Dum dum dum dum.

Elsewhere Dum dum dum dum. Dum dum dum dum. Dum dum dum dum.

The Sound of Drums.



TV Bonkers. Absolutely bonkers.

This week, the brilliant TV Cream Times mail out previewed the episode thus:

“Good grief - what to say about this week's episode? If you thought Utopia was verging on fan fiction, this one's through the looking glass and drawing a pen'n'ink picture of itself, all in stipple, with characters' heads floating on some kind of montage-y background. RTD really doesn't hold back here.”

They weren’t wrong. Having spent almost three series being perfectly circumspect about ‘the mythology’, carefully layering in everything on a need to know basis, letting the viewers imagination fill in the gaps, not even bothering to mention the Doctor’s home planet for two years, this was like watching one of those You Tube montages which edit together old episodes to evoke the time war or the eighth Doctor’s regeneration or a Star Wars fan film shot in someone‘s back yard casting the school prom queen as Mara Jade. Except with a much vaster budget and a modicum of taste. They didn’t even bother to redesign the headgear.

You can imagine the glee in Russell’s face as he tapped away until three in the morning wired on caffeine as forty-odd years of watching the show poured through his fingertips, finally letting rip doing absolutely everything that potential novelists at Virgin and BBC books and script writers were told not to do. No resurrecting of old villains, no continuity references and absolutely, definitely no flashbacks to the Doctor’s days at the academy unless we say you can. Perhaps he glanced now and then at Marc Platt’s Lungbarrow, Gary Russell’s Divided Loyalties or Terrance Dicks’s The Eight Doctors trying to decide just how far you can take these things, how acceptable it is to reference The Sea Devils for a family audience now, trying to think of a zeitgeisty equivalent of The Clangers. ‘I know’ he thought ‘Teletubbies’ (at least it wasn’t The Hoobs).

But, and this is important, somehow magically it’s entirely possible that managed to reintroduce all of this mythology and still make it play for fans and non-fans alike. I would imagine if I was ten years old the Gallifrey flashback here would have been like the appearance of the time lords at the close of The War Games, vital elements of the Doctor’s past suddenly made real. And importantly this brought back some of their god-like status after years of fusty pensioners and the glorious Dynasty in space that was the Big Finish spin-off. As the camera panned through these robed figures, they seemed remote and powerful, the poetry of the Doctor’s words as he described the place (which had something of the Tolkien about them) conveying on its people a wizard or even Jedi remoteness. Perhaps, though, like the Doctor’s earlier incarnations in The Brain of Morbius, we’ll never really find out who they are.

Speaking of divided loyalties, the rest of the episode was a bit of a test, since at no point during its forty-five minutes could I actually tell if it was any good. Rather like Torchwood’s episode Cyberwoman you’ve got a horrifying feeling that in the middle of all the brilliance the core was rotten, that actually it was a bit of a flub. During the making of documentary for his film Magnolia there’s a moment filmed during the post-production process in which director Paul Thomas Anderson has his then girlfriend Fiona Apple (yes, the singer) to dance giddly until he pushes her over, at which point she gets up and dances and he pushes her over again. It’s an expression of his attitude to the film, which he feels is eager to please and does so until he nudges it too far the wrong way and he ruins the thing. Apple left him not long afterwards, and although I’m sure it had nothing to do with this incident I can’t help think of it being metaphor for The Sound of Drums too, so exciting, so loud, but just sometimes losing focus.

The prime expression of this problem is John Simm’s the Master. Quite rightly, Davies has noticed the whole point of the character is to be the flip side of the Doctor (he said as much in Doctor Who Confidential) and in this case it’s all about the humour, perhaps deliberately delivering a characterisation which is just a few miles and yards south of the Doctor that appeared in series two, laughing in the face of everything, the smug bastard who was a real turn off for some last year. Davies rational is that since humour is one of the Doctor’s main weapons then when faced with the same weapon they cancel each other out, a kind of sarcastic cold war. And there were some genuinely funny moments -- the aforementioned The Sea Devil’s reference or ‘I’m wearing a gas mask’. But now and then he seemed to go just too far, like the android Data’s emotion chip malfunctioning in Star Trek: Generations, that kind of bizarre madness which is probably ok in context but lacks shade, an underlying psychology.

Perhaps in the tone meeting Davies mentioned the Joker from Tim Burton’s Batman, that mad flamboyance, the shouting, the opening and closing of the door to see if a victim is still screaming within. If the purpose is to absolutely hate the character, you really do, but it’s a shame that he couldn’t have been more Delgado and less Eric Bloody Roberts (who was mild by comparison). If the shot of Colin Teague trying to direct Simm in Doctor Who Confidential was anything to go by (eye contact? What’s that?) there was little the director could do about it. But then it says a lot about the episode that Teague thought ordering a copy of The Five Doctors would be a perfect introduction to the character and that he ended up watching the rushes. Only now do I too realise that when the Cybermen are on fire in that episode, it’s actually a man being quietly roasted in bacofoil.

Then there was the storytelling, which was a case of if one idea suits, have twenty. From the Master’s mind control to the explaining of who he is and why he’s a menace and the Paradox device to the kidnapping of the Joneses to the Doctor’s premature aging to the invasion of who knows what from where (I’ve a few ideas thanks to the BBC’s press office and their synopsis of next week’s episode -- who needs THE FUNCKING S*N when you’ve got them?) I’ve read Fighting Fantasy novels with more coherence and narrative balance. Actually, this a feature of most of Russell T Davies’ episodes, an explosion of ideas and action and sometimes it really works (Gridlock, Tooth & Claw) and sometimes it really doesn’t (The Long Game).

The Canon Cops too are already all over exactly which year Martha Jones is supposed to be from -- all indications up until now put her pick up as being this year, but suddenly the events in The Runaway Bride are being remember by one and all and this is a president elect which means it has to be 2008? Has someone dropped a year in the writing? As you know, I’m quite happy with this all being a fairy tale so for all we know she is from 2007 but somewhere along the line time changed it to 2008 because it fits better but some might wonder if the writers forgotten about the year-change somewhere along the line.

It’s not too surprising that something fell through the cracks and unfortunately that was giving Jack something to do -- mainly spending the episode following the Doctor and Martha around, getting shot and fessing up to working for Torchwood, not too convincingly suggesting that he’s recreating it in the Doctor’s image (oh yeah, does that include handing a little girl over to fairies and helping the odd suicide -- and what about letting a giant beast from the pit of hell demolish Cardiff -- oh hold one -- the last one I’ll give you). Plus I really hope there’s a rational explanation for why a human woman would be so enamoured of the Master’s plan as to marry him. I was half expecting him to call her the Rani at some point -- in this episode, anything was possible.

But you know what? I loved every minute of it. Despite all of these things, even though it might have been self indulgent, I laughed all of the way through, sometimes with sometimes against what it was trying to do and indeed rather like Torchwood’s episode Cyberwoman never failing to be entertained, which was sort of the point, and the very antithesis of boring. Yes, Simms’ portrayal was noisy but in its own way was a refreshing change from all of the aliens with a heart which have thus far populated the series and yes, genuinely funny in places. The flying aircraft carrier was a startling addition, a Captain Scarlett reference apparently, but also a callback to the kind of space age technology that’s supposed to be knocking around on the planet if the dating of the original series is anything to go by -- we’re supposed to have a fricking space programme by now for goodness sake.

When it wasn’t being quite so incessant, quite so loud there was so much to enjoy, subtle bits of magic. Making the sound of the drums, whatever they are (return of the Cheetah people anyone?) the actual Doctor Who theme is a master stroke, merging the inner and outer diagesis of the series expressed most during the scene in which the Doctor works out that it’s the mobile phones that are the source of the hypnosis. If you listen carefully , as the diagetic ringtone beeps out the rhythm, Murray Gold subtlety layers on the melody non-diagetically as the time lord thinks it through. The session of catching up between the Doctor and the Master having the kind of conversation you really shouldn’t have over the phone but somehow always manage to, was wonderfully played by Simm and especially Tennant, understating his own characterisation to put Simms’ into sharper relief. The Master was resurrected by the time lords to help fight in the time war -- perfect -- mad, but perfect. In the midst of the mayhem it was the character moments that resonated -- like Captain Jack’s realisation that Martha has feelings for his old mate and her voicing of the retcon we’d all expected. ‘You’ve been watching too much television’ he said. Too right.

But you what I really loved? The cliffhanger. Now I know the unwelcome appearance of "Voodoo Child" by Rogue Traders was a bizarre touch (and some viewers would be forgiven for thinking that Doctor Who Confidential had begun ten minutes early), but that rift in the fabric of space, the millions of space balls (no doubt controlled by the ghosts of Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire), the Doctor looking on helpless and old and Martha phasing out at an opportune moment made for an excellent cliffhanger. That crane shot from Martha’s face as she stood up and the cut to the devastation and her dash into the distance and the subtle glance between Jack and the Doctor before hand indicated that something was up, they had a plan, and nothing was as it seemed -- and unlike last week’s cliffhanger in which we all sort of knew how they get out of it, I’ve no idea where this is going. I do suspect though that the paradox device is a big red reset button waiting to happen -- and that Reggie Yates may have something to do with saving the planet…

Ironic title

Film John August addresses the issue of whether your tv spec script can be ripped off by the programme makers: "Put this way, your fallacy is clear — you’re confusing cause and effect. You think their “Favorite Mistake” is similar to yours because they somehow read and stole your idea, when in fact it’s similar because it’s frickin’ Grey’s Anatomy. You followed their conventions. You included their characters. You emulated their show as closely as you could."

"What's next, colonel: the neutron bomb?"

Film Joe Queenan considers the collateral damage in the Die Hard film series in an interesting spin on the kind of articles that tend to fill column inches whenever some new film is released and there's not much else going on:
"Collateral damage is the largely overlooked theme of the entire Die Hard series - the recognition that even though John McClane always gets his man, usually in some spectacularly macabre fashion, he never gets his man until dozens of innocent people have died, until an enormous number of trains, planes, trucks, ships and automobiles have been destroyed, and until he has laid waste to the infrastructure of whatever hapless metropolis in which he is currently operating. McClane's triumphs call to mind the famous words of antiquity's king Pyrrhus, who once quipped, in not so many words, "If victories are going to be this expensive, maybe we should try defeats for a change."
I'm always obsessing about these things when I watch films -- when characters obviously haven't paid a taxi fare or take advanatge of people in the service industries and exploding stuff is always the limit. One of these days someone is going to make a film about a bystander in an action film -- perhaps it starts with the finale of a Die Hard-style film then carries on from there, but the main character does not in the end do anything heroic.

"Do carry a Maglite. Just cos."

Music Some Glastonbury tips from a veteran: "Do take tent poles. A little obvious maybe, but trying to erect a hovel out of firewood while 50 hippies laugh at you is a miserable, splintery experience."

I've been camping a few times, usually family holidays and the most dispiriting time was sitting huddled together around an oil lamp at 8pm, the only entertainment being a radio which could only pick up the local radio station which that evening was broadcasting a three hour documentary about Albert Pierpoint, the executioner.

I now can't hear his name without looking back at those good times.

"We must destroy the pods and reverse the beams before Davros turns the Earth into a Dalek production planet!!!"

TV The old PC game Dalek Attack available for download:

"The premise is a very simple and easy one. You have the evildoer who wants to conquer the world and you, as a good guy, must prevent it. The twist is the typical Dr. Who plot. Davros is trying to turn Earth into a Dalek production planet (destroying humanity as a side effect). In order to stop him you need to run to the police phone booth and travel back in time, to the point when the invasion began and prevent it."

Well, it is the Seventh Doctor. It's particularly amazing that someone thought this release was a good idea nearly five years after the show was canceled. At least it features a version of the diamond logo. All good fun (ish).

"Costner’s urine-drinking escapade primes audiences for abundant distasteful behavior down the road."

Film The AV Club's My Year of Flops reaches Waterworld:
"Waterworld immediately throws down the gauntlet by introducing Costner’s mysterious water-drifter urinating, then gulping down his own sweet elixir. It’s possible that there are more off-putting ways to introduce the hero of a giant would-be blockbuster (at the time Waterworld was the most expensive movie ever made), but until some Costner-level auteur of the future develops the testicular fortitude to introduce a hero raping a nun, defecating on an American flag, or attending to painful hemorrhoids, Waterworld’s record for queasiest introduction of a stoic hero appears secure."
I was quite forgiving of the film on release simply because it wasn't as awful as we'd been led to believe by the press and the poster, despite the presence of Costner as 'pee-drinking man fish'. It was just so wierd that you couldn't help but enjoy, at least for the first hour or so. But then it drops in a stupid cliche of a finale in which the fishman has to battle crazy Dennis Hopper to save the damson and everything falls apart.

"If you're fond of sand dunes and salty air..."

Commerce I popped into Marks & Spencer today to pick up a copy of their new catalogue.

As I traveled down the escalator towards the exit, I begin to whistle. I’m not sure what it is I’m whistling but it sounds familiar. I think about it for a moment and I realise it’s At The River by Groove Armada. I further realise that it’s the music the shop’s using in their food campaign, the one with Dervla Kerwin in which she makes things like strawberries and chopped onions seem sexy.

So I’m in a Marks & Spencer store whistling the soundtrack of their ad campaign.

It seems that none of us, now, are immune to brand penetration.

Luckily, Groove Armarda aren’t too enamored with the campaign as this interview explains:
Are you still using your music on a lot of TV ads and programs?

Yep. We did a big commercial for Renault with I See You Baby and made a lot of dough. It was a really good ad and kept our profile out there in a weird way. We've just done a thing with (British department store) Marks and Spencer using At the River. I really regret that. The offer came when I didn't think we were going to make another record and, like everyone else, I've got to feed my family. You've got to make hay while the sun shines and this ad could set me up for a year.

What's so wrong with it?

I hate it. It's a food ad. It's terrible. It's pouring sauce over fish with At the River over the background. It's killed it for me.
Yes, but do you find yourself whistling it in the food department?

"David has got his face on some pants but I haven’t."

TV Freema talks to The Metro and frankly if you don't love her already:

"I went to a Star Trek convention years ago because I was really into Star Trek: The Next Generation. I watched Deep Space Nine too, so I understand wanting to see the other side of the programme you enjoy and meet the actors. We’re a real sci-fi household. We’re all into Heroes now but we’ll watch anything – Sliders, Stargate."

Name-checking Sliders? One of us, one of us, one of us ...

Trying to borrow a fiver off...

Radio The Creamguide 24 live: Radio 2 Ian Jones listens to BBC Radio Two for twenty-four hours: "Well, I'm really feeling the strain now. I can't really concentrate on what I'm hearing at all. As slick and agreeable as Ken is, his choice of music is really uninspiring. In fact, there's been loads of this kind of stuff during the last 24 hours: plastic soul, to coin a phrase. This week's playlist includes Simon Webbe, The Bees and Andrea Corr, none of which are blinding. Where are the hits?!"

You've had ...

TV In a surprising move, I’m about to recommend a new ITV drama, something I don’t think I’ve been able to do since, well I don’t actually remember the last time I’ve even mentioned ITV on here. Writer Charlie Martin’s The Time Of Your Life (Mondays, 9pm) expands from a relatively simple premise -- Kate now aged thirty-five awakens from an eighteen year coma and has to come to terms with how the world has changed whilst she slept. It sounds like the kind of concept that would be rocket fuel for one of the US tv movies that appear in the afternoons on Channel Five, but what elevates the material is that Martin has placed Kate within an ensemble of her old school friends all grown up and her parents and all are rocked by her re-emergence and begin to question the lives they’ve led themselves in the intervening years.

To a degree this is an ensemble show in the style of Cold Feet, lots of friends of a certain age dealing with life’s problems; but Kate’s story undercuts the potential clich├ęs. In the opening and closing voice over she talks about high school films, listing all of the tropes of the genre, of people meeting and revealing their occupations and in the end dancing together to whichever old song is being plugged on the soundtrack. But this story is also told with that exact formula, the opening twenty minutes in particular mirroring The Big Chill, each of the characters being contacted by phone except in this case the person who’s drawing them together has woken up rather than died.

Not content with this, Martin also introduces a cross genre element in the form of the mystery surrounding why Kate fell into the coma in the first place and the circumstances surrounding the death of the man she was with that night. If anyone knows the real truth they’re not saying and now and then Kate receives flashbacks to a night that she’s largely blocked from her memory and as she revisits the scene of her accident, you can tell the games afoot and that this bit of detection on her part is going to form one of the backbones of the series, hopefully bringing the audience back each week as more is revealed, Lost-style.

It’s been well cast too with actors that seem familiar from elsewhere but without the expected ‘star’ to overshadow anyone, most recognisable faces are probably Olivia Colman (Peep Show, Look Around You), Mark Bazeley (who played Alistair Campbell in The Queen),
Jemima Rooper (As If, erm Hex, Sinchronicity) and Geraladine James (everything ever made it seems). The key casting is probably the relatively unknown Genevieve O'Reilly as Kate and she’s amazing, convincingly suggesting a late teen trapped in a much older body without it becoming a goofy parody, remembering that eighteen is at the cusp of adulthood and for some people the moment that they mature.

According to this week’s Radio Times, episode two picks up the momentum drawing the viewer in further and I can’t wait. As my Primevil experience showed, I have a very low tolerance for series with poor first episodes and it’s refreshing to watching something and be hooked straight away. I love Steven Polikoff’s late work, especially Shooting The Past and Gideon's Daughter, and this often has the feel of an even more mainstream version of that with its sometimes impressionistic visuals evoking Kate’s coma memories. There was a lovely moment too which also reminded me of Perfect Strangers, where most of the cast had gathered in a stairwell just after Kate had come out of her coma -- she looks down and them, they look up at her and she asks:

‘Who the fuck are you?’

"Billions of people walking around like Happy Meals with legs...."

TV James (Spike from Buffy, Braniac from Smallville) Marsters to appear in Torchwood: "Torchwood - an anagram of Doctor Who - is a secret task force that deals with alien encounters. John Barrowman plays mysterious multi-sexual time agent Captain Jack Harkness, who leads the Cardiff-based team. Series creator Russell T Davies, winner of the 2006 BAFTA Dennis Potter Award for Outstanding Writing for Television, has also written Casanova, Dr Who and Queer As Folk." [via]

[Links broken now.]

Share and share alike.

TV This week's figures are a bit misleading. Here are the top threes.

Top Twenty by Audience

1 …. 8.9 (40.9%) …. Britain's Got Talent (19:45) ITV
2 …. 7.3 (36.9%) …. Doctor Who (19:15) BBC1
3 …. 5.1 (23.5%) …. Jekyll (21:00) BBC1

Top Twenty by share

1 …. 8.9 (40.9%) …. Britain's Got Talent (19:45) ITV
2 …. 1.2 (38.2%) …. Breakfast (06:00) BBC1
3 …. 7.3 (36.9%) …. Doctor Who (19:15) BBC1

It's almost as though people drifted away from Doctor Who in the last fifteen minutes to see the talent contest, missing one of the biggest reveals in the series history. But if you look at the splits:

Time.........BBC1................ITV1
19:15 …. 6.8 (35.8%) …. 3.9 (20.6%)
19:30 …. 7.3 (37.6%) …. 4.1 (21.1%)
19:45 …. 7.7 (37.2%) …. 6.4 (30.8%)
20:00 …. 4.9 (23.5%) …. 8.6 (41.1%)
20:15 …. 4.5 (20.8%) …. 9.1 (42.4%)
20:30 …. 4.7 (21.4%) …. 9.7 (43.7%)
20:45 …. 5.2 (23.1%) …. 9.6 (42.7%)
21:00 …. 4.4 (19.7%) …. 9.9 (44.1%)

The attrition didn't start until the show was over -- you can actually see a million people turning over at eight o'clock. So congratulations to 'us' for such a great rating this late in the series and winning in the timeslot again, but credit where it's due to ITV1 for managing to pull in nearly 10 million people on a Saturday night in this day and age, something I'm not sure has happened since Rose. It's remarkable that Breakfast managed to beat us in the share demonstrating the idiosyncrasies of that figure and that Jekyll did so well -- great opening episode by the way. Congratulations again, Mr Moffat.

*lol*

Commerce My new PC doesn't have a PS2 socket, but I've managed to buy a converter from ebay so that I can use my old keyboard. I've just had a confirmation email from the seller and it's just amazing:
"Hello,
Thank you for your purchase and we are very appreciate your quick payment.
I will send it to you asap.
usually it will take for somedays for deliver.
If there is any problems,pls contact us freely.
Be Happy everyday!
Candy"
I am happy now, Candy.