Laureates and Time Lords

New Children’s Laureate!

Malorie Blackman,
Photo: Clara Molden

I was pleased to see that Malorie Blackman has been chosen to be the new Children’s Laureate. I’ve never met her, but everyone who has says that she’s lovely, and she’s a very good writer. There’s a nice piece about her by Martin Chilton, here.  And here’s a word from the outgoing Laureate, Julia Donaldson, in which she talks eloquently about the lack of coverage which children’s books receive in the press and media – one in four book sales, but only a fortieth of the coverage in the mainstream press.  Which is a bit rubbish, isn’t it? It’s been nice to see all the coverage of Malorie Blackman’s appointment, but it would be nicer still if the media could pay a bit more attention to children’s books when there isn’t such an obvious hook to hang their stories on.

New Doctor Who…

Somewhat less important than a new Children’s Laureate is the news that the search is on for a new Doctor Who. All over the internets people are suggesting the actors they’d like to see in the role. I hadn’t planned to join in with this merriment, because, frankly, I’m not sure we really need another Dr Who. I lost interest in the new version of the show a while back. Instead of a new Doctor I’d like to see a whole new sci-fi/fantasy show commissioned – maybe one which doesn’t carry fifty years of baggage.

At least, that’s what I thought until I discussed it with my son Sam. To my surprise, when I asked him who the new Doctor should be he instantly said, ‘Tom Waits’. Which, of course, completely convinced me.

From the cover of the album ‘Mule Variations

I love Tom Waits‘s music. It always makes me feel as I’m waking up with a hangover in a cheap hotel room where someone is playing polkas on a clapped-out old radiogram while a mad tramp sings along in the street outside (but in a good way). His lyrics are superb too (and he’s the author of the only bit of ‘writing advice’ I’ve ever heeded: ‘Sometimes you write a song and the only thing it’s any good for is to chop up and use as bait so you can catch other songs’). He’s also a pretty good actor in the right role. Here he is as the Devil in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

…and here he’s playing Renfield in the Francis Ford Coppola version of Dracula:

(Incidentally, I don’t think any Tom Waits song would make it anywhere near Sam’s personal top ten nowadays – he’s more into hip-hop and such –  but Tom Waits was probably the first musician he was ever aware of. At a very young age he came across a picture of TW singing – as is his wont – through a bullhorn, and assumed that he was something to do with the emergency services. He made himself his own bullhorn out of Duplo and went stomping around the house bellowing a Tom Waits-ish song of his own invention which went, “SOME-ONE’S IN TROUBLE IN A BIG STORM OF RAIN”. To this day it remains the best pastiche Tom Waits lyric I’ve ever heard.)

So anyway, if I were in charge of Doctor Who, Matt Smith would be regenerating into Tom Waits as soon as contractually possible. Not only would Waits play the Doctor, he would record a new version of the theme tune, featuring a wheezing harmonium over a percussion section of hobos banging dustbins. The interior of the TARDIS would look like the lower decks of an ancient tramp steamer, and it would materialise and de-materialise with a sound like a broken accordion. The Doctor’s current assistant would be so appalled by his smoking, whisky consumption and greasy hat that she would flee, to be replaced by someone a bit more interesting.

After that it would be pretty much business as usual: the Doctor visiting a bunch of planets and seeing off marauding aliens with his trademark ruined growl and battered umbrella.  The settings would be seedier than we are used to: abandoned farm buildings, rusty freighters and low-end spaceport bars would feature prominently. A few familiar villains would turn up so that they could say, “So, Doctor, we meet again,”, but there would be no ‘story arcs’. All the stories would end bleakly.

Viewing figures would plummet, of course, and the show would be abruptly cancelled half way through the season, never to return. But it would be WORTH IT, dammit.

Tom Waits for Doctor Who. You know it makes sense.