Thursday, 18 February 2016

Fifty Shades Of Crepe

I'm going to start this post by saying something that I never thought I would say.

Michael Grade was right.

There: I've said it.  No doubt even now thousands of Doctor Who fans around the world are stampeding their way to my door, replete with tar, feathers, kindling and matches (and possibly a 14 foot wooly scarf to hang me with): but before the lynch party gets into full swing let's backtrack slightly...

The year is 1989.  Michael Grade, son of legendary TV Magnate Lew (responsible for commissioning Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlett and almost anything that was any good on ITV during the 70s) is Director General of the BBC.  Michael is cutting away at the dead wood of programming; taking anything he deems as too expensive or not sufficiently ratings worthy and removing it from the air.

He is not a fan of Science Fiction.

He takes a look at Doctor Who - a programme that at it's apex was drawing in 14 million viewers a week and decides it is dated, costly and at only 5 and a bit million viewers on a Wednesday (a rating that people would kill for on a Saturday evening these days, let alone midweek) is a ratings failure.

He starts by suspending the programme for 18 months and sacking the then incumbent Doctor, Colin Baker. He moves it to the aforementioned midweek slot and then - a mere three years later - cancels the show.

At the time I was up in arms.  Michael Grade is wrong, I said; all it needs is a better budget, I said.  Well: I was wrong.

And here is the reason.

At the start of the 90s there was a sudden influx from the States of expensively made programming: gone was the cheerful naff-ness of Airwolf, The A Team and (yes) Knight Rider and in their place was Star Trek: The Next Generation (and it's multitude of spin-offs), The X Files.  Even Quantum Leap somehow managed to look like it had a bigger budget.  The programme simply couldn't compete.  Taking it off air, waiting for special effects to come down in price and re-vamping it was entirely the right thing to do (and by the way both David Tennant and now Peter Capaldi's Doctors are well worth 45 minutes of anyone's time)

But then a strange thing happened.  A little known business, owned by a bearded entrepeneur (OK ok, it was Virgin) got hold of the rights to publish a range of new, standalone novels that carried on from where the series had left off.  The Virgin New Adventure (and later Missing Adventure) novels came into being

And with that came an offer from their Editor: submit your stories, we will read them and by God we may even publish them (....but probably not)

I even had a go myself...and ok yes, looking back my idea was derivative, cliched and not very well written.  I got a very kind note back saying that the Doctor should "never use time travel to solve a problem in the present by going back into the past" (and I wish I'd kept that so I could send a copy to the current series producers who do precisely that at least once a season)

If I'm honest: the New Adventures were a bit of a mixed bag.  There were one or two really good ones (Human Nature was later made into a 2-part story for David Tennant and I still think that Nighshade by Marc Gatis was excellent) but the reality is that far too many of them fell into the trap of what we call (shiver) Fan Fiction

All of  a sudden The Doctor would be trundling around the TARDIS listening to The Stone Roses because that happened to be the writer's favourite band, characters would be behaving in different ways and so forth...and there was a lot of So Forth going on as well, if you get my meaning (not with The Doctor, I hasten to add - a character who, to date, has managed to avoid any So and veered away entirely from Forth)

And this, really, is the crux of my post today - what is this obsession with sex that fans of TV shows and books seem to have.

Some time ago I fleetingly had a really interesting idea as to how you could take Sit-com The Big Bang Theory in a new direction and thought about submitting a story to an online site (knowing there would be no realistic way of me submitting a script without moving to America and living there for many years)

But every story seemed to be about Penny hooking up with Sheldon, or Howard hooking up with Shelton or....well, you get the point: it was all stormy love affairs and tears galore and anyone would be forgiven for wondering if the original show was actually a Sit Com or not.

This problem is particularly replete in Sci Fi - there are a thousand and one stories about Kirk/Spock/Bondage/Fluffy Dice (ok probably not the latter) and, as George Takei himself would say - oh my!

Fifty Shades Of Grey started out as fan fiction about an insipid vampire with sunblock issues and his death-obsessed mopey goth girlfriend (and if the Dr Who fans aren't already on their way then surely the Twilight fans are now beating a track to my door) - and went on to be a publishing phenomenon.

As an Englishman I find this all a bit unneccessary...for as you know we Brits have servants to do That Sort Of Thing for us...but honestly...

All this started the other day when, on a train, I happened to see someone's laptop screen between the backs of the chairs in front of me and realised that the owner was writing a novel.  Good for her, I thought - for she was indeed a she...and then I saw the words Yellow Brick Road being bandied about on the page and realised that she must be writing Oz Fan Fiction (a thing I had never previously thought could exist)

I only hope there's no sex in that one - for the love of Oz, just think of poor Toto!


Stephen Hayes said...

Poor Toto indeed. Terrible images are flooding my mind.

The Bug said...

This about made me spew my drink on my keyboard: a character who, to date, has managed to avoid any So and veered away entirely from Forth...


I started reading a series of books called Dorothy Must Die about an evil Dorothy who came back to Oz & wreaked havoc. I'll bet it started out as fanfict - and I think it should have stayed there!