The BBC’s daytime soap Doctors has been around for over a decade, but I can’t say I ever noticed it, until yesterday.
Tipped off by a post on *ahem* Famousmales, I scurried over to iPlayer to download the latest episode of the show. I strongly recommend you do too — and if you do, please confirm to me that this blog post is accurate, because I had a couple of drinks after work last night, and am therefore not 100% sure that what I saw on screen actually happened.
Let’s start with the programme synopsis itself, shall we? It’s shrunk in the wash slightly – click to enlarge it.
No, seriously – that IS what it says on the BBC web site, I have not doctored it (hoho!) in any way.
The show starts normally enough, with the regular title sequence showing what I assume is the regular cast doing various medical soapy things. 25 seconds later, that’s over and done with, and any pretence of decorum is abandoned. Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be a very strange ride.
(Seriously, I do suggest you go and watch it yourself before reading on. SPOILER ALERT and all that)
The show sets out its stall straight away, with a title card declaring that this is a presentation of “THE BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION AND LETHERBRIDGE FILM ACADEMY” before cutting to the inevitable James Bond spoof title sequence. Except the “blood” is pink! Because it’s gay! Hilarious!
We open in a luxury hotel room. This could be any Bond film, were it not for the cheapness, because this is BBC daytime and not a multi-million dollar film franchise. You can tell it’s a film spoof though, because they’ve added faux-widescreen black bars to the picture!
Our hero, Dr Bond, 005, is found in bed in a state of undress, surrounded by discarded clothes, empty champagne bottles and all the signs of an evening of hot man-on-man action:
We hear a bit of “Rule Britannia” at this point, but I’m not sure if it’s incidental music or the ringtone for his phone. Either way, the TV bursts into life with a message for our secret agent — apparently MI5 can’t afford a widescreen camera, because the picture is a stretched 4:3 image. This is “J” (do you see what they did there?) who looks like a cross between Jenny Eclair and Hattie Hayridge.
The conversation indicates that the visual communication is two-way and J can see Bond. I bet she watched him having sex, the dirty mare.
How do I know Bond had sex? Well, because at this point the door opens and in walks a rather nice-looking man wearing nothing but a towel — one that’s so small it doesn’t quite go all the way round his waist, the horror! This is apparently our “bond Boy”!
This scene serves no purpose to the plot and the lovely gentleman doesn’t appear again in the rest of the show – it’s a completely gratuitous shot of a nearly-naked man. The BBC has just earned its licence fee for the next five years, in my eyes.
At this point we briefly fade back to “real life” and see that this is all a daydream concocted by one of the doctors on the show. We see him in his kitchen, staring at a mug, while a box marked “Cherry’s Knick-Knacks” lurks ominously in the foreground.
I should point out, again, that I have never watched Doctors before. I have no idea who this person is, why he’s staring at a mug, the identity of “Cherry” or why he or she would keep a box of knick-knacks on the kitchen table. But that’s OK, because after less than 30 seconds of reality, we go back to the high campery.
Dr Bond is being served breakfast in his hotel room (actual dialogue: “Sausage, sir?” “No thanks, I’ve already had one.”) while his assistant potters around picking up the sexy underpants that he so carelessly discarded.
We jump forward in time a bit and see Dr Bond getting into his secret agent car (which has just come back from its MOT, apparently). He sees an unfamiliar knob and feels an irresistible urge to pull it. When he does so, he is immediately chided by the gadget man, “C”, who looks like Doc Brown would have looked if Back to the Future had been made in Pebble Mill instead of Hollywood.
C says that Bond could have caused a nuclear incident of global magnitude. Bond apologises: “I have never been able to resist a big red knob”.
He arrives at MI5 headquarters, which has been affected by the budget cutbacks as Halfpenny is doing her typing on a netbook computer. He is ushered into a meeting with J, who is accompanied by a man with a comedy moustache named Delix (no, me neither).
J informs him that someone is attempting to sabotage the Letherbridge Mr Gay Pageant. The contestants are being struck down by a mystery virus and foul play is suspected. Delix says something similar happened to him at the International Swordsman Championship (mm-hm). Bond is tasked with identifying the virus and tracking down the source and — after a bit of homoerotic banter with Delix — departs on his mission.
Well, not quite; there’s just time to stop at C’s lab to pick up the latest gadgets. Including a pen which shoots pink laser beams! Check out the special effects:
Back in the “real world”, and a mysterious stranger is trying to register as a patient, so he can see a doctor. Our protagonist (I don’t know his name – let’s call him Dr Glasses) agrees to see him. If the real-life plot is moving too quickly for you to keep up, don’t worry — the show again lasts about 60 seconds before drifting back to the much more fun Bond spoofery.
Arriving at the Letherbridge Mr Gay Pageant, Bond introduces himself to Mayor McGuffin, who gives him a tour of the hall. All around are men in pants; moaning, groaning and writhing around on the floor (because of the PAIN, you filthy people). “Naturally,” says the mayor, “everyone’s blaming the Germans.”
Bond is shown to the sick bay, where the camera lovingly pans over a line of contestants in hospital beds. At this point, McGuffin is contacted with shocking news: the virus has infected Mr Croatia (“his horn-blowing was the star turn of the talent section”).
Dr Bond impresses those around him by greeting each patient in their respective languages (including “G’day Bruce” to Mr Australia). Mr Russia is showing the worst symptoms, so naturally Dr Bond wants to give him a thorough going over.
His sunglasses (with built-in MRI scanner, natch) tell Dr Bond that this is a man-made virus, but don’t worry — there’s an app for that. His mobile phone dispenses an instantly-created antidote!
We briefly leave the fantasy and return to the mundane life of the GP surgery. But there’s plenty of gayness here too. A patient checks out Dr Glasses as he walks past. His colleague, Dr Talks-Like-Tilly-From-Miranda, encourages him to go after the hunky bloke (which sounds like a bit of an ethical violation, but perhaps I’m taking this too seriously). He accuses her of being “childishly obsessed by sex”, which is a bit rich, considering what he’s been daydreaming about for most of the morning.
Back in sexy gay fantasy world, Dr Bond has successfully cured Mr Venezuela. “How can I ever thank you?” he says gratefully. “I’m sure you can think of something,” is Dr Bond’s saucy reply. This is about the fifth time that a variation on this exchange has occurred in the episode, and yet Dr Bond hasn’t actually had any sex. Maybe he needs a different chat-up line.
Mayor McGuffin is impressed that Dr Bond is fluent in 15 languages. “I’ve always enjoyed learning new tongues,” says the good doctor. We are now in Carry On territory – all we need is Barbara Windsor’s bra pinging across the room.
Some more investigation reveals that a vitamin supplement taken by the contestants is to blame. Dr Bond visits the headquarters of the manufacturer, Lethercorp, to try and find out what’s going on. Unfortunately the stern, uniformed, German-accented receptionist (subtle, no?) tells him that he cannot see an executive without an appointment (“Except on Mondays, when we have a drop-in system”).
At this point, a guided tour enters, steered by Ivana Legova. Dr Bond takes advantage of the distraction and sneaks away. Because nobody in this programme can get away without wearing some sort of comedy clothes, he dons a lab coat and ludicrous pair of glasses to blend in with the crowd.
In the real world, Dr Glasses is seeing the mysterious stranger from earlier. He cannot find any reason for his symptoms. “Difficult to make an on-the-spot diagnosis,” remarks the stranger, “like that baby girl.”
I have no idea what he’s going on about, but that’s all right, because we quickly shift back to Agent 005 as he attempts to hack into Lethercorp’s computers. He has a tough job – they’re Macs, after all – but he manages to access the data he needs. At this moment, however, a Village People tribute act rush in and bundle him out of the room.
The goons are acting on the instruction of Ivana Legova, who looks like Sarah Palin with a comedy Russian accent and Counsellor Troi’s hairdo from season 1 of Star Trek: TNG.
Back in the real world, the mysterious stranger unveils his real identity. He is Greg Steel, a reporter for the local newspaper. He wants to know the truth about “events”, and wants Dr Glasses to give his side of the story. Nothing to worry about, he’s a responsible journalist and everyone knows who’s really guilty: not the doctor, not social services, but the baby’s mother who killed him.
Now, let’s just stop and consider for a minute. This ridiculous Bond-fantasy episode is taking place against the backdrop of a quite serious-sounding baby-murder storyline; one that has obvious parallels with recent real-life events. You would expect it to be handled super-sensitively, and yet it is being juxtaposed with entendre-laced dream scenes.
It’s certainly a bold move from the show’s writers – like if the producers of The Human Centipede had lightened the mood by adding in a subplot about Dr Heiter hosting an important dinner to impress his boss and get a promotion – but I’m not sure if it’s entirely appropriate to blend the two strands together in this way. Having said that, pretty much everything in this episode has been completely inappropriate anyway, so let’s ignore it and move on.
Dr Bond is introduced to the arch-villain — it’s Mayor McGuffin! Except he now has a hook for a hand and an even more ludicrous moustache. And a toy guinea pig. Apparently most of the parts are played by the regular cast — I would have loved to see the reaction when they got the script for this episode.
In an unexpected plot twist, Dr Bond ends up strapped to a table with a laser pointed at his nether regions. Even more surprisingly, McGuffin and Legova decide to waste time telling Bond about their entire nefarious scheme before killing him. According to Legova, “When Mr Gay Letherbridge goes bottoms-up, it will cause international outcry.”
McGuffin (whose accent is wandering all over Europe at this point) says that the ensuing war will cause a massive demand for medicines, earning him millions.
My belief is sufficiently suspended by this point that I can go along with the idea that a gay beauty pageant in a small town in the Midlands could possibly cause World War 3 to break out. However, that’s not all – Mayor McGuffin has a plan B!
McGuffin: “I’ll give you a clue. It is a four letter word, beginning and ending with B.”
McGuffin leaves Bond to his fate. We, the viewers, are left in suspense, as we go back to that stupid baby-murder storyline. Steel is trying to get information out of Dr Glasses. He’s not having much success, as the good doctor’s brain appears to be completely addled by homosexual spy tales at this point.
Dr Glasses tries to explain how he failed to pick up that the baby was being mistreated. Steel says he is not trying to apportion blame, but hold “the system” to account.
This is really boring, so it’s just as well we go back to the spy plot at this point. As the laser gets dangerously close to his junk, Bond tells Legova that “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings” – cue much oh-I-don’t-understand-your-English-idioms hilarity.
Than… just as the laser is about to singe Bond’s trousers, Legova goes to the control panel and turns the laser OFF! At the same time, her comedy Russian accent is replaced by a comedy posh English accent. “Sorry old bean,” she says, “couldn’t resist winding you up.”
It turns out she is actually agent Alexandra Carmichael from – wait for it – MI69 (“On Her Majesty’s Secret Cervix”). She quickly lets down her hair and whips off her lab coat to reveal a (somewhat inappropriate for daytime) PVC number. Dr Bond can only shrug apologetically as the outfit does nothing for him.
Two of the Village People appear, but they quickly fight them off. Bond and Carmichael then make their escape… on skis. Because they were trapped somewhere that needed skis to escape from. And they conveniently had skis on them.
I’ll just remind you again that this is Doctors, a daytime soap opera about a busy GP surgery in the Midlands. And they are doing a baby-murder storyline. While at the same time ski-ing away from an international supervillain’s headquarters, against an unconvincing chromakeyed backdrop.
Back at Letherbridge, they confront McGuffin, but are ambushed by more Village People. It looks like all hope is lost, until…
It’s Delix! Armed with what appears to be some sort of squirting weapon. But McGuffin has a trump card – he has taken Mr Venezuela hostage!
We cut back to the real world, where — who’da thunk it? — that nice journalist has actually stitched up Dr Glasses and written a complete hatchet job on him. Thankfully this is the shortest “real” bit in the whole show, lasting mere seconds before we are dumped back in the mad but strangely comforting world that has been created in Dr Glasses’s mind.
Meanwhile, Dr Bond’s dreams have come true, as he has been tied to the (still topless) Mr Venezuela. The rope looks like it is extremely loosely tied and easy to get out of, but Bond is completely helpless — his MI5 escape training apparently only involved situations where skis can be used.
McGuffin horrifies our heroes by showing them what they are tied to: a USB laptop keypad, an oversized digital clock and some toilet roll tubes with “DYNAMITE” written on them. Sorry, what I meant to say was: a very scary BOMB!
Dr Bond asks McGuffin if he’s considered counselling. Delix agrees, saying that he has a leaflet in his bag. “That’s not all that’s in your bag,” comments Carmichael, proving that you can’t escape the sexual innuendo just because you’re straight.
Back in the real world, Dr Glasses’s colleagues are studying the newspaper report. One of them is reading it out loud, not realising that he is standing behind them until it’s too late. It’s a very dramatic, tense scene, so naturally it doesn’t last very long.
Dr Bond takes advantage of his Spanish-language skills again and asks Mr Venezuela: “I have something in my pocket, can you reach in and feel for it?”
Mr Venezuela fumbles in Dr Bond’s trousers, then comes up with the best facial expression I have ever seen on TV. Dr Bond has to patiently explain that he actually meant the pen.
A disappointed-looking Mr Venezuela retrieves the pen and Dr Bond is able to use the built-in laser to cut the ropes. There is, however the small matter of the bomb. Which wire should Dr Bond pull out to defuse it? He chooses using the tried and trusted “Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo” method, although he stops before he says “Mo” (presumably there have been enough ‘mos in this programme already).
In a bit of pure comedy gold, it fails to work, but C’s magic pen saves the day again – it has a “high-frequency, magnetic radio wave, bomb-defusion detonator”.
In the real world, Dr Glasses is wracked with guilt over his perceived failings. He slumps into his bed and lies there, wide awake, contemplating his future.
Dr Bond’s fantasy life is going much better, however. He is in bed next to Mr Venezuela, toasting his success with more champagne. J chimes in on the TV again, but Dr Bond informs her that he “is in the middle of a debriefing” and throws a blanket over the TV. Doesn’t he know that’s a fire hazard?
And that’s it. I’m amazed that they would ever consider even doing an episode like this — dream sequences are one thing, but over an entire episode? Astonishing. Bouncer’s dream in Neighbours pales in comparison. I have to give them credit though — they took the idea and ran with it, throwing caution to the wind.
Also, I think with this episode, Doctors may have overtaken Doctor Who as the gayest show on British television. I’m amazed they got away with that level of smut on daytime BBC One.
In short, I loved it! Well done to all concerned!