Friday, November 9, 2007

Meh Parts

If you ask around, read some reviews etc online with the intent of finding a BF audio to buy, the answer is clear.

Spare Parts.

The answer, in a way, makes sense. It is a story that is the Genesis of the Daleks for the Cybermen, written by the completely insane bastard who thought that destroying absolutely all mystery about the Doctor's character in a story where his madman cousins jumped around the family estate like they were on acid would be a brilliant idea. As such, the collective reasoning of fandom has been that the story itself is actually the Second Coming of Jesus Christ somehow brought to humanity in compact disc form, and its impossible to escape this viewpoint. When I specifically asked for a Sixth Doctor and Peri story from a bloke selling BF CDs he instantly preased a copy of SP into my hands and demanded his money.

Fortunately my eyeballs didn't let me down and I noted that the story contained neither the Sixth Doctor nor Peri, and as such was a complete affront to my wishes as a consumer. Regardless, I was still pressured to buy.

"Come on, man, it's what all the cool kids are listening to..."

I stood my ground and bought The Reaping. And it's a very good thing, because if I had actually bought SP I doubtless would have come to the conclusion that the best BF had to offer was a completely aimless, fanwank-extravaganza runaround stuffed full of cliches until it burst.

This isn't to say that SP sucks. Well, it's to say that it does compared to, say, Jubilee or Loups-Garoux. But the fact that it is so frequently touted as the absolute best BF, when it so patently isn't, really galls. First, allow me to theorise why it is seen as the best..

a) Written by Marc Platt. Although Ghost Light left most of fandom scratching their heads (save from the egotistical posers who love nothing more than bragging about the fact that they understood every single line of dialogue and its place in the mis-en-scene on first viewing even though it was a scratchy print translated into Suwahili) Platt has since established a reputation as one of the many messiahs of expanded-universe Who in novels I haven't read because they sell on eBay for amounts I wouldn't spend on a car.

b) It has the Cybermen in it. You may think that this mightn't count for that much, but when you read carefully through the script of The Tenth Planet and note that approximately 1.5 interesting things happen throughout the entire 100 minute running time you can appreciate the incredible effect the Silver Ones have on their fan base.

c) Wraps up continuity. The story does exactly what Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis simply couldn't be arsed to do (probably due to the Valium) along with all the other Cyber-story writers (because nobody working on the show ever gave a flying fuck about continuity) and actually explain all that shit in The Tenth Planet that makes absolutely no sense. Which no story save Attack even acknowledged (And even that was with Colin mumbling "Gigantic motor on the outside of the planet - what the fuck was up with that?")

d) The cast. But then it's pretty much impossible for BF to get a dud cast into their stories so this isn't particularly relevant.

So, why has SP failed to have me fall head-over-heels in love with it?

FIRST OFFENSE - Plot lingering without intent

The story goes nowhere for the first couple of episodes. As someone who sat through the soul-crushing depression of the Saward era, I can take it when the Doctor does Sweet FA. That's fine - just cut to characters who are doing something. Let's not follow the Doctor around as he walks listlessly through a near empty city in search of something of vague interest.

See, unlike Genesis, the Doctor ain't on no mission. He just pilots the TARDIS like a bitch and arrived on Mondas by mistake. He recognises it as Mondas pretty much instantly, and yet doesn't seem to care, walking around mumbling to himself and tells Nyssa to go wandering off on her own as well. Wtf mate? When it's confirmed that this is Mondas (PRETTY FUCKING OBVIOUS!) the Doctor decides he should probably leave, gets stopped by a couple of cops, changes his mind, wanders around...

Okay, I'll cut to the chase - there's no conflict. The Doctor doesn't want to stop the Cybermen from being created as that would change history. The Cybermen don't want to kill him because they have no idea who he is - the system in control of the Cybermen decides he looks dodgy and thinks killing him could be a good idea, but picks the Cyber equivalent of Sgt Schultz for the job. Nothing comes of this.

And then, near the end of the story BOOM! The Doctor decides HE WILL stop the Cybermen from existing. This is especially odd when he does so at a time when the Cybermen seem more inevitable...


SECOND OFFENSE - Defamation of a well-recognised public individual

Of course in doing so the Doctor creates the Cybermen in his own image. When hasn't that idea been used in a time-travel story? Reminds me of on OG when some guy posted some fic about the 7th Doctor being Jack the Ripper. He got the internet equivalent of hurled feces in response and everyone pointed out that as ideas go it's as derivative as its possible to get without throwing in dinosaurs cloned from fossilised mosquitoes. And yet here's Marc Platt doing exactly the same thing, just with 'Cybermen' replacing 'Jack the Ripper'.

This plot point wouldn't smart as much if it went anywhere. But - big surprise - it doesn't. The Doctor is aggrieved, but gets over it, and Nyssa uses it to make the standard ultra-shitty last minute joke at the close of the story. SIGH.


THIRD OFFENSE - Public Indeceny (Being in the form of suspect shoving head up its own anus)

Okay, everyone knows that 'Cybermen are allergic to gold', right? Or, rather, that gold blocks up their respiratory systems causing them to choke? Good. It's pretty simple. A large part of fandom insists that this makes no sense at all. They are complete wankers, as it does make sense. If the Cybermen still contain living organs (as we all say they do) it stands to reason that they can't stay alive without oxygen - it doesn't mean they have to 'breathe' as such by they need to ventilate for that oxgyen or they will die. Obviously they would avoid using any large, obvious means of ventilation because they would present an immediate target - the downside to this would be that the respiratory system could be blocked. They would test - by it seems likely that they would neglect to test against a metal like gold, that is exceptionally rare. Gold also has unusual properties for a metal, which also makes it a good idea.

Most sensible people do take umbrage with the whole gold thing, though, not because of the idea but because of the 'silver bullet' effect from such a weakness, which makes them look pisspoor when it's recently been revealed that a Dalek can survive being buggered by Chuck Norris, set on fire and thrown off a cliff without even a scratch on its casing. To be fair, the 'silver bullet' effect didn't really exist until Silver Nemesis, a Nevil Fountain penned Who parody that somehow got broadcast as a canonical episode of the show during a particularly hardcore Ian Levine pool party. Prior to that Cybermen were only defeated by gold dust pressed into the respiratory vents, rather than being within 5 metres of an ounce of gold at any time.

Marc Platt, decides that he'll aim to please this people... by pretending the gold allergy never existed.

It is the most embarassing moment of the release. Maybe its meant to be ironic subtext but it is so ham-fisted, when Davison shoves a heap of gold into a Cybermen and says "Well?! Aren't you going to choke and fall over?!" Oh, yes. Very subtle. It would have been easier to go the route of Steve Lyons and his jaw-droppingly good novel Killing Ground and just not have gold on the fucking planet. Do I have to explain everything, Platt?!

The problem is this: if Cybermen were created without the weakness, why do they have it two hundred years later? This leaves us with the absolutely ridiculous idea that they programmed a lethal weakness into their own bodies. Platt blindsided me though when he revealed... that they did. It was the only logical explanation but I still wasn't expecting it because, let's face it, it's beyond retarded. But no, the Doctor gets the communists who make the Cybermen pissed out of their brains and they evidently decide to make themselves fatally allergic to gold.

This explanation is beyond 'sucks' when it's only necessary due to Platt re-writing Cyber-lore for a crap throw-away gag, but I'd like to add I don't quite buy it. I've been drunk. Very drunk. And although I recited a monologue filled with September 11 references and the phrase "There were fucking muslims for fuck's sake!", something I was later informed was something of an embarassment, but at no point did I decide, say, to put a power-drill to my skull for a laugh. I had drunk a six-pack of Woodstock bourbon, two stubbies of VB, a Mudslide, a tin of ...something and a couple of mouthfuls of Midori. The Cyber-making Communists, on the other hand, had two bottles of wine between eight of them. You do the math.


FOURTH OFFENSE - Blackmail

The one sequence that absolutely everyone listening to this audio (even those one or two that didn't like it as a whole) is a scene where the partially-converted Hartman daughter returns home, starts crying, and is shown the Christmas tree by her dad to comfort her. It is absolutely heart-breaking to listen to, and it did indeed make me cry, capturing the tragedy of the Cybermen perfectly. However, Platt clearly worked harder on this one scene than anything in the plot, hoping he could get away with a shoddily-plotted adventure by making everyone feel sad inside for five minutes.

And you know what? HE WAS RIGHT! YOU'RE ALL SHEEP! See you at the abbatoir, arseholes.

FIFTH OFFENSE - Mis-Information

This story ends with the absolute worst twist ending ever. Yes the twists that... THE CYBERMEN TAKE OVER MONDAS.

If you are scratching your heads saying "But EVERYONE knows the Cybermen rule Mondas", good. You got the point. The thing is, though, that everyone who listened to this audio seemingly didn't even realise that there was meant to be a twist, given the obvious nature of it. But there clearly was because, incredibly, the Doctor decides to suddenly pull his finger out in the last episode and destroy the Cybermen and... does exactly that.

But as soon as he leaves, the Cybermen scream "HAHA! FOOLED YOU, CRICKET BOY!" and convert everyone.

*Sigh*

My trusty confidante has since explained that the idea was that Zagreus's leaking anti-time meant that this could have been a diverging reality due to the infection of anti-time. That is an awesome idea. Which begs the question of just why the hell they did nothing with it.



So, that's my view of Spare Parts. In terms of quality, I'd say it's probably about even with the best efforts of BBC7's current series (Immortal Beloved and Blood of the Daleks) and... well, not as good as most of the old-skool BF releases I've heard. Though obviously nowhere near as bad as The Next Life. Though, unless they release a CD composed entirely of Nick Briggs' flactulence, that should hold the title of "Worst Ever Story" for centuries to come, so no particular flattery.

3 comments:

Youth of Australia said...

the completely insane bastard who
I have to defend Marc on this. It was Andrew Cartmel who wanted that mythbusting thing, and Marc was told to write it before JNT found out what the hell was going on.

It says a lot Marc's first pitch to RTD wasn't "The Doctor's from The Addams Family" but "Sontarans and Rutans fight in the Blitz!"

I stood my ground and bought The Reaping.
Didn't I buy it? Maybe my dispraxia is playing up...

"Gigantic motor on the outside of the planet - what the fuck was up with that?"
Ooh, LOL so much it's my new sig...

Actually, the thing about Spare Parts for me is, well, it's not a million miles from Gerry Davis' written story "Genesis of the Cyberman". The Doctor arrives and gives the Mondans the key to create the Cybermen, there's a Cyber woman who still has emotions, the planet spins a lot at the end of episode four, and the Doctor vainly tries to make light of the foregone conclusion.

However, Spare Parts is not as shit as Genesis of the Cybermen. Rise of the Cybermen is not as shit as Genesis of the Cybermen. Silver Nemesis isn't... you get the picture. That comic strip where the Cybermen are killed by the smell of flowers is only SLIGHTLY worse...

Marc Platt, decides that he'll aim to please this people... by pretending the gold allergy never existed.
That's actually a fascinating point. The idea, according to the script book, is that, at the beginning, the Cybermen have no vulnerability to gold (hence the scene where the Doctor tries and fails). At the end, Allan asks the Doctor why the fuck anyone would think a Cyberman could die from gold, and the Doctor mumbles something about it being a good idea at the time. Allan then gets the vibe that since the Doctor knows about the future, making the new Cybermen vulnerable to gold as a deliberate design flaw would be a good idea.

Now, my issues are
a) basically, Marc's saying it's a shit idea. Rob Holmes came up with that shit idea, mister, and that's good enough for me
b) for some reason they edited out the second scene where Allan creates the gold allergy... but leaves in the scene where the Doctor inspires it.

The editing at BF can be really stupid. For all the brilliant fanwank that was thankfully removed from Neverland, they steal the most vital parts of this story...

And you know what? HE WAS RIGHT! YOU'RE ALL SHEEP! See you at the abbatoir, arseholes.
Damnit, too many sigs to choose from!

I think The Reaping managed the same feat better, where the dad breaks the son's spine...

A brilliant review, sah.

I APPLAUD!

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

I have to defend Marc on this. It was Andrew Cartmel who wanted that mythbusting thing, and Marc was told to write it before JNT found out what the hell was going on.

Ah, I see. Right. That makes a lot more sense, given the truly perplexing things I do know about Cartmel.

Didn't I buy it? Maybe my dispraxia is playing up...

Oh. Right you are *ahem*

But I CHOSE The Reaping!

Actually, the thing about Spare Parts for me is, well, it's not a million miles from Gerry Davis' written story "Genesis of the Cyberman".

Oh. Haven't heard of that one...

That comic strip where the Cybermen are killed by the smell of flowers is only SLIGHTLY worse...

Hmm. Could this be the reason?

At the end, Allan asks the Doctor why the fuck anyone would think a Cyberman could die from gold, and the Doctor mumbles something about it being a good idea at the time. Allan then gets the vibe that since the Doctor knows about the future, making the new Cybermen vulnerable to gold as a deliberate design flaw would be a good idea.

Ah. That's a little bit better..

a) basically, Marc's saying it's a shit idea. Rob Holmes came up with that shit idea, mister, and that's good enough for me

Bob Holmes did the gold thing as well? AND came up with the Vogans?

..was the original script just Wheel in Space with the names changed or something?

Damnit, too many sigs to choose from!

It's what I'm here for. Apparently.

I think The Reaping managed the same feat better, where the dad breaks the son's spine...

Yeah, that bit WAS incredibly disturbing.

Youth of Australia said...

Ah, I see. Right. That makes a lot more sense, given the truly perplexing things I do know about Cartmel.
Yes, Andrew "I do no wrong and others fear my genius" Cartmel...

Oh. Right you are *ahem*
But I CHOSE The Reaping!

Oh, no hassle, I just realized my memory of that heady day was blurring...

Oh. Haven't heard of that one...
You missed out. Maybe I'll send you his outline, where the Fourth Doctor is accompanied by Felicity Kendall...


Hmm. Could this be the reason?
The sight of Cybermen invading a planet FULL of polen that kills them instantly is only less pathetic than them using the planet as a 'galactic prison' for their prisoners. Cause conversion is not their bag, baby.

Ah. That's a little bit better..
The Doctor has a line, "There's nothing wrong with a bit of planned obsoelescance."

Bob Holmes did the gold thing as well? AND came up with the Vogans?
The original Revenge was set in a space casino, and Holmes suggested the Doctor empty the space pokies to kill the Cybermen.

But then, Holmes took the piss a lot when it came to revenge...

..was the original script just Wheel in Space with the names changed or something?
Yes, actually. There was stuff of the Cybermen being in cocoons in the oxygen tanks (...what were the humans breathing), the Doctor using an X-ray machine against the Cybermen, and an episode set on an asteroid of pure gold where three male miners had got kind of nuts. The Doctor also is heavily reliant on his 500 Year Diary.

It's what I'm here for. Apparently.
Nonsense. This blog is for a genius of your calibre to vent his brilliance on the unsuspecting etherweb.

DAMMIT!

Yeah, that bit WAS incredibly disturbing.
I think it's better than Spare Parts because Yvonne just acts normal and then drops dead, where in the Reaping, the Cybermen half wins...