from “TV Offal”, 31 October 1997, May 22nd – 19 June 1998
by Victor Lewis-Smith
Part 1, 31 October 1997
Neither big. Nor clever.
Here the tea-time terrors of children’s sci-fi “Dr Who” get the most immense of gayings-up in a manner which is deliberately calculated to offend. Indeed, in several instalments of these sketches Lewis Smith openly acknowledges just how offensive his stereotypes are. I think it’s fair to say Victor Lewis Smith is of the type that thinks the only real equality consists in bring equally offensive to everyone. So here we get a load of almost breathtakingly outrageous sexually predatory camp bitches who bicker incessantly. Indeed, if you want to be in on the joke then you probably revel in its tastelessness, whether you’re gay or not.
This dates from the mid-1990s, the same period as “The Ambiguous Duo” in America. Where those sketches were fairly broad in their innuendo, this lets no opportunity to be offensive go pass. “TV Offal” however had the benefit of being broadcast late at night, so it can transgress in oh so many more ways. Lord only knows how it bypassed Terry Nation though.
Victor Lewis Smithy is not entirely wrong that it doesn’t take much effort to turn the usual metallic shrieking of a Dalek into rather harsh camp banter. Indeed the first instalment is the best, with Victor Lewis Smith explaining why Daleks seem gay, and the final shot of a convoy of Daleks singing “YMCA”. The later episodes repeat the same catchphrases as it just descends into pantomimetic abuse, leavened by crass innuendo playing off science fiction terms.
A lot of it is quite explicit about the more extreme areas of gay sex – cottaging, rimming, rent boys, cruising on Hampstead Heath – everything then enumerated in the pages of the British tabloids for the public’s disapproval.
That it even starts off with the sniggering playground taunt of “Better watch your back” shows what level he’s aiming for, with cries of “White Wee-wee!” and the moderately ingenious “Ex-Sperm-inate!” (the Dalek’s catchphrase is “Exterminate!”) as the Dalek’s plungers mimic a hard-on. The two Daleks also address each other with a litany of slurs: “fagggot”, “arse bandit”, “shirtlifting”, “turd burglar”, etc.
Also of the period is the insinuation about Tory MP Michael Portillo. I remember rumours circulating about at that time, which he later publically confirmed about a decade later.
Even at two minutes apiece these sketches rather wear out their welcome. But then the same can probably be said of “Queer Duck” which mined much the same humour for a gay audience.
I found the following articles by Victor Lewis- Smith in which he reminisces (exhumes all the old gags) about these sketches.
The Mirror, February 1, 2003
TO my slight shame but also my enormous delight, I once co-wrote a disgracefully politically incorrect TV series called The Gay Daleks.
Featuring a pair of shirt-lifting pepperpots who travelled the universe in their five-dimensional cosmological superloo (the Turdis), everything about the show was just so, from the title music ("they're camp, they ex-sperminate... better watch your backs") to the closing announcement: "Join us next time for another adventure with the fudge-packers from the planet Mascaro, as they penetrate the mysteries of Uranus."
The extraterrestrial friends of Dorothy didn't know if they were Arthur or Martha as they camped around and, in their lispingly monotonal voices, talked of meeting Michael Portillo on Hampstead Heath and trolled along the High Street with their robotic dog called - what else? - KY.
I was concerned that the show might be misinterpreted as anti-gay but I needn't have worried.
The healthy postbag demonstrated that these weekly tales of the metallic homonauts quickly attracted a substantial gay audience, who enjoyed the surreal and absurd take on their lifestyle, particularly the scenes set in a public lavatory.
Until I researched for the series, the word "cottage" had, for me, conjured up images of Anne Hathaway, rather than have-it-away, and a "hole in the wall" was a place to seek fiscal rather than physical comfort.
But I soon discovered that the gentlemen's public lavatory is a focal point for many homosexuals, who find the sense of danger exciting and the smell of disinfectant more erotic than aftershave.
BEING as ocularly challenged as Mr Magoo and heterosexual and ugly to boot, I would been blissfully unaware of this alternative lifestyle taking place in public lavatories.
But I had occasionally read about male celebrities being arrested for "indecency in a public place", so I was interested to hear this week about the Sex Offences Bill, which will finally abolish much of the discriminatory legislation against gays, and will allow them to have sex in public lavatories, "provided the cubicle door is closed".
Which, unfortunately, wouldn't suit the Gay Daleks, because their plungers cannot achieve full tumescence unless the door is wide open.
The Bill seems well-intentioned but it will probably put an end to the ancient and furtive etiquette of cottaging, which gay friends once explained to me. Apparently, absolute silence at the urinal indicates interest, followed by eye contact and a quick dash to the nearest cubicle, where holes in the door are plugged with lavatory paper ("putting up the curtains") to evade prying eyes.
One man sits, while the other stands erect with his feet in a shopping bag, to confuse any members of the vice squad who might peer beneath the door in search of excessive legs (a great idea except that, in the throes of congress, the bag inevitably moves about like a sack of ferrets), and the deed is done. Well, I'm sorry if you are eating your breakfast but that's what happens.
Although the Bill will end the illegality of such practices, it still insists on a modicum of decency and discretion. And quite right, because who wants to enter a public karzy and hear what sounds like two asthma victims enjoying a wine-tasting in an adjacent cubicle? But my theory is that, once cottaging becomes legal, public lavatories will cease to be venues for such clandestine activities, because much of the excitement has always been about the fear of arrest.
Homosexuals will find there are hundreds of far more pleasant places in which to widen the circles of their friends.
The Bill is long overdue, because our society's once-intolerant attitude to homosexuality has greatly relaxed in recent decades.
That's why George Michael was able to laugh off his arrest for indecency in a lavatory a few years ago, unlike poor Peter Wyngarde, whose TV career as Jason King was ruined in the 1970s by a similarly innocuous incident in a gentlemen's lavatory at Gloucester bus station.
A court case. End of series, and of a TV career that was itself like lavatory paper. Off the wall.
The Mirror, March 22, 2003
Just in case you don't keep my old columns filed away for easy reference (and you'd be surprised how many readers use them as plant pot linings instead), let me remind you that I've been planning to relaunch The Gay Daleks, a "just so" duo who became something of a cult hit on a TV series I made in the 90s.
So once again I've been arranging for the pangalactic arse-bandits from the planet Mascaro to take to the skies, exploring Uranus, penetrating a red dwarf, and exsperminating all who cross their path as they travel around the universe in their interstellar cruiser, the Turdis.
I'd already found my animator (the brilliant Kevin Spark), agreed budgets with a TV channel, and sketched out several plots. In one, a dyslexic Dalek confuses an M&S store with an S&M parlour.
In another, a trip to a pet shop ends in tears when they ask for a cockatoo and get more than they bargained for.
I was confident that the new series would be even more popular with the gay community than the original one was, because their many letters and emails tell me that they love the campery and absurdity of it all (it's all firmly in the best traditions of the Carry On films).
But, sadly, I have to tell you that you'll never see the shirt-lifting pepperpots on TV again, and here's why. The Terry Nation estate (who happily gave me permission to use the Daleks five years ago) have now refused point-blank to let me use them again, and I am therefore unable to add to the Gaiety of Nations.
The refusal came from Terry Nation's wife, Kate, whose business affairs are handled by Roger Hancock Ltd. Considering that he's the brother of Tony Hancock, you'd think the company would have a sense of humour, but despite numerous requests for an explanation as to why they're preventing the return of my comedy series by not granting a "use of image" licence, I've had nothing more than a frosty "no". Presumably
they cannot be objecting to a Dalek appearing in a comedy context, because they recently allowed one to feature in a beer commercial.
I'm willing to pay them the going rate, so was there (I asked) perhaps a touch of homophobia at the root of their refusal?
No reply came the reply, and their silence leads me to suspect that what really irritates them is the depiction of a Dalek as a friend of Dorothy.
WHAT a delicious irony, because you only have to look objectively at a Dalek to realise that it wouldn't look out of place in the Village People.
There's the skirt, the all-male bonding, the plunger that's always getting erect when other Daleks are around, the obsession with discipline... isn't it obvious?
What's more, despite their quasi-fascist demeanour, they're actually as ridiculous as Viz's Pathetic Sharks and, although they used to look pretty scary on primitive 405-line black-and-white screens, the advent of higher-definition colour sets enabled us to see the hilarious truth.
Which is that Tim Hancock and Kate Nation are trying to preserve the "dignity" of something that's constructed from a sink plunger and a few spare parts from a Morris Minor.
So what exactly is it that they think they're protecting?
Dr Who has had its day, and if they keep saying "no" to ideas like mine, the Daleks will simply fade out of public consciousness altogether and become worthless to them.
But what's worse is that they're depriving viewers of the chance to watch the further adventures of what has proved to be one of my most popular creations.
So if you want to see the metallic homonauts back on your screen, probing the mysteries of a black hole once again, let the campaign begin. Bring Back the Gay Daleks.