Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Just when you think Big Finish can't surprise you...

They come out with something even crapper than you suspected possible.

Well... I don't know if I'd call Assassin in the Limelight the worst BF story ever made. Not because I expect it to become a glimmering pillar of brilliance in the remaining 3 episodes, but because the competition is seriously stiff. Maybe this should actually be taken as a compliment by BF (But, aha, I doubt it...) because they thus truly do embody the spirit of Doctor Who - that without any apparent recognition of the fact and within concurrent releases they can achieve incredible storytelling and new levels of tedious dross that reach depths Professor Stahlman would consider impossible.

But... Assassin in the Limelight could be the worst BF story ever made. Because it seems to do a fair representation of everything that is bad about them. I should have realised from the fact that it's about Abraham Lincoln's assassination but, naive as I was, I assumed that given their track record BF would actually brush up before doing this story. Now, let's go through the check list:

Staggeringly unconvincing foreign accents across entire guest cast? Check.
Historical story when we reeeally don't need another one? Check.
Time paradox plotline within the historical? Check.
Historical story bizarrely used as an excuse by writer for hideously hammy dialogue and broad brush-stroke characterisation? Check.
Console room scene that seems to have no effort imparted into it by anyone at all and adds nothing to the plot? Check.
Invented companion thoroughly past use-by date? Check.
Writing that is radically inferior to half the fanfics you've read? Check.

The impressive thing is that the story doesn't just settle for being utterly derivant and generic to be bad - oh, no, it is less than the sum of its parts. For it goes to new lengths to add new ways of being terrible. Despite having an unbelievably obvious set-up from, well, THE FIRST SCENE in which we are told that the Civil War has just ended, are introduced to John Wilkes Booth as a character and the Ford Theatre and Ulysses S. Grant are all namechecked, the audience is expected to be amazed by the following two revelations:

"I shall speak to the President about this - oh yes, to ABRAHAM LINCOLN HIMSELF!"*

That statement, apart from being an odd one to make to somebody who also knows the President, really beggared my imagination with regards to whom this was written. Surely somebody who doesn't know that Abraham Lincoln was President during the Civil War is so ignorant as to not get the relevance of this...erm... well, I guess I'll have to call it a 'revelation' but I am in serious wont of a more appropriate term.

The second revelation, when Evelyn reads the newspaper and sees that they're - get this - in Ford Theatre on the day that Abraham Lincoln is assassinated.

YAWN.

Oh, sorry, was I meant to be amazed? To think for a moment that this was a sympathetic story detailing John Wilkes Booth's theatre career prior to his short-lived career in latin-quoting gunmanship? I mean when the fuck else is the story going to be set? They should have got this over and done with by having The Doctor and Evelyn come out of the TARDIS and the Doctor crying "Oh no, Evelyn - we're in the Ford Theatre... and it's LINCOLN DAY!!!"

And here's a hint - when you can't make a story about a major historical event without having some twat show up who's clearly a time traveller in his first scene in an anachronistic disguise that anyone with half a brain could see through.. you should probably give up writing and move into elephant excrement removal. Hmm, "Oscar Wilde" - portrayed as a fifty year old dude who says nothing funny at all thirty years before anyone even knew who Wilde was. Yeah, I'm buying that.

And then to reveal that Wilde is DR ROBERT KNOX OF GLASGOW... who? Apparently he's an obscure historical figure involved in a controversy over the body-snatching that became a big industry in Glasgow. I've never heard of him before and I consider myself pretty au feit with general history, so I wonder how the people who didn't know who Lincoln was the script was catering for just a moment ago will cope - considering that we aren't even given that tiny piece of info I just wrote about him. I got that from Wiki.

But apparently Knox has appeared in another BF story. Ah, very newbie friendly. Don't bother explaining anything about what happened in that story, mates, I like being completely in the dark and having no reason to dislike a villain apart from the fact that he's crap.

Then just in time for the cliffhanger John Wilkes Booth drops dead. Notable is Evelyn's reaction, straight before the sting -

"But if Booth is dead - who's going to kill Lincoln?!?"

Dear oh dear oh me. Because obviously nobody would ever consider it a good thing that Lincoln could live one more night. No, let's hurry to find someone, ANYONE, who can shoot a gun to blow this slave-loving motherfucker's head off.

Be assured I shall listen to the remaining three parts out of a love of entertainment-related sadomasochism.


*It is a rule that The President is actually never to be capitalised. I know this because I read it in the book American Hoax by Charles Firth. I just wanted to say that I am aware of this sociopolitically exclusive grammatical convention, even though I ignore it all the time. The reasons are two-fold - firstly, it just looks wrong. We have Kings, Queens, Prime Ministers, Generals, Dukes, Lords, Chairmen, Pontiffs, Governors etcetera. They may have been bound up in a pursuit for equality in the 1770s that believed that leaving a capital letter of a job title was more important than, say, freeing slaves, but the world has [mostly] moved on from such misguided derangement. Secondly - it's an American thing. Americans can't even bring themselves to admit that they left an 'i' out of alluminium and will yell at people on forums that "It's spelt PAJAMAS!".

If there are any Americans reading this - what do you want? My oil, is that it? Haven't you got national landmarks to destroy in secret or something?


BELATED EDIT: Oh, it seems that the fellow who wrote this was Robert Ross, who is probably the same as the rather nice fellow who wrote those Goodies and Steptoe books. I feel a bit bad about pointing out how shit it is, now..

3 comments:

Youth of Australia said...

I should have warned you about Robert Ross. He's... not a very popular writer. His work, Pier Pressure is widely considered the Worst BF Ever. In fact, I've not found a single positive review of it, unless you count the "Sweet Onion Chutney, he has the whole of episode three set in the TARDIS with the characters playing I fucking spy!??!?!?"

His Medicinal Purposes was similarly... brain damaged. While it has the novelty value of a drunk-to-the-point-of-bladder-failure David Tennant answering to the name of Jamie, it also has Dr. Robert Knox who, get this... HAS A TARDIS!

Now, be in a generous state of mind. Imagine that's a real shocker. We then get:

6th Doc: You're not a Time Lord! Where did you get this TARDIS?
Knox: I bought it, second hand.
6th Doc: Oh. Well. Quite.

To cut a long story short, your description of AITS impressed me. It sounds better than I thought it was.

"Oh no, Evelyn - we're in the Ford Theatre... and it's LINCOLN DAY!!!"
That made me laugh my ass off.

Can you imagine other versions of that?
"Oh, no! Ben! Polly - we're in Culloden! It's dress like a woman and talk like a pirate day!"

"Tegan! We're in London - and it's Great Fire Day!"

"Ace! You realize we're at the coast in 1944 - and it's Underwater Zombie Vampire Day!"

"July 64AD? Vicki my child! It's Insurance Scam Equinox! Hmm, quite so!"

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

I should have warned you about Robert Ross. He's... not a very popular writer.

Ah. Considering the immense generosity that BF fans have for any poor writing, that has to say something..

His work, Pier Pressure is widely considered the Worst BF Ever. In fact, I've not found a single positive review of it, unless you count the "Sweet Onion Chutney, he has the whole of episode three set in the TARDIS with the characters playing I fucking spy!??!?!?"

... you know sometimes, when I read your spoofs.. I just think that you're making stuff up for the hell of it..

6th Doc: You're not a Time Lord! Where did you get this TARDIS?
Knox: I bought it, second hand.
6th Doc: Oh. Well. Quite.


???

Is this meant to be Exile-style post-modern?

To cut a long story short, your description of AITS impressed me. It sounds better than I thought it was.

I'm sure it can get worse in the remaining episodes.

Can you imagine other versions of that?

Hmmm...

"`Ere, Zapruder - get this, it's Dealey Plaza and it's bloody JFK gets shot in the head day!"
"What are you-OHMYGOD!"
"Told you!"

"Oh, no... we're in East Germany - and it's BERLIN WALL DAY!"
"Erm, I don't see what's so bad about that..."
"Mikhail's back-alley video shop is going to have to close in about ninety minutes. DAMN IT, I JUST LOVE SOVIET PORN!"

"July 64AD? Vicki my child! It's Insurance Scam Equinox! Hmm, quite so!"

Yep, that's a LMAO.

Youth of Australia said...

Ah. Considering the immense generosity that BF fans have for any poor writing, that has to say something..
In fact, he is probably the worst regular writer BF have.

... you know sometimes, when I read your spoofs.. I just think that you're making stuff up for the hell of it..
Not that time. And all the reviews were real.

???
Is this meant to be Exile-style post-modern?

Not really. It'd have to make sense, and it's pretty much, "I got it second hand and if that explanation doesn't make sense, you haven't been buying the Gallifrey spin-off series".

I'm sure it can get worse in the remaining episodes.
Chris Hayle told me not to listen to Boy Time Forgot, for fear I'd perish like your obituary prediction. He says it's worst thing he's ever heard with his own ears.

Hmmm...
"`Ere, Zapruder - get this, it's Dealey Plaza and it's bloody JFK gets shot in the head day!"
"What are you-OHMYGOD!"
"Told you!"

Well. Obviously.

"Oh, no... we're in East Germany - and it's BERLIN WALL DAY!"
"Erm, I don't see what's so bad about that..."
"Mikhail's back-alley video shop is going to have to close in about ninety minutes. DAMN IT, I JUST LOVE SOVIET PORN!"

No doubt that will appear in the PMG 2009 Special episode entitled "No, Seriously, We've Actually Got Him For the Regen Scene" by Phil "Something Borrowed My BRAIN" Ford...

Yep, that's a LMAO.
Ah, I can die a happy man.