It still hasn’t sunk in, what I have just seen. The Doctor Who World Tour in South Korea was one of the craziest, weirdest Whovian occurences I have ever witnessed in all my years as a fan, beating both “Splink” and “I’m gonna spend my Christmas with a Dalek” in its lunacy.
At twelve thirty today Whovians worldwide had to wait a few agonising extra minutes for the official YouTube stream to start. Eventually it did so and most memorable events would unfurl right in front of the world’s eyes…
A wacky young comedian wooed the crowds, but in Korean. And why not indeed, considering the location? Everyone was having a great time. The audience all seemed to love his patter. The bow-tied comic was putting on some silly voices and enjoying the “novelty” of doing a Dalek impression, as ably as any Sixties schoolkid could muster. And was that an elephant impression? I didn’t have the lingo or perhaps cultural sensitivity to fully appreciate the proceedings. But it all looked great fun.
Fans were treated to a regeneration montage, showing the Doctors at the end of their lives and then gloriously regenerating. Granted, some of William Hartnell’s scenes weren’t from “The Tenth Planet”, but let’s not be pedantic, they fitted in well. But including an image of David Bradley? Ok, I’ll let it go.
At long last Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman came onto the stage and the audience, quite comprehensibly, lost it. It was fantastic to see them. After a while however, the full implications of operating in a foreign language sank in. Peter and Jenna sat on the sofa for long periods of time clueless, as the Korean host babbled on to the audience in their native tongue. Peter and Jenna looked bemused but smiled politely. It all came across as a little awkward.
Fortunately there was an extremely able Korean interpreter, who squatted uncomfortably ‘behind the sofa’ and filled Peter and Jenna in on the general picture. Her English was excellent with an extremely good accent. However consecutive interpreting was used, where a speaker finishes speaking before anything is translated. This meant that Capaldi and Coleman had to wait whilst questions were posed in Korean. They had to wait again while their answers were translated back into Korean, anxiously hoping their anecdotes would provoke the right audience reaction. Peter showed good grace and spoke slowly, chose his words carefully and kept it short, so as not to overburden the interpreter. On occasions I worried that she wouldn’t cope with Jenna’s lilting Northern tones or colloquial conversational style, but the linguist managed admirably. Peter and Jenna themselves were quite able too on the linguistic front with some choice phrases in Korean. However, I would suggest that simultaneous interpreting would have been more appropriate. Time should never drag for a Time Lord! On occasions it felt as if the event was about the comic host himself. I felt that Capaldi and Coleman were not given the space or time to do their own thing. There were glimmers of fun though when Capaldi attempted to move around the stage. This, alas, didn’t occur too frequently and there were long uncomfortable periods of standing.
The crowd went ecstatic when a Korean boy-band came onto the stage. I may well be wrong but it seems that they had mentioned a Tardis or time travel in one of their songs. One of the singers initiated a weird gimme-five/ hand slap with Capaldi, who looked quite uncomfortable. The crowd loved it though. I have a nagging doubt in the back of my head that the point of having these attractive young gents on stage was purely to bring in the crowds. Maybe no-one would have turned up at the event otherwise! We will never know.
Then came the portrait. It was a unique representation of the Doctor and Clara. It looked like something that the Doctor might keep locked away in a room in the darkest depths of the Tardis – Dorian Gray style that is, the secret of his Seoul!
There were plenty of other highlights. We learnt that one of Peter’s early photos as the Doctor might not have been a Pertwee impression, after all. He was just pointing at a car park! We also discovered that the expression “Do what you are told!” will be of significance in Series 8. Peter also did a little dance which can be found online as a highly amusing animated gif.
The spectacle came to an end with what seems to be an attempt at a massive group selfie. Peter and Jenna had their backs both to the crowds and the camera, as the photographer attempted to get a decent shot. Then our heroes walked off stage and the streaming was brought to an abrupt end. Oh to be a fly on the wall in their dressing room afterwards! Mysteriously, the video of the event is now listed as “private” on the official BBC stream. Will it now be placed in the “under-gallery”, home of dangerous art, never to see the light of day again? The Curator, I imagine, will be most amused.
It could be argued that live streaming of the World Tour globally was not necessarily a wise move. Today’s event was pitched perfectly for the home audience and maybe that’s the whole point. They understood the language, the humour and the cultural references. They knew and cherished their national celebrities. The host and boy band were undoubtedly friendly, well-meaning and good natured. But to stream the event live meant that the world witnessed the event ‘warts and all’. It wasn’t of appropriately high enough quality for global transmission. Maybe we have been spoilt in the past and are accustomed to much better. There were so many interminably embarrassing moments for Capaldi and Coleman to endure. They coped admirably though and smiled graciously. Actors may be used to taking the rough with the smooth, but I don’t enjoy seeing my heroes placed in that situation.
I imagine that today has been a massive learning curve for the BBC. I would advise simultaneous interpreting in future for streamed events, so that both viewers and participants are fully in the picture of what is going on. If that is not possible, then only edited highlights should be shown.
Entertaining and fun at times, Doctor Who’s visit to Seoul will remain with us in our collective memory for many years to come. But not necessarily for all the right reasons.