Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Did you Know: Dickens

I got to thinking about Mark Gatiss the other day, after I suggested a minor tie-in series of PDA's for the 45th anniversary of Doctor Who as good enough an excuse for Justin Richards to get off his arse and actually publish them, instead of lounging around going "Oh, I've got plans! I've got plans coming out of my arse! I just can't tell you about them. Or put them into action. Or anything worthwhile..."

Naturally Lance Parkin smacked me down as a retard as I knew well he would, telling me that there's no such thing as a 'minor' series because novels are more expensive than those IDW comic books. (Though those can undersell and still be continued... in exactly the way the PDAs can't. For some reason. When did the Beeb become so obsessed with profit? Fuck you, aunty, you used to be cool...)

He then went on to say that the idea in essence of a 45th anniversary tie-in could work, but would, in his words, probably take the form of a hardcover novel, featuring the 4th Doctor, Sarah, the Daleks and written by Mark Gatiss. (To be fair he said or Paul Cornell as well) Setting aside the fact that Lance himself would actually be the most likely candidate but blatantly excised himself from mention for fear of appearing as a rabid egomaniac rather than the strange image of Professor of Booksellingology he's built for himself recently, this made me think about how much I dislike the 'mainstream' or received wisdom of fandom. Because, I have to say, I can think of few ideas for a book less appealing than Gatiss writing Tom and Sarah v. Daleks. I mean, come on, don't tell me you wouldn't rather read 5th Doctor and UNIT battling genius sharks?!

So... yeah, that's what got me thinking about Mark Gatiss. A bit of extant and unnecessary detail there, but have a mint and deal with it. When I was thinking about Gatiss I thought about the air of smugness he tends to have, and how sometimes it is misplaced, in particular with a running joke that was halfway amusing the first time it was heard and was apparently adopted by Nev Fountain for one of his war crimes.

I'm talking about Charles Dickens seeing a ghost come out of some dude's mouth and saying "What the Shakespeare?!"

The irony is, "What the Dickens?" is actually a Shakespearean quote in the first place. The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act III, scii:

FORD: Where had you this pretty weather-cock?
MRS PAGE: I cannot tell what the dickens his name is my husband had him off


Apparently it originates from one of the many ye olde and ye weirde names for the devil. So it's a bit of an insult for an invokation of the devil to be connected so strongly with one of the grandest men of English literature. Being, I would think, one of the biggest etymological misconceptions in the world today.

So, this means for the "What the Shakespeare?" joke to really work, it would need to be spoken by Geoffrey Chaucer in a story where the Doctor meets him. But then if you ignore A Knight's Tale Chaucer's life isn't really interesting enough for the Doctor to be arsed meeting him in the first place. (Or meeting him again, because Hartnell got bored and spent a few years in his youth meeting everybody vaguely interesting throughout Earth's entire history simply so he could namedrop them in his future) Then you have the problem for it to really work the futuristic author's name he's invoking also needs to be a double-entendre that suggests the devil. Any Elizabethan playwrights by the name of Scratchman?

So, basically, in The Unquiet Dead Charles Dickens should actually have said "What the Rowling?!". And thank God the joke was never in The Shakespeare Code (Especially since 'Chaucer' is so frigging hard to say...)

Interestingly enough, I knew the phrase was Shakespeare but wasn't sure of the play when I decided to write this. So I google searched the phrase. Amazingly, most sites thought it was a reference to Charles Dickens. Which one set me straight? The Urban Dictionary, one of the many pages entirely banned from TAFE computers that I remember fondly from my school days. Not an entirely imperical source, though, perhaps demonstrated best by their definition of 'lebanese':

People who sit on a milk crate outside Oportos at Brighton screaming derogatory comments at woman who "want them" and stare at males from other ethnicities and say "what????" several times if they have eye contact.

Also people who congregate in their cars(WRX,Corolla,anything but a muscle car) to Stanmore Mc'Donalds but don't go inside because the food is too expensive.


Ah, Urban Dictionary. You simply express the views held by many mainstream Australians that are not heard due to this politically correct nanny state we live in.

(In case you've forgotten already, that was John Howard's stock quote for defending Alan Jones or any of his other AM-band mates. I love his moaning about the politically correct nanny state. Obviously HE'S unable to do anything about that. Poor guy, such an underdog...)

5 comments:

Youth of Australia said...

A fascinating and well written diatribe. I have to credit Simon Callow that the way he played the line - genuinely shocked rather than trying to be funny - made it work enough for me NOT to pull out a submachine gun at the convention I first saw it and open fire.

I despair over The Unquiet Dead. It's not as annoying as Phantasmagoria, not as batshit stupid as Invaders from Mars, but the fact is if you watch his video diary, Gatiss had a billion cooler ideas for the story - like the Gelth getting frozen in pipes, or impersonating dead relatives, and the infamous "Gelthworld 2005" scene publically announced that it would rip of Pyramids of Mars.

But no. All of it boiled down to the rather confusing mess we have. Just WHY do the Gelth come out of Gwyneth's mouth anyway?

PS - hope the adaption of Time Crush stayed true the spirit of the original.

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

I have to credit Simon Callow that the way he played the line - genuinely shocked rather than trying to be funny - made it work enough for me NOT to pull out a submachine gun at the convention I first saw it and open fire.

Yes, he did his all to deliver it as an actual phrase that people would say... which is the only way that it can really make sense.

I despair over The Unquiet Dead. It's not as annoying as Phantasmagoria, not as batshit stupid as Invaders from Mars, but the fact is if you watch his video diary, Gatiss had a billion cooler ideas for the story - like the Gelth getting frozen in pipes, or impersonating dead relatives, and the infamous "Gelthworld 2005" scene publically announced that it would rip of Pyramids of Mars.

Yeah, I'm getting a bit tired of reading about the awesome ideas people have had for various stories that never actually get used... generally because they're in a sort of 'tangential to the plot' position. WORK THEM INTO THE PLOT! Or change the plot! Because most of the time these stories are terrible anyway...

But no. All of it boiled down to the rather confusing mess we have. Just WHY do the Gelth come out of Gwyneth's mouth anyway?

It feels like it's tugging in two different directions - the Gelth on one side, and "OMFG CHARLES DICKENS!!!" on the other.

PS - hope the adaption of Time Crush stayed true the spirit of the original.

Oh, yes, I loved it. Didn't notice any differences in the synopsis at all, but I loved the riff on Spara's ideas for the special and all the behind-the-scenes details were, as always, BRILLIANT.

I especially loved the Colin Baker quote - "Actually, they were rather cruel about me in this story, weren't they?"

Sorry, I was having one of those nights where nothing online was working and by the time I was in a position to log back in I was really pissed off at computers in general and not in the right frame of mind to right any superlative commendations.

Youth of Australia said...

Yes, he did his all to deliver it as an actual phrase that people would say... which is the only way that it can really make sense.

Yeah, I'm getting a bit tired of reading about the awesome ideas people have had for various stories that never actually get used... generally because they're in a sort of 'tangential to the plot' position. WORK THEM INTO THE PLOT! Or change the plot! Because most of the time these stories are terrible anyway...
Yep. You can tell how crap a show is when the 'ideas they didn't use' make you weep. The original Idiot's Lantern with a pop song that ate people's faces, for example...

It feels like it's tugging in two different directions - the Gelth on one side, and "OMFG CHARLES DICKENS!!!" on the other.
Yeah, sadly. God it was embarassing reading Kaldor City reviews: Hey, when Dickens runs out screaming that's KIND of like a bit in Sapphire & Steel. This episode is, therefore, brilliant.

Oh, yes, I loved it. Didn't notice any differences in the synopsis at all, but I loved the riff on Spara's ideas for the special and all the behind-the-scenes details were, as always, BRILLIANT.
The full-length version with Abby and Donna's on the BCS blog somewhere...

I especially loved the Colin Baker quote - "Actually, they were rather cruel about me in this story, weren't they?"
Sorry, I was having one of those nights where nothing online was working and by the time I was in a position to log back in I was really pissed off at computers in general and not in the right frame of mind to right any superlative commendations.

Just as long as it didn't upset...

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

God it was embarassing reading Kaldor City reviews: Hey, when Dickens runs out screaming that's KIND of like a bit in Sapphire & Steel. This episode is, therefore, brilliant.

... are they big fans of Hammond's Torchwood eps?

The full-length version with Abby and Donna's on the BCS blog somewhere...

...how the hell did I miss that one when it was first posted???

Just as long as it didn't upset...

Hehe, Seal of Rassilon earrings...

Youth of Australia said...

... are they big fans of Hammond's Torchwood eps?
They refuse to comment over anything post-Doomsday as it is "too painful".

...how the hell did I miss that one when it was first posted???
I was a tad surprised no one noticed. I just chalked it down to experience and tried to be funnier the next time.

Hehe, Seal of Rassilon earrings...
Homage to Colin's Bayban the Butcher earrings.