DWM 478 Chatty and That…

I need to write a DWM column. Fast! But what to say? Here I am, on holiday, typing on a borrowed laptop (that I haven’t quite got the hang of yet and have managed to accidentally change everything to italics and start printing, and I’m only four lines in so far. It’s the end of August and we’ve watched Deep Breath, but I’m still buzzing with thoughts that need time to mature (yes, I know it’s hard to believe I actually put thought into these columns…) However, I believe the standard procedure for emergency columns, embraced by columnists everywhere, is the ‘writing a column about trying to write a column’ manoeuvre, so who am I to buck the trend?

If this were a column for Puppy Monthly, I wouldn’t have any problems. I have spent much of the holiday being a willing slave to my mother-in-law’s three-month old wheaten terrier. There must be something I can do about puppies. Any parallels between getting used to a new Doctor and getting used to a new puppy? Nothing springs to mind. Thankfully, only one of them has widdled on my trousers this week, and for avoidance of doubt I’ll say straight out that it wasn’t Peter Capaldi.

Non-Fan Twin has his favourite, takes-everywhere toy with him, a certain monkey called Chatty. ‘You could write about Chatty,’ he suggested just now at the breakfast table. ‘He could be Dr Chat, the mad monkey with a box.’ Then the starts changing ‘Chatty WHOOO, Chatty WHOOO,’ in the manner of Asylum of the Daleks.

I search for further inspiration among the breakfast things. After all, you can find Doctor Who anywhere. ‘What story does this make you think of?” I demand of husband, thrusting a jar of ‘Judy’s Jams Apricot Conserve (contains lemon juice) at him. He looks blank and doesn’t even try to answer, which is, frankly, unhelpful. ‘The Stones of Blood!’ I tell him. (Surely that was obvious.) It’d be crossed out of Vivien Fay’s recipe book! (Although I’m not quite sure whey she bothered doing that, unless she was worried she’d get forgetful in her old age and commit accidental self-slaughter with a lemon meringue pie.

‘You could talk about your quiz book,’ says Fan Twin. ‘Of course not!’ I exclaim. ‘That would be advertising!’ (The Official Doctor Who Quiz Book, no fewer than 3000 questions on all aspects of Doctor Who, published August 2014 by BBC Books for only £9.99, which works out as a very reasonable one third of a penny per question.) ‘Quiz book WHOOO, quiz book WHOOO,’ chants Non-Fan Twin.

But that did remind me of a previous idea for a ‘fall-back’ column – getting the boys to describe a Doctor Who things for all you readers at home to guess. I decide to give it a go. ‘Can you tell me about Sontarans?’ I ask Non-Fan Twin.

‘They have big blue helmets and their faces are brown and gooey and they are really creepy and like all that stuff,’ he says.

So far, so good. But then Fan Twin joins in. ‘And in the third episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures it says Edgar described them as the silliest race in the galaxy.’

Yeeees. That might be a little more specific than I was planning. I abandon the idea before we get into Rutan wars and them being nasty, brutish and short, which might be a bit of a giveaway.

‘We could have a day trip to Winspit Quarry and you could write about that,’ husband suggests. His Doctor Who local group once had a face-off there with a group of Blake’s 7 fans who happened to be location-visiting on the same day. Fan wars! Although we decide this would be impractical, it does remind us of how much we love Doctor Who DVD extras. (On the Destiny of the Daleks info-text it spells out exactly where Winspit Quarry can be found – ‘Worth Matravers, Dorset’ – every time it’s mentioned, which we found unaccountably hilarious. No offence meant to the author of the text, it was just one of those things that hits a funny bone for no real reason.) We’re up to Enlightenment now on our Who watch (we probably shouldn’t be quite yet, but husband insisted on watching extra before we went on holiday, so we wouldn’t get too far behind. This mean we watched all – yes, ALL! – of Arc of Infinity in one sitting. Gasp.) My absolute favourite extra from the past few stories is the behind-the-scenes footage of the Plasmatons being waddled into place on Time-Flight. Go and watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

I remember overhearing Fan Twin and Non-Fan Twin talking about the Celestial Toymaker yesterday, inspired by Fan Twin’s Doctor Who sticker book. ‘Why do children go into his shop if he turns them into toys?’ asked Non-Fan Twin. ‘Why don’t they just run screaming away?’ ‘Only time-travelling and space-travelling people go there!’ Fan Twin told him. ‘And it’s not a shop. And they’re not all children. And they don’t all get turned into toys. His servant slipped on some powder and got electrocuted and died.’

Well, that told him. But Non-Fan Twin had an ace up his sleeve. ‘So, how come that picture of the Toymaker’s in colour if the story’s in black and white?’ he cried in a ‘Now I’ve got you!” tone of voice. I started to interject to explain about the rise of colour photography, but Fan Twin was already on to the subject of the abandoned Nightmare Fair and my thoughts started wandering back to Deep Breath, specifically how many viewers found that they were unconsciously holding their breath along with Clara. I was – how about you? And more importantly, have you now started breathing again? I do hope so.

Author’s note:

Just to make it clear to prospective employers that I don’t usually leave writing things to quite such a last minute as this… I’d delivered my column a few weeks in advance as I knew I’d be away on deadline day, but due to a misunderstanding (no one’s fault) at DWM, it came to deadline day and I had a frantic ‘we need a column NOW!’ message. And idiot here didn’t even think to mention I’d already done one – I think I may even have just assumed the one I’d sent in wasn’t suitable – and spent a frantic hour or two scrabbling for inspiration while typing a stream-of-consciousness on my mother-in-law’s laptop. Eventually we all realised that a new column wasn’t actually needed, but DWM decided they’d print the pulled-from-thin-air one anyway and save the other for next time! The best thing about this was that Non-Fan Twin’s beloved toy Chatty Monkey (after living beings, the thing I’d be most concerned about saving should our house fall to any natural disaster) made his DWM debut – disguised as the First Doctor – thanks to artist extraordinaire Ben Morris. And thanks to Ben’s kindness, Chatty’s moment of fame is now framed and hanging on the twins’ bedroom wall. Makes me smile every time I see it.

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