Under Three Hundred

The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

If I Laugh


Another trip down archive avenue, this time an article on comedy in Doctor Who first published in Doctor Who Magazine issue 377 in 2006 under the title Funny! Peculiar?


“I AM NOT AMUSED!”

It’s a moment of nightmares.

Ursula has been grabbed by the Abzorbaloff, and Elton is powerless to do anything but watch as the love of his life is ingested alive. She screams in anguish as her body is liquefied and drawn glue-like into the creature’s stomach. Her face bulges out of its distended belly, helpless and afraid.

The Abzorbaloff belches heartily. “Tastes like chicken!”

There are two possible reactions to this scene - either you laughed or you clenched. Either the ‘chicken’ line heightened the horror with some black humour, or it punctured the reality of the situation with an inappropriate gag. Either it was an inspired piece of writing or it was an embarrassing, self-indulgent betrayal.

The question is, why was that line there in the first place? The show’s makers must have known it would prove problematic for some people, surely it would have been safer to simply cut it and play the scene completely straight?

In fact, wouldn’t Doctor Who be a better show if it was more serious? After all, it is a drama series, a sophisticated, dark, gritty, adult, science-fiction drama series. It’s frequently scary, occasionally moving and every week lots of people die in screaming agony. So why does it need to have jokey bits at all?

And that’s a serious question. Because, uniquely in science-fiction drama, Doctor Who is a funny show. A very funny show. It has a greater humorous content than any other drama series. It has a greater humorous content than most comedies.

The most important reason for the humour is because people don’t actually like science-fiction very much. It’s extremely popular with a small group of people, maybe a million in the UK, a few million more in the USA. It’s a niche, and in the UK it’s a niche insufficient to justify the expense of production. For a science-fiction show to thrive, it needs to reach out to all those people who don’t enjoy programmes simply because they feature a starfield in the opening titles.

Now, the situation is different in the USA. There you have a dedicated sci-fi channel making episodes of the record-breaking Stargate for its subscribers (well, up until recently). But in the UK science-fiction shows have had to find their audience within the mainstream and it’s depressing to realise quite how few have managed it. The Tripods, Star Cops, Invasion: Earth, The Last Train - all good shows, but all tepid in the ratings. Blake’s 7 scraped a fourth season (largely, one suspects, because Howard’s Way wasn’t ready yet). Only Doctor Who achieved the television holy grail of a sustained run.

And the reason for that is because it has always been a science-fiction show for people who don’t care for science-fiction. Well, not quite always - it has made occasional experimental forays into being a proper science-fiction show, though these have invariably led to a drop-off in viewing figures. I’m not knocking those forays – Warrior’s Gate is a glorious, imaginative story – but watching it now, it seems incredible that it was broadcast at 6pm, on BBC1, on a Saturday. It feels much more like 9pm, on BBC2, on a Wednesday. In August.

So Doctor Who has to have something to offer the viewer who has just been watching Basil Brush or Strictly Come Dancing, or who has tuned in early for Brush Strokes or Casualty. And I would contend that the best way to get those viewers watching, and to keep them watching, is through the use of humour.

The problem is not just that people don’t like science-fiction but that quite a lot of people actively dislike it. Or rather, they have built up negative preconceptions. They think that it’s all about pseudo-military organisations, they think it’s about po-faced scientists with no emotional lives speaking portentous dialogue that seems to have been cribbed from the manual for a Dyson vacuum cleaner, they think it’s about quarries and spandex and men in curiously floppy green rubber monster suits, they think that it’s intended solely for 8-year-old boys, and they think, ironically, that it’s old-fashioned, corny and irrelevant. It’s a hard sell.

And the way Doctor Who overcomes that, the way Doctor Who has always overcome that, is through its use of comedy. If the audience is laughing, they know that they are in for a good time despite the fact that they are watching science-fiction. Because so much science-fiction is put together humourlessly, what jokes there are tend to be nerdy, dry and insular, such as Data getting the wrong end of the emotional stick in Star TrekThe Next Generation. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, it’s exhale-through-the-nose funny.  Whereas Doctor Who has the capacity to be genuinely and, most importantly, accessibly funny.

That’s why virtually every Doctor Who story (after the initial death by screaming agony) begins with a welcoming slice of silliness, usually involving the Doctor having TARDIS trouble. Terror of the Autons, for instance, opens with the Doctor singing ‘I don’t want to set the world on fire’ before emerging, spluttering, from a smouldering TARDIS. Tooth and Claw has Rose and the Doctor attempting ‘hoots-mon!’ Scottish accents. It’s signalling to the audience ‘Okay, so this may be science-fiction – but don’t worry, it’s also going to be fun.’

Accessibility is all-important. Particularly with regard to the ‘old’ series, where the special effects invariably fell a couple of Skaro Muto-clams and a Magma Beast short of being anywhere near remotely convincing. The production wasn’t merely trying to make the audience suspend their disbelief, but to suspend their urge to collapse into fits of derisive laughter. And one way to stop people laughing at a programme is to make them laugh with it. Science-fiction contains much that is ridiculous and if it offers it up with sententious seriousness then it is inviting the audience to giggle at its pomposity. Better for the show to get the joke in first.

The idea being, if there is something in an episode which is implausible, either in terms of the narrative or the realisation, you should to credit the audience with some intelligence and ‘point up’ that implausibility rather than hope that ‘Joe Public never clocks a darn thing’. If a TV show can demonstrate a sense of humour about its own shortcomings, it will turn those weaknesses into virtues.

We all know that Daleks are not the most credible aliens ever created. If the show pretended otherwise, it would appear absurd, so instead, in The Dalek Invasion Of Earth, Dortmun describes them as ‘motorized dustbins’. Similarly, the Doctor draws attention to the distinct lack of terrifying Zygons in Terror of the Zygons with, ‘Don’t you think this planet will be rather large for the four of you?’

A list of examples is near-enough a list of the series’ finest moments. In Robot the Brigadier complains that ‘Just once I’d like to meet an alien menace that wasn’t immune to bullets’. Sarah-Jane mistakes a quarry for an alien planet in The Hand of Fear (well, they do look very alike). Romana, on the other hand, is terrified by a man in a curiously floppy green rubber monster suit in The Power of Kroll – as the Doctor comments, ‘It was probably more convincing from the front!’. Even in the very first episode, when Ian is told that a Police Box can move anywhere in time and space, his reaction is ‘But that’s ridiculous!’

This is all very sophisticated and ‘metatextual’, ‘post-modern’ and ‘self-referential’ but essentially what it’s doing is winning over the audience with some self-deprecating humour. It’s the kind of thing you almost never see in Star Trek (except in the glorious Tribble episodes) but it’s a near-constant in shows like The Simpsons, The West Wing, House and, most notably, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It’s a very modern approach, but Doctor Who did it first.

The tradition continues with the new series, which positively revels in it’s tongue-twisting names for planets and aliens, such as the Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe and Raxacoricofalipatorious (twinned with Clom). Love & Monsters directly addresses one of the implausiblities of the old series: that the Earth keeps on being spectacularly invaded but no-one ever seems to notice. And The Empty Child has lots of fun cheekily deconstructing the Doctor’s need for a ‘sonic screwdriver’. ‘Never had a long night? Never had a lot of cabinets to put up?’

Of course, there is a limit to how far self-deprecation can go. Some fans have a problem with the Doctor goading a Dalek in Destiny of the Daleks with, ‘If you’re supposed to be the superior race of the universe, why don’t you try climbing after us?’. I have more of a problem with the final scene of The Gunfighters where, as they stand listening to the ‘Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon’, the Doctor points out to his companion Dodo how clichéd their Western adventure has been. And there is something rather cynical about Mindwarp, which has characters criticising the arbitrariness of its cliff-hangers, observing how boring it is to watch the Doctor bickering with Peri, and where King Yrcanos looks for some rebels in the caves because in these sort of stories there are always rebels in the caves.

But humour isn’t just there to reassure the audience. It’s also there to involve them. One of the failings with shows like Space 1999 or Babylon 5 is that you never really care about any of the characters because they are all profoundly boring geeks dressed in beige polo-necks. Whereas if the audience finds a character amusing, they will care about what happens to them. It’s why we love the Brigadier and K-9, and don’t give two hoots about Mike Yates and Kamelion.

Humour is also a quick way of signposting where the audience’s sympathies should lie. The obvious case in point is in Rose - next time you watch it, notice how many funny lines Jackie and Mickey are given in their introductory scenes; ‘Honestly, it’s aged her...walking in now you’d think I was her daughter!’. Here humour serves not only to sketch in the characters, it also leave the audience wanting to see more of them, because they are quirky, vulnerable and human. It’s all about establishing who are the ‘good guys’. The reverse is also true, as the villains tend to be defined by their monomaniacal absence of levity – the Daleks and the Cybermen being the most unequivocal instances. The difference between heroes and villains is that villains are scared of being laughed at.

That said, there have been bad guys who haven’t been afraid to crack the occasional quip – Mavic Chen, Count Scarlioni, Cassandra, even the Master on occasion – but here the intention is for the audience to retain some sympathy for the villain’s plight. For example, in the Jon Pertwee era, the Master would usually ally himself with some malevolent force in a scheme to enslave the Earth, only for his ambitions to be cruelly thwarted when the malevolent force unexpectedly turned against him (as happened every week). In that situation, the audience needs to feel some fondness for the Master in order to provide a contrast to the terrifying true threat of the Axons, or the Daemons, or the Daleks etc. etc.

The danger here is that if the villain is too funny, the audience will no longer find them intimidating. The occasional moment of black humour can be chilling, such as The Sun Maker’s Collector anticipating Leela’s death-by-steaming with a gleeful ‘This is the moment I get a real feeling of job satisfaction’, but make the villain too outré, as with the Kandyman of The Happiness Patrol or Soldeed in The Horns Of Nimon, and they cease to be a credible menace. Similarly, if the Doctor and his companion are too flippant in the face of adversity, it can detract from the ‘reality’ of their predicament - if the characters in the story itself aren’t taking the threat seriously, why should the audience?

Ideally the humour will work as a means of keeping viewers hooked. Television isn’t like the cinema or theatre where you have a more-or-less captive audience, you have to keep on giving them reasons to stay watching (that said, it’s worth noting that Star Wars starts out as the comedy adventures of a robot double-act). And people are only going to stay watching if they are being rewarded, if they care about the characters, and, in particular, if they are looking forward to the next daft-but-loveable thing those characters are going to say.

Because we all know that, when faced with the unknown, Jackie Tyler is going to say something utterly hilarious, something utterly unpredictable and yet utterly true-to-life. Put her in the same living room as a homicidal Christmas tree and we know we are going to be entertained. And the same holds true for all the great characters in Doctor Who; The Ribos Operation has its own Del Boy and Rodney in Garron and Unstoffe, The Web Of Fear has Professor Travers and Harold Chorley, Vengeance On Varos has Arak and Etta. Greatest of all there is Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, in the most immaculate comic performance in the show’s run, as he greets each extra-terrestrial invasion with a terribly British mixture of incredulity, resignation and mild embarrassment.

It’s also why the ‘post-regeneration’ stories contain so much out-and-out silliness, as the new Doctor attempts a daring escape by wheelchair, or skips with Harry Sullivan, or quotes from The Lion King. The audience have to be persuaded to like the new Doctor, and quickly, because the Doctor should be the most exciting, most surprising and most fun-to-be-with character in the show. He should never be conventional or boring. He’s the guy who ‘goes native’ in tartan for his Scottish adventure, who eats a sandwich during a swordfight and who gives Madame Du Pompadour a cheery wink as he rides a horse through her ballroom.

Humour can be useful in other ways. As far as script editor Dennis Spooner was concerned, it was ‘a marvellous way of padding the show... because the audience will always watch ‘a funny bit’ and quite like it’ and certainly this approach proved successful in adding another couple of episodes to The Daleks’ Masterplan. But the real reason why audiences like ‘funny bits’ is because they are revealing character. Think of the scenes added to World War III with Jackie and Rose discussing whether the Doctor eats ‘grass and safety pins and things’.

And because the audience will always quite like ‘funny bits’, they are also a good way of getting exposition across. Not only will people not mind being given an ‘info-dump’ but they will assimilate the information all the better. Check out the opening scene of City Of Death part two - ‘What a wonderful butler, he’s so violent!’. The scene’s sole function is to provide a recap of the events of part one, but because it so gloriously witty you don't notice that it consists of nothing but characters telling each other stuff you already know.

A clever writer can also use humour to surreptitiously ‘set up’ a plot detail to be ‘paid off’ later. The Doctor discovering he has a tangerine in his pyjama pocket at the beginning of The Christmas Invasion seems like a throwaway piece of business, but is actually a set-up for the use of the tangerine in the denouement. There is something very satisfying about the silly turning out to be the essential.

Humour also provides a release from tension and indicates to the audience a shift from danger to safety. If a scene opens with a humorous moment, the viewer knows they can sit back, relax and take stock. Think again of the first scene at the Tyler’s flat in Rose, with Jackie on the phone - it’s a funny bit, so we know the next bit will be about us getting to know the characters.

Stories are structured in terms of periods of jeopardy followed by periods of calm, with the final, explosive climax being followed by a ‘tag’ to provide a sense of back-to-life-as-usual and to leave the viewer with a smile. These ‘tags’ can vary from the sublime ‘Fancy a dance, sir?’ ‘I’d rather have a pint!’ of The Daemons to the car-crash of The Seeds Of Doom’s ‘Or... are... we... yet... to... come!?!’

A more interesting use of humour is the false release from tension. This is where the comedy provides a sense of reassurance, so the kids put down their cushions, only to AAAAAARGH!!! MY LEGS, MY LEGS, I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS!!! throw in something scary just when you least expect it. This is a tricky trick to pull off, as it requires the audience to be laughing at a threat one moment and taking it seriously the next. Take Rose, where the Doctor is wrestling with the dummy arm. It’s played for laughs and we aren’t worried in the slightest... until the hand whooshes towards Rose, and it’s no laughing matter.

An even better example can be found in Dalek, where Simmons is approached by the newly-reactivated Dalek. He laughs at how non-threatening it is; ‘What are you gonna do? Sucker me to death?’ And the audience relaxes, because it feels like the show is making a self-deprecating joke about the absurdity of the Dalek prop. But then the exact thing that Simmons was joking about, the very idea we were laughing at, actually happens and we are sent diving for our cushions.

That’s what humour does best. It makes scary bits more scary through dramatic contrast. By throwing something funny into the mix at moment of suspense, at a point when the audience don’t feel like laughing, it knocks things off-kilter and adds to the sensation that things are out of control. It’s quite a brave thing to do, as it’s about doing the ‘wrong’ thing, but when it works, it’s extremely effective.

To illustrate this ‘fantastically impressive' technique, Douglas Adams used to cite the arrival of the Porter in Macbeth Act II Scene 3, and he himself used this technique with the celebrated ‘art critics’ scene in City Of Death episode four. However, a more recent instance can be found in World War III, where Mickey and Jackie have been trapped in Mickey’s kitchen by a Slitheen. At the other end of the phone, the Doctor has the answer – vinegar! Jackie searches the cupboards, shouting out the contents, ‘Gherkins! Pickled onions! Pickled eggs!’ And the Doctor turns to Rose, and says, ‘And you kiss this man?’

World War III is also an instance of comedy being used as a starting point for a story - in this case, a satire about people in the government deliberately creating a culture of fear for their own nefarious ends. But Doctor Who has always had a healthy streak of anti-authoritarianism, with generals, politicians and high priests invariably being depicted as corpulent, corrupt and credulous. The Jon Pertwee era would be several years shorter if it were not for all the politicians sticking spanners into the works. And there is an important moral to this - you should not trust people who are in a position of power, instead you should place your trust in the hobo in the big fur coat who has just walked in and broken your computer.

There are numerous other examples of the show doing ‘topical satire’ – The Curse Of Peladon, The Green Death, The Happiness Patrol. More recently, we have The Long Game, which makes the explicit point that power lies with those who control the news. Not the journalists or the editors, but the amorphous corporate blobs that live on the top floor. The only flaw with The Long Game is that it tells rather than shows. Compare this to The Sun Makers, which anticipated real-life events in Eastern Europe by demonstrating exactly how TV news coverage can cultivate a revolution.

Another starting point for a story can be as a parody. Almost from day one Doctor Who has contained ‘added value’ by appropriating a work of literature or some other mass-cultural reference point, whether it be King Kong, The Prisoner Of Zenda or The Weakest Link. What these instances have in common is that they provide a laugh of recognition as the audiences gets the reference – ‘Oh, they’re doing Invasion Of The Body Snatchers this week!’ – and then more laughs as Doctor Who pastiches the conventions of its source material – ‘It’s Frankenstein, so it has to end with a lynch mob carrying flaming torches!’ – whilst also subverting those conventions by giving them the trappings of science-fiction. Bad Wolf is an excellent example, as the gameshow hosts are androids and the situation is heightened by having everyone play for their lives. It’s not so much a satire on the trend towards ‘cruelty television’ as a celebration of it.

Finally, humour can be used to provide texture. Different styles can create different moods; the gallows humour that colours Revelation Of The Daleks and The Unquiet Dead, the literary pastiche and subtle wordplay of The Talons Of Weng-Chiang and Ghost Light, or the broad slapstick and belly-laughs of The Chase, The Creature From The Pit and Love & Monsters. It’s all part of the richness and diversity of the series, the ‘something for everyone’ approach.

What is important is that the style remains internally consistent. Part of the problem with stories such as The Two Doctors and Dragonfire is that they are never quite sure what level they are pitching at - in the latter, the tone shifts unsettlingly between juvenile whimsy and black humour. There is, in a sense, a ‘pact’ between the show and its viewers. The show will establish the level of wit in its opening scenes, and the viewer expects that to be sustained. When it isn’t, such as when the otherwise rather droll Mysterious Planet ends with Merdeen being ‘gunged’, the viewer feels oddly let down.

It’s important that humour is applied with care and discrimination, and is underpinning the drama rather than undermining it. The story, the integrity of the characters and the mood of the moment are more important than any joke. It’s one of the frustrations of the old series that occasionally, when there was a lack of rehearsal time and direction, some inappropriate comedy crept in. I’ve already mentioned The Gunfighters, where the cast seem to be trying to salvage a hackneyed script by adding random comedy business. Another example is Paradise Towers, where a perfectly fine script is ruined because it is played far too broadly and, in the case of Richard Briers’ Chief Caretaker, far too insanely.

This was a conspicuous difficulty for the series during the late 1970’s. Douglas Adams’ great lament for the stories he worked on as a writer and script editor was the tendency of actors to adopt ‘silly voices and silly walks’. Just as there are six words that can bring down any politician, there are six words that can bring down any comedy writer. Those six words are, ‘Wouldn’t it be even funnier if...’ - to which the writer will respond with a loud, agonised scream. The last thing a ‘funny bit’ needs is another ‘funny bit’ stuck on top of it. People can only laugh at one thing at a time, and if a funny line is said in a silly voice then it will cease to be a funny line. It is the tragedy of The Pirate Planet that many of its finest jokes have been compromised by actors saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be even funnier if...’

That said, Douglas Adams wasn’t exactly blameless in this regard either. On the documentary on the City of Death DVD Steven Moffat points out that during Adams’ time as a script editor ‘an awful lot of humour was dumped on top of the story’, and if you watch Destiny Of The Daleks, you will see a story with too many weak jokes in the wrong places. Though there are some pretty good jokes too.

In conclusion, humour is not merely an enjoyable aspect of the series, it’s an essential part of it. To endure, the show has to keep striving for the funny, because that is what generates the energy, the excitement and the ideas. It’s creates the atmosphere of optimism and fun that brings people to the series, it’s what keeps them there, and it’s what makes it such a good show. It’s a vital part of good drama, generating character, surprise and diversity of tone. It’s sense of humour is what has always set Doctor Who apart from other science-fiction.

So please, don’t clench. Doctor Who has nothing to gain by taking itself more seriously, but a great deal to lose. A healthy show is one that is not afraid to be  a little bit silly. And the same goes for its fans. As the Doctor says in Robot; ‘There’s no point in being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes.’

BOX OUTS

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING...

You’ve just watched Terminus and feel like sticking your head in an oven... so which Doctor Who story should you put on next to cheer yourself up?

The Myth Makers. The siege of Troy, played out as an episode of Blackadder. The Doctor tries to persuade the Greeks to attack using giant paper aeroplanes while Vicki turns a ‘small prophet’.

Carnival Of Monsters. “One has no wish to be devoured by alien monstrosities, even in the name of political progress.” Vorg and Shirna have trouble getting their Miniscope through customs.

The Seeds Of Doom. Harrison Chase could play prog-rock all day in his green cathedral, as the Krynoid threatens to turn the human race into compost. Meanwhile, Amelia Ducat is as mad as a shrubbery.

The Talons Of Weng-Chiang. In which Professor Litefoot attempts to teach Leela etiquette, dipsomaniac Irishman Casey has the oopizootics and Henry Gordon Jago punts the posterior of the inscrutable chink.

The Androids Of Tara. “On the other hand, I could be with the android at all times”. For anybody who thought that The Prisoner of Zenda wasn’t complicated enough, a story all about doubles and chasers.

City Of Death. Leonardo Da Vinci is knocking up Mona Lisas but Count Scarlioni isn’t knocking up the Countess, though she’s a beautiful woman, probably. Meanwhile Duggan knocks everyone out before the Doctor can talk to them.

Revelation Of The Daleks. Davros is worried about ‘consumer resistance’, Kara is worried about finding a new secretary, and Grigory is worried that he will know the name and function of each organ that pops out when he is sliced open.

The Aliens Of London. The wind of change is blowing through 10 Downing Street and it’s silent but deadly. Meanwhile the Doctor faces the greatest danger of his life – the wrath of Jackie Tyler. ‘Stitch this!’

The Empty Child. “Well, I’ve got a banana, and at a pinch you could put up some shelves”. The Doctor experiences Captain envy, Rose is caught in the blitz whilst dressed as Geri Halliwell and Mrs Harcout unexpectedly gains a leg.

New Earth. Cassandra has had enough of talking out of her ask-not so she transfers her mind into Rose, who becomes a little bit more bouncy as a result... it’s almost enough to distract the Doctor from his search for a gift shop.

WHEN I SAY RUN... RUN!

Some jokes will just keep on going... so here’s the top ten greatest Doctor Who running gags. (And no, we’re not including the one about Mel and the elephant.)

They’re Just Like Us! No matter where you go in the universe, you will still find pompous civil servants, cockney mechanics and smarmy TV presenters. And in the future flying a spaceship will be about as exciting as working for British Rail.

Knock Knock, Who’s There? People can’t seem to help asking the question ‘Doctor Who?’, from Lady Peinforte in Silver Nemesis to Madame Du Pompadour in The Girl In The Fireplace. It’s almost as though they think it’s his real name...

I Don’t Believe It! No alien invasion or TARDIS take-off is complete without an incredulous bystander gawping in amazement. During the Jon Pertwee era, this person would invariably be a tramp with an impenetrable West Country accent.

The Brontosaurus Is Large And Placid. The Doctor is normally knocked unconscious two or three times per episode, and each time he wakes up, he has to say something completely bonkers. Before asking for a cup of tea.

The Fellow’s Bright Green, Apparently. In a direct reversal of the ‘I Don’t Believe It’ gag, there are also those people who take everything in their stride, no matter how bizarre. They are usually either dotty old ladies or the Brigadier.

He Likes To Insult Species. The Doctor is much cleverer than everybody else – and likes them to know it, particularly if they are in a position of authority. Just don’t try using his line about ‘the inverse ratio’ from The Robots Of Death in New Cross Gate at closing time, you’ll get your face punched in.

Try Saying That When You’re Drunk. There is absolutely no point in giving a futuristic bit of kit a simple and straightforward name when you can call it a tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator.

History Today. In the future, people will have some very peculiar ideas about their ancestors – apparently we eat raspberry leaves, Moby Dick is a holy book, and both Ticket To Ride and Toxic are great works of classical music.

The TARDIS Needs Coaxing. It is a truth universally acknowledged that any malfunctioning piece of technology can be made to work by being thumped.

All These Corridors Look The Same! Because they are.

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FORGOTTEN TREASURES

We all remember Harry getting his foot caught in a clam, and Mickey getting his foot caught in a bucket... but some great comedy moments have always been overlooked. Until now.

The Time Meddler. The Doctor becomes a little sarcastic when Steven refuses to believe that the horned helmet they have found is of Viking origin. ‘What do you mean, ‘maybe’? What do you think it is - a space helmet for a cow?’

The Seeds Of Death. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe have been trapped in a storeroom by an Ice Warrior and are desperately searching for the switch to close the radiation door. Jamie says, ‘Is that the one?’ and turns off the lights.

The Three Doctors. The Brigadier learns that UNIT HQ has been transported outside of the United Kingdom. ‘You mean we’re not even in the same country? There will be international implications – this could be construed as an invasion!’

The Deadly Assassin. ‘An antiquated capsule, for which you get adequate early warning, transducts onto the very steps of the Capitol. You are warned that the occupant is a known criminal, therefore you allow him to escape and conceal himself in a building a mere fifty-three stories high... You’re trying to confuse him, I take it?’

The Nightmare Of Eden. Captain Rigg confronts the Doctor with the fact that he can’t be working for Galactic Salvage, because they went out of business twenty years ago. The Doctor replies, ‘I wondered why I hadn’t been paid!’

The Caves Of Androzani. The President has fallen to his death down a lift shaft, and Morgus doesn’t pretend to be even remotely distressed. ‘Still, it could have been worse... it could have been me!

Attack Of The Cybermen. Griffiths may be a hardened criminal but he’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the box, and so he starts taking the mickey out of the Cybermen’s speech patterns. ‘Getting-a-bit-rough, is-it?’

Paradise Towers. Tabby and Tilda admonish Pex for bursting into their flat. ‘I do wish you’d stop breaking through our door to try and save us... It’s not as if we’ve ever been in any danger!’ ‘Except from bits of door flying all over the place!’

The Long Game. The Editor gives out instructions to his slaves, one by one. ‘Check him!’ ‘Double-check him!’ ‘Triple-check him!’ ‘Quadruple!’ And then he reaches the fifth slave... and decides, pah, it’s not worth the asking.

Doomsday. ‘Ooh! Fire extinguisher!’