The Clonus Horror

Elsewhere Oh dear. But hey, next week's Doctor Who looks fun.

New Earth.

TV I think a post from Outpost Gallifrey (from someone called the Celestial Toymaker) sums up my reaction to New Earth:

"Quite good, but thought it was a mistake having Cassandra inhabit Rose's body for most of the first episode of the new series."

The anticipation I felt leading up to this first episode was stronger than when I was child waiting for a new series. I think I'm probably a bigger fan of the franchise now than I've ever been which is an interesting thing to admit. I've been swapping text messages with an old university pal counting down the hours until the broadcast and ate my nut roast about an hour too early so that I didn't miss anything. Frankly, if I had a cuddly slitheen it probably would have been sitting at the edge of the bed as I watched. I'm such a child, but for Doctor Who, at least this version, you have to watch it to some extent with younger eyes otherwise episodes like New Earth feel a touch insubstantial.

Oh dear.

For some unaccountable reason I was slightly disappointed with tonight's episode. As anticlimactic as those few minutes on Christmas morning after you've opened your presents and you realise it's over for another year. It's all there, everything shiny and new and playable but now you're not sure what to do with yourself. Which is stupid in this case because there are another twelve episodes to go until Doomsday. I like to think that it's nothing to do with the show itself, it's just my reaction to it -- that nothing could fulfill my expectations and when I watch it again it'll be a much more enjoyable experience.

It didn't seem like a first episode -- more like a midseason breather after one of the big exciting important stories, a Boomtown or (god forbid) The Long Game. There wasn't anything intrinsically wrong with it -- funny in some places, exciting in others and a big fun pantomime overall. But really what was Russell's thinking with having a body swap subplot involving the companion in the opening episode of the new season when the audience has had barely enough time to see the Tardis team working together? As the production staff has said on repeated occasions, Rose is the emotional anchor for everything, but to have the character out of action here for much of the story meant that the audience were left with Cassandra, whose ethically dodgy behavior created a vacuum.

This issue was exentuated by the editing which seemed slightly derranged -- the cross cutting between plotlines making for odd pacing. Just in the moments with Tennant needed to be establishing himself, the plot was paying more attention to Cassandra inhabiting Rose's body -- and although Billie Piper's performance was amazing, it meant that the two lead protagonists were off-screen for minutes at a time. This might have been solved if Rose's spirit had been stored in the body of one of the diseased clones which would have given The Doctor an even greater need to solve the problem and also would have kept her alive within the story.

Murray Gold's score continues to be an issue too. There is still a problem with the sound mix, but often his music just clashes with the action and fails to cue to the quick tonal shifts within scenes. In first few moments of the teaser it seemed to work against the emotion of Rose leaving and in some of the zombie scenes when horror should have been the order, a comedy soundtrack would keep clambering in and drowning out the dialogue. It's odd because in some episodes last season -- The Empty Child being a classic example -- the music worked perfectly well, but here it detracted in all the wrong places.

But you know what really niggled with me though? The story. The opening scene on the planet. Not the dialogue or the acting which were great. But the concept. New New York is introduced. They talk about it a lot. It sounds really exciting. But then we find out were going to spend the rest of the episode in a hospital. Without a shop. Then the story continues and we discover it's the hoary old sci-fi plotline of breeding humans for testing. What again?

Did anyone else get the creepy feeling that the climax was basically The Doctor Dances with less emotional impetous. Then it was an important step because the Doctor was allowed to work through some of his survivor guilt, here it was just a neat trick, but we didn't have a primal connection with the zombies which meant it was a just a little bit empty. Also Cassandra was dragged into caring in the much the same way as Captain Jack.

Oh lord, I hadn't meant to be so crushingly negative. There were aspects of the episode I adored. The Face of Boe. David Tennant just is The Doctor and has the potential to offer the best television portrayal of the character since Tom Baker. Nice handle action in the opening sequence. The scenary and costumes. The jibes at publicity and politicians hiding themselves away from the public. The zombies. The dialogue crackled all over the place. And judging by that look I don't think it's the last we've seen of that kitty nurse.

I think I just wanted to be able to cheer at the end. And I didn't. And it's annoying me, and even after writing this, I still can't put my finger on why.


That Day Visited Liverpool Central Library today. Or tried to. When I arrived, there was a A4 sheet of paper taped to the door written in black marker pen advising that they were closed today, but open tomorrow 12-4 then shut again on Bank Holiday Monday. Anyone else think this is a bit backwards?

Not that one surely? (updated)

That Day Updated: It is that one!

"British national Dominic Diamond earlier told GMA television that he planned to join the annual rite, hoping to find his lost faith in God. He said he had been suffering from insomnia and would go three or four days at a time without sleep. Diamond said he prayed to God to be released from the condition, but that it has persisted." -- Fernando Sepe [via]

MySpace thru Bloglines

RSS Subscribing to myspace blogs using RSS feeds and Bloglines. Wierdly useful.

referential and experiential

About "There are two kinds of bloggers, referential and experiential." -- GK

I like to think I'm a mixture of the two.


Radio I think I might have got a model/actress to name her new fragance after the title of a Doctor Who novel...

As I write this I'm listening to Radio Five and the understudies for the usual Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo Friday afternoon film review. James King & Phil Williams are interviewing Carmen Electra about Scary Movie 4 and Baywatch and her new perfume. And they asked for people to email with ideas for the name of the perfume. Quick click on Outlook and...

Lovely interview. Some ideas...





Take care,

Three minutes later they're actually being suggested to Electra. Luminous (which wasn't relevant) enticed them in. They were puzzled by Interference, intrigued by Adventuress and Dreamstone gave her pause for thought. Then they were off into some puns. You'll be able to hear the moment here later. So in about six months when Electra releases her new fire water and it uses any of those words you'll be able to say quite comfortably were she got the name from. Someone sent me a text and asked me if I could wait until 7:15 tomorrow. I think I'm actually overdosing on the tension.

Where for art thou?

Film Gnomeo and Juliet may be still be a go. At Miramax?

Movies killed the theatre star

Life "The cinema is little more than a fad. It's canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage." - Charlie Chaplin, actor, producer, director, and studio founder, 1916.

Who you again?

TV "She's a bit of a goer! People will be quite shocked when they see; she doesn't waste her time, put it that way!" -- Sophie Myles interviewed by Sam Ashurst for SFX about her character in the new series of Doctor Who. Spoilerific.

"You're listening to the Today programme on Radio Four..."

Radio "John Humphrys was co-hosting this morning's show alongside James Naughtie. This is the programme's classic line-up, and one I always look forward to hearing. Two greats, side by side, inspiring each other to greater heights of incisive cross-examination and equally cutting gags. But they wouldn't be anywhere near as good if they didn't have such an ace line-up of reports and topics with which to grapple." -- Alistair Myles

I love the Today programme. Granted in my morning routine, breakfast always seems to hopelessly coincide with Thought For The Day, although sometimes even that can be hopelessly moving. On Thurday, the show played host to Kevin Spacey answering critics of his policies at the Old Vic and the premature closure of Robert Altman's production of Arthur Miller's Resurrection Blues. It's one of the few moments when I've heard the interview caught on the hop and stuttery. But you can't blame her. If I was in a room with Spacey, I'd be filtering my reactions through all of his film roles. One moment he's Bobby Darren (sigh), next he's Verbal Kint (aaaah!). Mostly in this interview he sounds like Buddy Ackerman from Swimming With Sharks in his quieter moments. Just listen to the way he basically says he doesn't see why should need to apologise for anything. [Michael Billington of The Guardian also gives him an informed grilling here].

Yes, but we had a planet Vulcan first...

TV  The US Sci-Fi Channel's website has a news section, Sci Fi Wire, which generally includes fluff pieces publicising their own shows and sometimes other things. Often this isn't actually news -- they've probably interviewed someone and then they'll trot out sections of what was said in blocks. Recently, nearly twice a day there's been chat from Russell T Davies about something or other, mostly things he's also said to SFX or DWM. Today however there's something totally new and interesting. Hey look everyone, Russell's approach to New Who was influenced by Gene Roddenberry:
"That was very much a lesson that I took from Star Trek: The Next Generation, where in the first [season], apart from seeing Dr. McCoy in the first episode, they were quite uptight about continuity and didn't refer too much and kept it a new show," Davies said in an interview. "Once they were successful, they sort of relaxed in the second season, introducing the Romulans at the end of the first season, so they started accepting that all those great icons of the show are public icons. It takes you a while to realize that, because when you're a fan, as I am, you sometimes think your point of view is too fannish, and it takes a while to realize that sometimes a fan's point of view does coincide with the general public's memory of a show. It's not just the fans that say, 'Sarah Jane, K-9, the Cybermen, the Daleks!' It's also the general public."
He was absolutely right of course. Good old Russell. But you know what I really love about this quote -- how clued up he actually is about Star Trek -- I mean who but a Trekker would know that McCoy was in the first episode and the Romulans turned up in the season finale? Bet he even knows the stardates too...

"You're fucking kidding me! The Easter bunny did this?" -- Jay, 'Mallrats'

That Day "So the Easter Bunny is Jesus?" -- Mick Stingley on trying to explain the Easter Bunny to his orthodox Jewish girlfriend
Manchester Life I was hoping this evening to bring word of the wall of flowers which is being errected in Picadilly Gardens. Unfortunately I lunk-headedly forgot to take my camera, so let's pretend its radio and try and describe the scene. In the Gardens, at around the time of the Commonwealth Games, a giant concrete wall was errected for reasons which a Manchester councillor described on the television as 'challenging'. It's certainly that. It's big and bland but hides some bus stops and an even more depressing piece of architecture which some shops have the misfortune of renting. It basically looks like someone has taken a concrete breeze block and zapped it to massive size.

The concept for the wall of flowers is for a selection of flora to be arranged in the shape of a giant flower then hung off this mortar monstrosity; imagine a giant computer drawing with each flower representing a pixel. The full story is here. The tableau was meant to be put up early this morning but when I visited only half of one of the pictures had been errected. Because of the wind. Picadilly Gardens is a wind trap. So what flowers were on the wall were being blown away from the intricately designed display. And the sections on the floor which were waiting to be put up were being blown about and blown over. It was quite sad really and not at all what the organisers had hoped. The scene is going to be displayed until Saturday night but I'm taking Easter off so I'll be missing the full bloom.


Music "But the problem is that the grin is too real. She just enjoys it too much. There were plenty of times during the concert when, spiced with scowls, Sugababes? rocketship voices would soar straight into the hearts of even the most po-faced indie boy. While Keisha's eyes sparkle with divorce and murder and The New One pouts nervously, Heidi grins, grins, grins throughout. Any edge dissipates. Blessed and cursed by the Atomic Kitten gene pool, she mimes the words to the songs with panto actions, waves at people in the crowd, giggles excitedly in the pauses and encourages people to scream if they?re having a good time." -- Ste Triforce crushes sweetly on a Sugababe.

Talking in Cinemas

Film "Hire. Fucking. USHERS." -- John Rogers.

A call to arms and a valid one. The situation he describes here with the person holding the exit open so that they can complete their conversation whilst the film is going on is totally unacceptable and although it relates to the American theatrical industry I think it still holds true here in the UK. I've ranted about this before, but I'm in the mood so ... I haven't been to the multiplex since Syriana. That's because it becomes a battle to enjoy the film without any distractions. You keep telling yourself things like 'it's only a movie' and 'there are more important things to worry about' but you shouldn't have to. You've paid your money to enjoy the film without interuption, especially from people who (a) don't tend to be film fans and (b) will 'prolly'(sic) end up buying a pirate copy or hiring it out to watch at home anyway. Plus we have ushers but they don't stay for the whole film and tend to just trot in every half an hour letting the doors clatter as they enter and leave. I could crack on here and into the night about the couple who sat behind me at Much Ado About Nothing at the theatre the other week and talked all the way through any moment when there wasn't anyone speaking on stage but really I think I've taken up too much of your time already.

Restoring Mr Arkadin

Film "Perfectionist auteurs have become well known for monkeying with their movies up until the last minute and beyond, but how do you release a DVD director's cut if you don't know how the director himself would have finished the film? And how daunting is that job when the director is as formidable a legend as Orson Welles himself? [...] That was the challenge faced by New York's Criterion Collection when it decided to restore Welles' 1955 film, Mr. Arkadin. "The film had been re-edited many times by many different people in various territories, as Welles had been taking too long to edit it himself," recalls Criterion's technical director, Lee Kline. "There was film everywhere, but each was a different cut." -- Iain Blair for Studio Daily [via]


Books This is one of my favourite ever Doctor Who stories. It's not a television story, a Big Finish production or even a radio play. It is a short text story but in an audio adaptation and it's one of the most epic narratives the series has ever produced in any media, featuring nothing less than the destruction of Earth's timeline and the possibile betrayal of the human race by The Doctor. And it's just twenty minutes long.

Freedom was written by Steve Lyons and originated in the BBC Short Trips anthologies which were published by the BBC in the late 90s. Somewhere along the line, as audio books became more popular, BBC Audio decided that a talking version of some of the stories should appear and hired no less that Nicholas Courtney and Sophie Aldred to read them. Around this time, before Big Finish, they were experimenting with the format. Other works included Paul McGann reading other Short Trips and the novelisation of the tv movie and Out of the Darkness, a cd with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant as The Doctor and Peri with sections which were dramatised and as close to new recorded Who as anyone could have imagined.

Freedom's different. It's weird.

In Courtney's whispered brogue we're introduced to a construct, a prison in space. I imagine it looks something like the cube in the film Cube. Within The Third Doctor and Jo Grant are prisoners and have seemingly been there for quite some time. Slowly a series of flashbacks reveal a series of miscalculations and a trap set by, oh yes, The Master to lure his foe and Jo into captivity. As the story is meticulously revealed, it sounds entirely mad.

The listener is meant to believe that The Master, just in case he is ever captured whilst he'd noodling on Earth, set up a corporation called 'Freedom' some thirty years before as a front to create a time machine or weapon and develop a cloned body for him to inhabit so that he can lure The Doctor into his trap. It's totally ludicrous and illogical but make sense within the structure of the story and importantly sounds like exactly the kind of mad scheme he would develop, and no less bonkers than most of the things which happened during the Pertwee era.

Being a Steve Lyons adventure, it smells entirely authentic. There are scenes when the pomposity of The Doctor and autocracy of The Brigadier clash perfectly as Jo looks on with a mixture of confusion and boredom. You can almost see the balsa wood paneling of the room in which a press conference takes place. Even the aforementioned moment when The Doctor is placed in the situation of having to choose between Earth and freedom seems plausible -- and the Third Doctor is I think the only incarnation were we aren't quite sure of his motives.

All of which sounds like it could make a really good short story, which begs the question of why I've selected the audio. Because it's atmospheric, soothing and more importantly unique. During the scenes in which The Doctor and Jo are trapped in the prison cell the prose takes a back seat and the story becomes a mini-play with Nick Courtney essaying the role of the Doctor and, good lord, Sophie Aldred playing Jo Grant. And it's uncanny.

There's a certain weirdness because all over the rest of the story Courtney reads in Jo's dialogue with a slightly feminine inflection, but it's the only place in the whole audiobook in which this happens. Worth highlighting because, although I've never been a big fan of Aldred's work, here she actually gives a great little performance with the few lines she's given to read, including the moment late on when we hear an internal dialogue with herself about whether she believes the Doctor can throw out his principals.

I can't wait for the audio releases of the next group of Nu-Who books because it'll allow the experience of David Tennant doing his Rose Tyler (perhaps I should rephrase that) but I don't think that will be as interesting or unusual as Freedom or the other stories on offer here. My second favourite is Stop The Pigeon, in which Sophie gives Sylvester McCoy's accent her best shot or Glass which is a sequel to Shada of all things read in first person mockney.

All of these stories are now available on the Tales from the Tardis cds with Freedom on Volume One.

Collect bugs

Film "When I was six or seven years old, my mother married a man who, a week or two into their short-lived marriage, sold every toy and comic book I owned in a yard sale and used the money to get drunk. When I was sixteen years old, I made the decision to leave home and, for various reasons, I could take with me only what I could carry. Aside from clothes and other essentials I could fit into two suitcases, I had to leave all my belongings behind -- my FAMOUS MONSTERS collection, my movie posters, and some complete runs of numerous Marvel Comics titles, not to mention family photos. So, twice in my early life, I suffered the loss of everything I ever owned. Once it was taken from me, the other time I had to marshal the strength to walk away from it all voluntarily. I don't need a psychiatrist to tell me that therein lies a good deal of my compulsion to have and to hoard from this day forward." -- Tim Lucas

Although that's a tragic story it spins off into a discussion the need to own dvds or the compulsion some of us have for buying or hoarding these things. I'm guilty. I look across at my complete Woody Allen collection and everything else. I have a backlog of things I've recorded from tv which could take years to work through, and I'm wondering when I'll have time to watch those, let alone rewatch anything else I have around here. Will I really be wanting to sit down to Mickey Blue Eyes again (probably -- 'Git the heel outtaaa heeer' etc.) It really is the collecting bug, the need to own every film which has meant something to me and loads which haven't but seem purposeful somehow. I'm assuming the fact I'm on a film course and want to go into the industry is some excuse. But is there any excuse for owning a copy of Down To You (where the hell did that come from)? [other responses]

I don't wanna wait...

TV But whilst I'm on the subject, you can currently buy the whole of Dawson's Creek for the same price as a certain's show's boxset cost just before Christmas. That's doesn't seem right.

You Wanna Come With Me?

Elsewhere Something interesting is happening on Saturday, but I'm keeping my words on it safely Behind The Sofa, including this review of a story you might not have heard of before.

Deal Or No Deal: The Board Game

TV DEAL OR NO DEAL NOEL EDMONDS FIGURE PLAYSET full game!! Extra boxes 50p! [via]

Iyari Limon interview

TV You remember Iyari Limon right? Well, Ok. She played Kennedy, Willow's girlfriend that wasn't Tara in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. I was less hostile towards the character than most and partly it was because of Limon's performance which seemed fresh and shiny and convincing. This interview for AfterEllen features many riches, including her coming out story and an excellent moment when she geniunely shocks the interviewer:
"AE: How has this been for you career-wise? any changes in how people in the business treat you? Any pleasant surprises?
IL: (laughs) this is the first time I'm actually speaking about this openly, so--

AE: So this is a scoop!
IL: Yeah! Because people didn't need to know my private life. I like keeping it private. But at this point, I'm just so ...

Okay. This is another huge thing. I was married before.

AE: I didn't see that on your IMDB bio!
IL: (Laughs) I know! That's what I'm saying! Did you see Napoleon Dynamite?

AE: Yes.
IL: Do you remember the Latin guy in it?

AE: Pedro?
IL: Yup.

AE: You were married to Pedro?
IL: I was.

AE: He's a folk hero!

"Fear is for the weak, Loktar..."

Comics Ahead of their return to our screens, here's Alan Moore's early Cyberman strip, Black Legacy. Dialogue doesn't really get more arch than...

"The Deathsmiths of Goth, with their awesome weaponary, were once more feared than even The Daleks ... until almost overnight their entire civilisation vanished without trace. Now, Goth is a dead world, a haunted planet, shunned by all ... or rather almost all!"

Later ...

"Incredible! This is all we had dreamed of ... and more! With devices like these the Cybermen will be truly invincible!"

Incidentally, features a Cyberleader Maxel, which has a certain wrongness to it. [via]

In other news, unsurprisingly Doctor Who is on this week's Radio Times front page. That's very cool and yet also horribly spoilery. Click only if you dare. Also have scans of Torchwood HQ and something of John Barrowman's first episode presenting This Morning.

No more Gnomeo

Film The brilliantly titled Gnomeo and Juliet is no more. This garden retelling of the Shakespeare play featuring the voices of Ewan McGreggor, Kate Winslet and Judi Dench (by the way) has been dropped by Disney in the wake of the Pixar deal. Seriously guys, if those actors have already laid down a voice track and the scripts locked you've got to do something with it? How about an audio book? I was really looking forward to this and future cartoons based on the bards work. Doesn't look like Hamlet with pigs is going to be made any time soon. The imdb page has already been pulled, but here's a cached version just to prove the thing existed.

Scottish me

Life There was a documentary about poet Robert Burns on ITV3 last night and as I heard members of the public reciting his poetry in a Glasgow street and listened to the pipe music something stirred in me. I've always had a genuine feeling that this is my cultural heritage and that somewhere along the line I'll end up living or returning there (are flats on Princes Street or the Royal Mile of Edinburgh that expensive?). I'm only vaguely Scottish (something like an eighth) but with the surname and ability to do the accent I'd blend right in. Randomly, it's Tartan Week in New York which leads to spectacles such as this ... amazing.

New Schedule

TV Sunday newspapers bring the following Saturday's television schedules which means we can take a look at the competition on the main channels next week ...

BBC Two Snooker: World Championship
ITV1 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Channel 4 The Passion: Films, Faith & Fury
Five Holy Man

Sport was inevitable for BBC Two -- it's the summer.

Notice that ITV1 are beginning their Potter fest a full hour before Doctor Who debuts but considering last year when they were solidly in the midst of a season of Ant & Dec it does suggest that they've decided that Saturday nights are simply not worth fighting for. Presenting a four year old film which as been out on dvd for as long does not look like a channel consciously trying to be an opposition -- why bother shelling out a budget for a slot when you don't think anyone will be watching?

Notice also that Four have moved their primetime Deal or No Deal which has been doing pretty well this last few weeks back an hour to make way for a documentary which looks interesting but is hardly playing to the same audience, and Five have done much the same thing as ITV1 with an eight year old Eddie Murphy movie from way past his prime.

I think we've got Saturday nights sewn up droogs ...

Wilson's Dog

Life I saw Anthony H Wilson on Oxford Road on Friday looking in the window of Maplins Electronics. He was wearing a giant brown timelord raincoat and had a large brown dog with him. Once I'd clocked him and passed by I stood waiting to cross the road. A cockney bloke came a stood next to me.
"Is that Tony Wilson?" He asked.
"Yes", I said, "He's got a new show on Radio Manchester."
The BBC building is opposite.
"Oh", said the bloke, "Actually saw 'is dog first."

Not nostalgia

TV Over the past few days I've been watching many Frank Capra films in preparation for an upcoming essay. Most of these have been from university library tapes which were recorded when the relevant work appeared on television generally from around 1997. In some ways as exciting as the films themselves is the tv-nalia which surrounds them, in the adbreaks of afterwards. It's a wierd kind of nostalgia because it's not about looking back at things you remember fondly -- it's about seeing adverts and television programmes and effemera from your past which demonstrate the passage years. Here's a partial list of things I've seen...

* Lisa Rogers as a runner in a tampon advert
* Barry Norman on Film '97 reviewing The English Patient the week it came out and interviewing Ralph Fiennes wearing his Oniegin moustache.
* Trailer for This Life's second series the week it began.
* The John Smiths Advert with Jack Dee and the penguins
* A trailer for a season of horror films which appeared on Channel 4 one Christmas
* An advert for New Year's Eve programming that same year -- Eurotrash and dancing raw poultry
* Some bloke from Hollyoaks advertising spot cream

Screenselect merges with LoveFilm

Film "Not the most exciting story of the day this, but as it could effect UK DVD rentals, we thought you'd like to know that the top online companies have announced plans for a 50-50 merger. LoveFilm and Video Island's ScreenSelect will be consolidated under the LoveFilm consumer brand. The combined company will have more than 400,000 subscribers and a market share of about 17% of all UK DVD rental transactions." -- Time Out

I thought something like this might happen -- although it's wierd that ScreenSelect is being enveloped into LoveFilm and that at some point in the future I'l; be navigating their website instead. I suppose the only issue will be if there's a drop in service. But really I'm going to miss the little red packets dropping through my door. LoveFilm's olive variety just seem so formal.