Zygons be gone…

THE DOCTOR and me, we go all the way back to 1963. Even today I can dimly recall that first episode in the days when William Hartnell was Doctor Who. It coincided more or less with the assassination of President Kennedy.

It’s been a long relationship but the present two-part story featuring the Zygons could be the breaking pointing.

The shape-shifting Zygons have appeared twice before, once in a 50th anniversary special in 2013, when David Tennant said they were his favourite Who baddies as a child. Before that you have to time-hop back to Tom Baker’s day in 1975 for their debut story, Terror of the Zygons.

I am not, in case you’re wondering, a Who nerd with amazing recall – just a man with Google to hand.

Incidentally, I interviewed Baker in the 1980s and he was obligingly orotund and eccentric. I recall that he trained as a monk when young but lost his vocation, something Wikipedia backs up.

Anyway, the Zygons are giant upended slugs with little pointy teeth and hissy-fitting voices. They can take whatever form they like, as you might too if you looked like that.

I hate to disagree with Tennant, but they are the silliest alien baddies of them all. On Saturday they made me giggle more than anything else. And for almost the first time ever, I wondered why I was watching. Now I like Peter Capaldi, I like Jenna Coleman very much (dirty old man alert going off somewhere here) and I’ve enjoyed this series. But the Zygons should be gone – banish the ghastly gastropods, they’re far more ridiculous than they are scary.

I prefer the vaguely philosophical Who stories which weave in ethical doubts about time-travelling and the woes of immortality. And the creepiest aliens of all remains those terrifying statues, the Weeping Angels: blink and they had you. Much more satisfying than the sluggard shape-shifters. It’s time for the giant slug pellets (and I guess that ‘giant’ cuts both ways).

Staying with television, BBC2’s The Dresser took me back. This was a fantastic production of Ronald Harwood’s 1980 play. I saw the debut production at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, featuring Tom Courtenay as the waspish dresser Norman and Freddie Jones as ‘Sir’, the hammy actor manager in a touring rep production of King Lear. It’s a beautifully written play, sad and sour and funny and very human.

In the new TV version, Ian McKellen is enjoyably fey and poisonous as Norman, while Anthony Hopkins shakes out his last roll of thunder as ‘Sir’. Both actors are theatrical knights, so there were a lot of sirs in there.

McKellen is very good at the venom and bitterness of a man overlooked. Emily Watson as Sir’s long-suffering wife and the ever excellent Sarah Lancashire as Sir’s stage manager, and the only person who really loves him, hold their own in this two-man theatrical wrestling match.

I suggest an iPlayer outing.

To return for a moment to Spectre, the Rev Sue Nightingale of York had a snappy little letter published in The Guardian on Saturday. Here it is in its entirety… “Has anyone else noticed the physical similarity between C in the latest James Bond and George Osborne? Different ambitions perhaps.”

Yes, Sue, I did notice that. I think the hair had something to do with it. Along with the nastiness. And the desire for world domination and all that.

So not so very different…

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