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The Pip and Jane Chronicles

#2 How Many !! Marks Make a Tonne

By Chris Mander

Welcome to the (real) sequel. (I'm aiming to outdo Rocky and Friday The Umpteenth in sheer volume of these things, you have been warned...)

Right!!! Onto topic two. Yes, rather predictably for a series of depreciatory articles on Pip & Jane I'm already into those sodding !! marks, and the extreme level of over-abundance achieved with the aforementioned proliferous powerful punctuation processions. (I'm quite keen on alliteration myself...)

Anyway, people sometimes complain that I'm far too verbose and effusive when writing (never use one word when fifty-seven are just as good) so I'm going to sum up the whole point of this article in one line...


And now I'll un-sum it up (subtract it down??) to fill up the rest of the space I've got. Well, if Paul can ramble across EIGHTEEN AND A HALF PAGES of Fifth Doctor survey results (would have been quicker to make a zine out of the survey forms...) I'll just have to quote some statistics at you as well...

Yes!! All the really important facts and figures have been jealously hoarded - until now!! Here comes the low-down nitty-gritty sadistic statistics behind the novels we love to projectile vomit at!!

Take no notice of the insults to the intelligence of a slow five-year-old in telling us the yllaer etuc scilati are actually backwards English! The only backwards English around here are the authors! Take no notice of all the other things I'm going to write about in the next five instalments which I can't talk about here because it would spoil the surprise! Their writing is less like shooting themselves in the foot occasionally than repeatedly hitting themselves over the head with a warm nuclear warhead!

But! The really stomach-churning thing about these stories are the exclamation marks! You know the really incredibly annoying ones put in too often in all the wrong places!! They really hack me off!!!! But what's an argument without qualification - so here it comes!!!!!!!!

!!markspages!!per pagelines per page!!per line
The Mark of the Rani4911184.1610370.112460
Terror of the Vervoids3831402.7357360.075992
The Ultimate Foe4891204.0750350.116429
Time and the Rani5041283.9375360.109375

!!markspages!!per pagelines per page!!per line
Black Orchid2661371.9416390.049785
The Auton Invasion1151480.7770350.022201
Remembrance of the Daleks371510.2450390.006283

I'd probably better explain some of that...

Number of !! marks - quite straight-forward.

Number of pages - pages of the book on which some story actually appears. A lot of pages (like about 22 of them) in P&J's Rani stories are completely blank for some inexplicable reason - a highly unfair way of reducing their !! ratios!

Number of !! per page - again quite self-explanatory.

Number of lines per page - Pip & Jane generally use a bigger type-face and hence have less room to stuff in more !! marks (which makes their achievement that much more incredible). Taking account of the actual lines of text in the book goes some way to correcting for this further measure of deviousness by P&J.

Number of !! per line - and so we arrive at the best easily achievable figure for the proportional density of !! in each of the books. Still not perfect, but close enough to not need a banana.

Yahoo! Ben Aaronovitch is my hero! How did he manage it? It's hailed universally as one of the best books of the whole series - so that's how to do it, kiddies!! Only one ! every four pages...

Terence Dudley has such a (comparatively) large score because the dear chap got so carried away in the enormously exciting cricket scenes. Things like: "A six! A six! He hit a six! The Doc hit a six!" Tegan cried, the exclamation marks cascading wildly from her mouth and piling up at her feet... It all adds up.

Anyway, the overall results of this little tally are as follows. Possibly you'd better tie yourself down to the ten heaviest things in your DW collection before allowing this next bit to flow over you...

!! markspages!! per page
THE BAKERS:18675063.6897
[The Ultimate Foe]

Astonishing! Mind-boggling! And here's the "Most Gut-Wrenchingly Exciting Page" award..

...and it goes to:The Mark of the Rani- page 33 (16 !!)
only narrowly edging out:Time and the Rani- page 68 (15 !!).

Actually the second of these should really win - it's an absolute classic Pip And Jane Page if ever there was one...

So - finally, we can give you definite and quantitative, tangible proof of just how bad Pip & Jane's books really are. By comparing the !! rate of their worst book (The Ultimate Foe - 0.116429 !! per line) with the Invitation Team's best writer (Remembrance of the Daleks by good old Ben - 0.006283 !! per line) - the fans scream with anticipative delight - we can at last see that...

The Ultimate Foe is approximately EIGHTEEN AND A HALF TIMES WORSE than Remembrance of the Daleks!!!

Ye gods!! I knew it was bad, but this really puts the icing between the pages. Wow. Now where have I heard that number before??



another brief semi-sequel also by Chris Mander
warning! David Lawrence is mentioned in this article!

You won't get rid of me that easily. David Lawrence (there it is already) is a reviewer who really knows where his grammar is...

Here's the pompous lecturing section: it's quite appallingly stupid to put !! marks on the end of a sentence in prose/narrative that isn't being said or 'thought' by someone. If a writer needs them to spice up boring old descriptions, plainly they're too incompetent or lazy to describe action well.

Pip & Jane are the most chronic sufferers of this affliction I have ever known, but (!) there are others in the extensive Doctor Who range who seem to have been taking lessons from them. And this is where D.L. comes in - quoting from his review of The Curse of Fenric: "...the book is not entirely flawless. There are a few things I disliked, such as the tendency to put an '!' at the end of a dramatic sentence, such as "Ace had nowhere to run!". I hate this..." Me too. Catastrophic - it appears Ian Briggs doesn't write that well after all!

Another who has disturbing Bakerish tendencies is John Peel, prolific author of ancient Dalek chronicles and now upcoming Tymywyrm wrytyr. The odd ! pops up in the daftest places in his previous books, completely deflating the otherwise impressive atmosphere he builds up.

The point behind all this is that you don't actually need to be proficient at (or even vaguely aware of) the complex rules of writing prose in the English language to be a successful author, as P&J readily demonstrate.

What? Go away, I'm halfway through an article here. Get lost! What? What do you mean - that's impossible! Sorry, everyone - I've just been told that Fury from the Deep has a total of (you won't believe this) 816 exclamation marks!!

AAAARRRGGH! There goes another theory! Why do I bother? Someone put me out of my misery!!!!! Glurk.

This item appeared in TSV 22 (April 1991).

Index nodes: The Pip and Jane Chronicles
Reprinted in: TSV: The Best of Issues 21-26