Classic Doctor Who: hammy, hilarious, and worth it

I’ve been slowly but surely working my way through old episodes of Doctor Who, rejoicing in the wobbly-setted delights of the first four doctors. I’m currently concentrating on a chunk of episodes from Pertwee’s tenure in the 1970s, some of which I vaguely remember seeing on UK Gold many moons ago, most of which is entirely new to me.

It’s become something of a cliché to talk up the rubber monsters, the hammy acting and the all-round low-budget feel of the show’s yesteryear, but, Christ, some of it’s downright hilarious. Last week, I saw a Northern Irish bureaucrat screaming in terror as he was slowly eaten by a plastic armchair; a posh old toff wailing miserably as he was attacked by a ridiculous, scrunch-faced plastic doll who’d come to life and leapt onto his neck from a mantle-piece, and Jon Pertwee himself reacting to a malevolent phone cord trying to strangle him to death. Granted, these are events out-with the normal sphere of human experience, and thus reasonably difficult to react to with any measure of verisimilitude. Even more difficult considering the special effects technology that was available at the time. In most episodes from that era the poor actors had to feign death in response to nothing more than a series of increasingly daft sound effects and shimmering blobs, that were only added in post-production. Meaning they were actually reacting to absolutely nothing. However, in all cases the director appears to have shouted from off-camera: ‘BOGGLE YOUR EYES OUT, THAT’S IT! LIFT YOUR HANDS UP LIKE A HEROINE IN A SILENT MOVIE WHO’S ABOUT TO BE HIT BY A TRAIN! THAT’S IT! SCREAM LIKE A SHOT TORTOISE! NOW STICK YOUR TONGUE OUT LIKE YOU’VE JUST BEEN STRUCK DOWN BY A STROKE MID-WAY THROUGH TRYING TO MAKE A BABY LAUGH! THAT’S IT! THAT’S PERFECT!’

I do like Pertwee though. A lot. I like his haughtiness, his abruptness and his occasional bouts of silliness. Pertwee’s doctor and Capaldi’s share much in common, although Capaldi tends to accentuate the doctor’s strange otherworldliness, while Pertwee always strived to put the ‘Lord’ into Time Lord. However, Pertwee’s Doctor was a Lord who seemed to have a fondness for poor people and the less fortunate, which is a rare Lord indeed.

The act of criticising a piece of television for the crime of reflecting the society in which it was created is a little like shooting fish in a barrel, but the way that race was handled in some of the early Who stories can’t help but make me cringe. I keep expecting Jeremy Clarkson to materialise alongside Pertwee’s Tardis in a time-travelling Porsche, muttering about ‘woeful indoor plumbing’, ‘spears’ and ‘laughable head-wear’. Hindsight’s 20/20 I suppose. The great Roman orator and lawyer Cicero owned a slave, George Washington owned slaves, and we all used to hum along to Gary Glitter songs.

It’s still uncomfortable to watch, though. In the Troughton serial ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’, an archaeological expedition team has a giant, ox-like, black slave/henchman who trundles in its wake, issuing monosyllabic grunts and clobbering people. In the Pertwee serial ‘Terror of the Autons’, a circus baddie has a giant, ox-like black slave/henchman who trundles about the circus, issuing monosyllabic grunts and clobbering people. In ‘Mind of Evil’, the Master has a black limo driver. That could just be the law of averages. There were probably a lot of black limo drivers in those days, and there may even be a fair few of them today, I don’t know; I don’t have the statistics to hand. However, perhaps less forgiveable, that same serial features a Chinese lady whose every appearance on screen is accompanied by plinky-plonky, mysterious oriental music, which registers as a little lazy and gratuitous to modern ears. Thank heaven for small mercies though. At least the lady wasn’t required to ride around on a ceremonial dragon whilst eating rice and shouting about communism.

And let’s not forget this line, uttered by a Scotsman in the opening seconds of the Tom Baker serial ‘Terror of the Zygons’:

MUNRO: Hey, listen, Willie. With tomorrow’s supply ‘cop trip, can you no send over a few haggis?

Hey, Munro, Groundskeeper Wullie wants his patter back! I guess the contrast between the two Who-eras is only made starker by how inclusive and reflective Nu Who is of contemporary British society. Are we ready for a black, asian or female Doctor Who? Well, I’m ready, insofar as I wouldn’t care one way or the other. It’s not a case of ‘We should have a non-white male as Doctor Who’ and more a case of ‘Why shouldn’t we have a non-white male as Doctor Who’? The only problem the show would face if it recast along those lines would be our own history, which has discriminated against women and non-whites for long millenia. Every time a non-white Doctor Who travelled to earth’s past, the storyline would invariably have to tackle racism and prejudice, which would become incredibly tiresome for the actor in question who presumably would just want to be left alone to dash along corridors brandishing a sonic screwdriver and shouting at Daleks.

Still, I’m enjoying my little journey through time (on-screen and off), despite the fact that my partner will occasionally walk past the screen and offer her considered opinion on classic Who in all of its glory:

“How can you watch this awful, awful shite?”

How indeed.

Or should that be Who?

Greggs – A Tale of Pork Pies and Racism

I entered into this email back-and-forth with Greggs’ customer service a few years ago after I visited one of their Falkirk stores and discovered that all of their in-store pictures featured only white people. My original email to them included phrases like ‘I don’t want to think of the Third Reich each time I bite into a Yum Yum’. I wish, with every fibre of my being, that I still had a copy of it somewhere, but I don’t. It was submitted through the Greggs’ website. Never matter. Every other part of the exchange is here, from 2010 onwards.

Enjoy. This is real. Emails written by Greggs are signposted by an appropriate Greggs-related picture. Emails written by me are signposted by a picture of me eating a crab whole.

Greggs

From: GreggsplcCustomerServices@greggs.co.uk
To: jmascot@hotmail.co.uk
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2010 07:00:09 +0100
Subject: Thank you for getting in touch with Greggs

It’s always great to get feedback from our customers and we do appreciate it. We wanted you to know that we’ve got your mail and will reply within the next 3 working days.

Kind regards

Greggs Customer Care Team
________________________________________________________________________
Please visit our website www.greggs.co.uk ________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Me

Hello there.

I recently submitted a query/complaint to your feedback forum through your website. As you can see from the below message you did indeed receive this, and then assured me that your reply would be forthcoming within three working days. I have not yet received said reply.

Although you may have found the phrasing of my initial message a touch facetious, I can assure you that this is only due to the passion I feel for the subject matter.

Affirmative action is an important concept to embrace in any forward-thinking, civilised society, and I find it abhorrent that Greggs does not subscribe to this philosophy. To recap, there are several images on display in the Larbert (Scotland) branch of Greggs, all of which depict white caucasian people enjoying Greggs’ products. Not one of them is from a different ethnic group. How do you imagine this makes people of other ethnic groups feel when they come in to buy a chicken sandwich or similar?

Offering brown bread is not enough of a compromise towards multiculturalism.What would Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King have made of your devil-may-care stand?

Please assure me that you will take steps to be more inclusive in the images you use in your stores, so as to minimise hurt to your paying customers. I expect an immediate response.

Kind regards
J Andrew

 

Greggs

Subject: Greggs – Call Reference F0770901

From: GreggsplcCustomerServices@greggs.co.uk
To: jmascot@hotmail.co.uk
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2010 09:12:00 +0100

Dear Mr Andrew,

Thank you for your comments. I would like to reassure you that Greggs is a company that respects and supports diversity in modern day Britain, Our shop imagery is in no way intended to exclude any groups on the grounds of gender or ethnicity nor to cause harm or offence to any of our valued customers.”

We would like to thank you Mr Andrews for your feedback and we have taken your points on board.

—Remember to quote your call reference number F0770901 in any correspondence, as this will assist us in providing you with a quick response.

Yours sincerely

Christine Robertson

 

Me

Dear Christine

Thank you for taking the time to reply to me. I know some might think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but I see these exclusions, subliminal or otherwise, as the thin end of the wedge in a society that is already struggling to accomodate peoples of all different creeds and ethnicities. Your words were comforting, but words aren’t always enough. You may have ‘taken my points on board’, but how does this equate to action? Are you going to update the images in your Larbert store to reflect a more inclusive image of the kinds of people who enjoy pastry products in modern Britain, and if not, why not?

Kind regards
J Andrew

 

Greggs

Subject: Greggs – Call Reference F0770901

From: GreggsplcCustomerServices@greggs.co.uk
To: jmascot@hotmail.co.uk
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2010 11:40:51 +0100

Dear Mr Andrew,

Just to assure you we have taken your comments seriously following your initial e-mail, we have taken the following actions:
we have discussed the concerns you raised with our People Director and Customer & Marketing Director to make sure that future imagery in the shop captures these points on diversity and inclusion.
– In regard to the Larbert shop, the imagery was our previous in-shop design as part of the refit done in 2006 Our latest design shop imagery that is currently being rolled out around the business shows our products and doesn’t in fact show any people. Based on our capital program, the Larbert shop would not be due for a refit for a couple of years yet. Any future imagery that we roll out will take into account visual representation of the diversity of our staff and our customers. We would like to send you examples of our internal communications that demonstrates we do take this issue very seriously if you would be willing to provide a postal address.

Regards

 

Me

Dear Christine,

Thank you so much for taking the time to address this serious issue. I’m glad that you and your company have afforded this matter the gravity it deserves.

It would be a highly responsible move to replace the images of people with those of your products, so as not to offend any customer or visitor to your stores. However, I am a little dismayed that people living in Larbert who come from different ethnic groups than those represented on the walls of their local Greggs will come to remember the years 2006 – 2013 as the ‘pastry apartheid years’.

I had a long look at your corporate website to see if the theme was repeated on a national scale. I’m heartened to see that the pictures and photographs on your website truly do reflect the diversity of your staff and customers, although I’m not so sure about the video uploads of your TV advertising campaigns. There are only two black people featured, both in the February 2010 ad. Bravo, on the face of it, but I feel this would have sent a more positive message to the country had the black staff members in question not been glimpsed mirage-like in the background, and hidden like a guilty secret behind a squad of merrily dancing caucasian people.

I don’t want to appear too critical since you have taken this matter seriously and provided me with reassurance. This is a very important step, to my mind. I’m still a little dismayed that you are content to promote social exlusion in Larbert for a further, indeterminate number of years.

I would prefer it if you could send me .pdf or .jpg attachments of your internal communications. It may not surprise you too greatly to learn that I am also a keen and ardent environmentalist, and abhor the unnecessary wastage of paper. Besides, I am quite a peripatetic individual and prefer to receive electronic communications owing to how infrequently I’m based at home.

Regards
J Andrew

(the following, concluding emails were sent in the past week)

Me

Dear Christine

(if indeed Christine is still functioning in her old role – if not, please identify yourself so as not to besmirch her memory)

It’s almost 2013. Several years ago you promised to look at the issues raised by my complaint, namely that there were plenty images of white people enjoying sandwiches on the wall of your Greggs in Larbert, but none featuring any other ethnic group. Not an African, an Indian, or even an Eskimo. Just the white man. Highly unacceptable in this day and age. Your solution was to suggest replacing pictures of people with pictures of sandwiches, so as not to offend anyone. Has this now been done, or are your Larbert customers still buying their bakery products from a BNP paradise; as if Nick Griffin had invented a time-machine and used it to catapult Larbert back to 1947?

I do hope you took my points on board and didn’t dismiss them as unimportant. Remember Mandela!

Kind regards

J Andrew

 

Greggs

Subject: Greggs – Call Reference F0770901

From: GreggsplcCustomerServices@greggs.co.uk

To: jmascot@hotmail.co.uk

Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2012 10:42:39 +0100
Dear Mr Andrew

Nice to hear from you.

I’m still here and still working hard with our customers. The Larbert Shop has not had a re-fit since we last corresponded but we’ve removed some of the old point of sale and replaced it with our new stuff.

Your feedback was sent through to the Marketing Team but I believe we changed our way of thinking and haven’t used this type of material since.
I think the shop is due for a re-fit shortly as we’re trying to update all of our estate.

Thanks again for getting in touch and I hope this has answered your query.

Remember to quote your call reference number F0770901 in any
correspondence, as this will assist us in providing you with a
quick response.

Yours sincerely

Christine Robertson
Customer Care Team Leader

 

Me

Hello Christine

(You called me Mr Andrew in your previous message, but I feel we’ve graduated beyond such formalities after our long history together, Chris)

I was very happy to receive your e-mail. Prompt and efficient. I’m heartened to hear of the changes you’ve implemented in response to my misgivings, and am proud to ally myself with Greggs in its new battle to eradicate racism in all its forms. Other companies with which I’ve entered into correspondence on these issues have not been as forthcoming as Greggs. Mathiesons the baker, a hated Scottish rival of yours, should be singled out for its arrogant and blatant disregard of my complaints. Which is rich considering how much offensive imagery they have in their stores and on their promotional materials! You were a minor offender compared to these guys. Can you believe this? One of their stores in Grangemouth boasts a picture of what appears to be a minstrel tucking into a scone! What next? Putting Jews in their ovens??? This is going to be a long fight, Chris, but one I’m ready for. Attitudes MUST change.
Anyway, to business. I don’t want to take up any more of your valuable time. I would like to ask if I could talk about Greggs in a local newsletter I co-edit. I’m going to relay the tale of your humanity and corporate responsibility, and give Greggs some richly deserved publicity, free of charge. I’m going to end the newsletter with the line:
‘Greggs: Hot pastry products you’ll all adore; a queue of facists at Mathiesons’ door.’ And then end with a picture of Hitler enjoying a Mathiesons’ chicken bridie or something. Maybe you could suggest a more apt snack for the Fuhrer, else I’ll just stick with that, I think.
Thanks again for your excellent customer service, and for actioning my requests with grace and patience.
I await your response
Many thanks and kind regards
Jamie Andrew
————————————————————————————————————————–

Greggs

Subject: Greggs – Call Reference F0770901

From: GreggsplcCustomerServices@greggs.co.uk
To: jmascot@hotmail.co.uk
Date: Thu, 7 Jun 2012 15:21:21 +0100

Dear Mr Andrew

Thanks for your further email to Christine. As she’s not in the office currently, I’ve replied on her behalf.

It would be inappropriate for us to be associated in any way with your dissatisfaction with any other baker. In fact, we are really concerned that by referring to Greggs you will bring our good name into disrepute. Therefore we ask you not to refer to us in the way that you suggest.

Best wishes for the future.

Remember to quote your call reference number F0770901 in any correspondence, as this will assist us in providing you with a quick response.

Yours sincerely

Lynsey Kelly
Customer Care Team

Me

Hello Lynsey Kelly

It’s exciting to be corresponding with a new team member. You seem a lot more prim and formal than Christine. If you were a teacher I could well imagine you administering the belt to my wrist, whereas Christine would probably just smile, throw her hair back over her shoulder and call me a scamp.

This will be my last message, as I do not wish to swallow up any more of your time. Anyway, I’m sorry if I have contravened guidelines on what is deemed acceptable in terms of Greggs’ association with other companies. I was only trying to help out, as I felt I owed it to you after the superb way you handled my concerns. This worries me a little, though, as I have already published a newsletter in which Greggs is mentioned. I decided against the text mentioned in the previous mail, but I took some liberties with the new idea. I didn’t think you would mind, and I was only trying to promote your company. Here is the copy that is printed and ready to be distributed to a few hundred people in my local community:

“I would like to encourage all in the local area to visit your local branch of Greggs in Larbert. There you will find not just bakery products, but an admirable humanitarian stance on brotherhood. As Christine from the Customer Care Team said herself, ‘Unlike Mathiesons, Greggs cares about ethnic minorities. In Second World War terms, Mathiesons are like Norway, maybe at a pinch Vichy France, whereas we at Greggs pride ourselves on our Churchillian spirit. All are welcome to enjoy our products, not just white people. We would strongly urge an immediate boycott of Mathiesons’ products to send a stern message that your community will not tolerate such behaviour.'”

I don’t deal with distribution, that’s handled by a gentleman called Duncan Semple, who’s also the treasurer of our community group. I’ll get on to him straight away and hopefully stop him from handing out any copies. If any have slipped out, I’ll make sure they’re gathered up and burned.

Many apologies and kind regards

Jamie Andrew

———————————————————————————————————————–THE END

Or is it? I highly doubt – this time – there will be further correspondence from Greggs, but if there is, I’ll post it.

 

Jamie’s Guide to Politics: The BNP

In his high-school yearbook, Nick Griffin was voted ‘Most Likely to Make a Career Out of Racism’

At root, all the BNP wants to do is make sure that people ‘get back to their home’, which is why the organisation is so popular with taxi drivers.

Nick Griffin is the party’s current leader. When he’s not indulging in his favourite hobby of racism, Nick likes to enter look-a-like contests, and has recently come first-place in a variety of different competitions: most like Morn from Deep Space 9; most like Greenback from Inspector Gadget after a stroke; and most like David Cameron after an over-eating disorder and a motor-bike accident.

Aryan Family Guy

The BNP attracted a lot of media interest last year when it took over production of the American animated series ‘Family Guy’, and substituted Nick Griffin for Peter Griffin.

‘This is how we’ll reach the kids with our message,’ said Griffin. ‘Speak to them through popular culture; let them see me as the Fuhrer…em, the father. Like the time Hitler put himself into Mickey Mouse cartoons.’ {roll sketch}

A memo Nick Griffin sent to the production team, intercepted by news teams, spelled out the new direction he felt the show should take:

‘I’m not having a Jewish wife. Get rid of her. The baby, too. Nick Griffin doesn’t father fags. And I’m not happy about the daughter, Meg. She’s obviously a lesbian communist. Have my character send them off to camp, if you know what I mean. On the plus side, my son is a big, dumb blonde and the dog is white. I’m digging that. A final word on the neighbourhood. That neighbour of mine, the one in the wheelchair? Make it clear he was wounded in combat, or in the line of duty. If he was born that way it wouldn’t be realistic to have him survive to adulthood. As for my black neighbour and supposed best friend, Cleveland? Either kill the family off, or give them their own spin-off show to get rid of them.’

Controversy

‘Das balustrades are a fucking disgrace.’

The future of the BNP now looks uncertain. A German historian, Herr Grosse Busen, has discovered that Hitler, the party’s hero, wasn’t a racist, genocidal maniac after all.

‘The Fuhrer was actually a decorator hired by the Reichstag to brighten the place up,’ explains Busen. ‘and he was a lovely wee bloke. We know what caused the confusion. Hitler was in the main chambers, surrounded by politicians, and shouted out: “I’m going to fill all the interior spaces with colour, and widen out the mews.” But everyone thought he said: “I’m going to kill all the inferior races and coloureds, and wipe out the Jews,” and they were well up for it. Hitler only started WWII because he was too embarrassed to point out their mistake.’

Breakdown

Floella Benjamin

Nick Griffin’s nervous breakdown may serve as the final nail in the party’s coffin. He appeared on ITV’s Loose Women, and sobbed into the breasts of Floella Benjamin. As Floella stroked Griffin’s head, gently rocking him back and forth and saying, ‘Shhhhh, baby, it’s okay, it’s okay’, Griffin apologised for being a meanie and admitted that ‘he actually quite liked black people and muslims.’

Griffin is set to relaunch the BNP as the ‘Be Nice to Pakistanis’ party.