Journey through space to the Planet Fabulous, where the Ruler of the Universe will see you shortly.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Cottage That Changed the World

It's not exactly a new problem. How to seamlessly replace a popular figure for a while, without losing the original fanbase, and yet giving a convincing reason for the transition as you do so.

In Doctor Who in the Sixties, they'd do this by knocking the Doctor unconscious and then having him disappear for four weeks. Yes, William Hartnell was the Madeleine McCann of his day (actually, as a slight detour, does anyone else think Kate McCann looks like publicity bloodhound Heather Mills-McCartney? Is it mere coincidence that the second old Macca gets shot of the good-help-in-the-garden-what-with-that-Dibber-leg-of-hers Columninches-avore, we suddenly get "Kate" in Portugal? Hmmmmm).

But you couldn't just go around knocking people out for the better (allegedly - see The Crown vs Mystery Guest & Rohypnol) and so a more permanent substitution was required. In Doctor Who they came up with the concept of regeneration, where a character can change his physical appearance (and his shoes) through the power of alien science. Thus giving himself a new life, and ensuring that the Time Lord branch of the Clark's franchise went bust three weeks after launching. It's an interesting method of rejuvenation, but it does make you wonder what the middle section of Gallifrey's "Heat" magazine would look like: "Top Ten Failed Regenerations!", "Borusa: Has He Had Some Changes Done?", "Then and Now: Flavia denies renegeration story", and of course, "No Knickers Britneytrelundar shows off her Eye of Harmony!"

Now it's a popular TV industry myth that "regeneration" came about in a desperate planning meeting. This was, of course, in the days way before Facebook where TV writers can now let everyone know they are stuck on a plot point by the simple expedience of the "...is" function. In 1966, Gerry Davis' page would have been headed, "Gerry Davis is... coming up with a form of alien rejuvenation and has just score 17 points on Scrabulous with "Cybermen" which he insists will be in the dictionary in decades to come, honest".

What actually happened was that there was a big TV producers meeting in a hired cottage in the Cotswolds and some concepts were put up for auction. Innes Lloyd won the bidding on "regeneration" with an offer of eight shillings and Verity Lambert's phone number. He lost out on his original desire for "electrocuted by a hairdryer" to Coronation Street, a bitter blow as he still had the prop from The Web Planet. The First Doctor's last words were supposed to be, "Right, a quick ten minutes with Heat - ooh look, Castellan Spandrell's armpit stains - while this bouffante dries and Yynnngngnghgh!" So that got chucked out.

In years to come, perhaps people will appreciate how much this little Cotswold meeting shaped television. For example, the future creators of Neighbours snaffled the "goes abroad and comes back looking like someone else but No One Ever Mentions This" concept. They then sued Dallas in 1984 to block Miss Ellie's unique entrace. This is true, and not something made up to get a cheap titter over "Miss Ellie" and "entrance".

Of course, the real highlight of this auction went to the moneymen behind the Bond films, who got "cast a new man and just ensure no one ever comments on it". This one's still working today, so that a tall brown-haired Irishman can turn into a stocky blonde and despite existing in a world where everyone spies on each other, no one notices a thing.

But anyway, to sum up, Lee's asked me to help out while he's ever so busy drawing pictures, which made me think about all these substitutions and how I might effect my own change. I discarded at an early stage just pretending to be Lee as I don't know enough similes for "minky". You'd spot the imposter at once.

So join me as I hopefully keep us thinking and chuckling along in the wonky school coach of Life. Will you be the one snogging Millie Badgerhunt in the back? Singing a racuous version of Kool & The Gang's "Get Down On It" with the hilarious insertion of the word "helmet"? Sitting there damp and smelling slightly of chlorine with a verruca plaster currently unseen trapped in your hair? Or getting ever more nauseous with every bump until you projectile vomit over Jane Madden, class goddess?

Anyway, hello. For a brief while I'm stepping into Lee's shoes. I'll be back to post later when I've sawn three inches from the heels and scrapped all the sequins off.

4 comments:

CyberPete said...

You forgot Dynastys fantastic replacement of Steven Carrington, Al Corley was blown up on an oil rig and all of a sudden he was two feet taller

Priceless!

Anway hell-o Mystery Guest, you want a champagne cocktail?

Colin said...

Hello there Euston.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Oh, good grief. CyberPoo's started already. You'll have to watch him, Mystery_Guest. He's a right one.

Possibly even a two.

CyberPete said...

What's that supposed to mean IDV?

eh?