for the fact that she kept calling us Darleks.
Pocket: And she said we looked like mice! Can you believe it?
Denim: Sir, can we discuss this later? The ice cream's melting!
Pocket: All right, I'll grab the spoons.

Pocket & Denim Dalek