Elsewhere Tonight was the night and what a night.

School Reunion.

"Ain't nothin' to do
But to set down and sing
And rock about my Sarah Jane."
-- Bob Dylan.

TV A photograph appeared in both Radio Times and Doctor Who Magazine of The Doctor embracing Sarah Jane Smith and to meet it felt like for the first time the old and new shows were joining together, that the past and present would finally become one continuity, with new fans and viewers being given a reason to revisit those old stories. It felt right. It felt good. Then I saw tonight's episode and I still can't believe just how right, and how good, this adventure would be.

I suppose once they'd decided to bring back Sarah Jane and K9, that the biggest problem was going to be creating a story that could possibly take the weight. Oddly, the resulting plot was more than a little reminiscent of the old vhs fan spin-off Downtime which equally featured Sarah investigating an alien intelligence using a school to bring about some new age. Then it all seemed a bit ponderous and the only scenes which really worked were those which tried to address the one man who was missing. 

Here it worked brilliantly well, with just the right amount of sinister goings on and in-fact, predictably I think this is as close as the series has got so far to Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Was this a satirical swipe at Academies of Excellence? I suppose if the episode had been longer, more might have been made of the children, although the one heroic kid worked pretty well. It even had Tony 'Giles' Head and well, The Headmaster in a brilliantly sinister turn, very akin to that old librarian when he's taken a turn for The Ripper. Can we conclusively say that he died in the explosion because it would be good to have him back?

With that kind of firepower it's great to see David Tennant offering his best performance so far. This was filmed before New Earth -- which is wierd because then he still seemed to be bedding in there whereas here he's in full flow, fitting the silohette perfectly. Whether it was the presence of some of the icons of all our childhoods creating a different vibe I'm not sure but here he was The Doctor, copper bottom, unbeatable, that man, that timelord. For the first time I could see the eyes of those nine other men looking through his and felt a shiver when he said 'I'm so old ... I used to have more mercy ...'

But it was that kind of episode -- Noel Clarke gave his best work ever too (I'm actually pleased he's become a real companion which is something I would not have imagined this time last year) -- in a recent interview for Doctor Who Magazine he was a bit hard on himself for the work he's given in the past but here he's worked things out, his approach to material. The man can do comedy. It's almost as though he was channeling Nicholas 'Xander' Brendan. Billie Piper too was as amazing as ever in an episode during which she was required to be overshadowed by a visiting soul, able to continue into words all of those jealous looks over Lynda in The Parting Of The Ways.

The unknown quantity for many fans in this episode was going to be the writing of Toby Whitehouse. The first writer on the series who hasn't previous written an adventure for The Doctor in any medium, I wasn't sure if, even with all of his other tv successes, he was the man to write what would undoubtedly be a continuity fest. Again, surprised and delighted. Some of the dialogue just crackled. The bitch fest over monsters met between Sarah and Rose was perfect as was the confrontation between Mr Finch and The Doctor in the swimming pool.

Whitehouse's work perfectly captured the audience's regard for the icons of the series and, bless him, didn't completely screw up spin-off continuity. True the continuity cops will be stressing their noodles over why Sarah-Jane appears not have met The Doctor since the Fourth, even though she was in The Five Doctors, and spin-offs with Seven and Eight, but the rest of it, the short stories, the Big Finish Audios and Downtime, none of it was needlessly disregarded, their presence even gaining import because they're part of the story of a woman coping with a great loss and trying to carry on the work that she started in other times and places.

Sarah-Jane and K9's appearance here is the series first overt reference to the earlier series, which sounds silly given the dalek army last year, but it was the first time that something which happened twenty-years ago was being paid off now. The choice of this pair as the returning companions for this story was perfect. It's been said over and over that 'for people of a certain age she was definitive' and even though I'm a product of the late nineties Who I still have a place in my heart for her. Maddeningly, there will be people expressing surprise at just how good Lis Sladen was here. They'll be the people who haven't seen or heard her sterling work in keeping the character alive in countless spin-offs and radio plays over the years. She's said over and over that she didn't want this to be a cameo because she really cares about the character, and that was evident right here, in the continuity of performance, Lis delivered.

No other companion would have brought that same melancholy because he kicked her out. Not because she'd done wrong, like Adam, but because of a call from the timelords. There was no reason (other than television production issues) that he couldn't have returned and picked her up and started anew. She'd been hurt and in this new series she was allowed to show these wounds as never before.

But then there was the material concerning Rose's realisation that she wasn't the first and won't be the last. The BBC Eighth Doctor novel, Paul Leonard's Genocide covered some of the same territory with Sam Jones meeting Jo Grant, but then the resonance disipated because that adventure had other concerns. Here it was perfectly handled with The Doctor finally having to explain why he would leave these people, whom he called his best friend behind, never to be spoken of again. When The Doctor said she could travel with him for the rest of her life, the long term fan knew that he didn't mean it, that he said that to all the girls from Vicki to Charlie, then he said why. I don't know about you, but my heart broke.

And it broke again at the end with the death of K9. I knew this was gong to happen after the sodding tabloids broke the story late last year but it didn't make it any more heartbreaking, especially after he returned, not just for a cameo as a coffee table or whatever, but dramatically saving the day as he always has. After we lost one during the final Big Finish Gallifrey play last year, to lose another and again in such a heroic fashion was terrible. But then the TARDIS dematerialised and there was another. Does that make him up to K9 Mark IV?

James Hawes direction was yet again inspired in places and for the second episode running Murray Gold's score didn't intrude and actaully worked with rather than against the drama, the introduction of the theme to introduce the TARDIS back to Sarah-Jane and the showdown in swimming pool being examples of perfectly capturing the mood. The creature effects were superb too -- I think we've seen the last of the rubber/cg mix that stunted the slitheen for the last time.

I'm going overboard with bliss. This may have been a perfect episode.

And you know - I didn't cry -- until that final embrace, then Sarah and her robot dog walking into the sunset.


Snakes on a TARDIS

TV Since my university is one of the best in the country, this afternoon I was actually able to attended a course screening double-bill of the opening episode of An Unearthly Child and The TV Movie on a big lecture theatre screen. The idea was for a compare and contrast -- different intentions for different audiences of the same material. Seeing both on a large screen for the first time I was impressed with how neither felt 'blown up' -- each had a certain quality and depth that didn't seem out of place.

The rest of the audience was made up of first year undergraduates who laughed at some of the unintentionally funny bits -- Bill Russell's swervy falling over as the TARDIS falls out of control in one, the really cheesy piano soundtrack which greets Grace waking up in the morning after the operation in the other. I think the reaction was generally positive, although there was rather some bermusement. Since it's not a course I'm attending, I'm going to miss the seminar discussions which I think will be really interesting, particularly amongst the students for whom this may be their only exposure to the show, what with having other things to do on Saturday nights...

What struck me, seeing these two next to each other is how the latest production team somehow managed to take elements from both of them, throw some Spearhead From Space in the mix and produce Rose. The bit when Rose walks into the ship for the first time, dashes out, runs around it and runs back in again, is almost a direct steal from the TV Movie in a scene which still annoys me. It's the Master and not the Doctor who introduces the interior to the faux-companion and so the audience -- very wrong. But in a film whose plot is basically about a man getting the engine to his vehicle repaired I shouldn't be too surprised.

Also, has anyone else noticed how the sparkly time-vortex gas from The Christmas Invasion and Pudsey Cutaway looks almost exactly like the material that brings Grace and Lee from death at the end of the TV movie. All that was missing was Murray Gold offering accompanyment to President Flavia.

If the TV movie had gone to series, assuming it lasted this long, the series might have been in its tenth season now -- would the Doctor have regenerated? What else might have happened -- how much of the mythology would have been explored? If fate had gone a different way we might never have had the delights of Boomtown or School Reunion. But then the Big Finish audios would not have begun in their present form either, which would have been a shame.

Which links nicely to, as promised last week, my top ten non-tv stories. This is of course a hell of a lot harder because there's even more ancillary narrative to cope with than television material and everyone's list is going to be really different because not everyone has read/seen/heard everything. I mean I haven't gotten around to Marc Platt's Big Finish Spare Parts even though I've heard it's a classic . But here we go anyway, and I'm already regretting the idea ... in no particular order ...

Neverland (Big Finish)
The Witch Hunters (BBC Books)
Freedom (BBC Short Trip Audio)
Full Fathom Five (Unbound)
The Dying Days (Virgin)
Father Time (BBC Books)
Invaders From Mars (Big Finish)
Scherzo (Big Finish)
Alien Bodies (BBC Books)
Transit (Virgin)

I seem have picked lots of Eighth Doctor stories. Perhaps I should have done one for him, then one for everything else. Oh well. Next week, Doctor-less spin-offs. Now, which Gallifrey play will it be?

Battles In Time

Publishing I'll keep this quick because time is short. Did anyone know about Doctor Who: Battles In Time, the new magazine for the card game inclined? It all looks very bright and even has a comic strip. Has anyone seen this on sale? I only found out about it by email. Apparently its already reached issue two...

The North West Enquirer Launches

Newspapers The North West Enquirer launched today into an already busy local newspaper market. It will be a tricky experiment to pull off ? this is a weekly paper covering an area larger than a local town but smaller than a national. They admit as much in an opening editorial, although their argument is that they'll be covering the stories that reach the middle ground ? for example in this edition there is story which looks the impending supercasino which could be opening in either Blackpool or Manchester.

Visually it compares to the Liverpool Daily Post, with large headlines and lots of white paper, although the photography is in full colour, like The Guardian and to a degree even more impressive.

The writing style reminds me of a student newspaper, which isn't a criticism. It's young. Readable. And vibrant. And uses very short, punchy, sentences. In short paragraphs.

The paper's real strength is that seems feature and personality led. There is an unusual interview with a man who's leaving the police force to become a ?trolly-dolly? and a profile of a scientist at Liverpool's School of Tropical Medicine. This feels like a paper about people rather than situations, although it's never less than factual and knowledgable about the subject it's tackling.

There is some wierdness. Oddly in the centre, there are two pages of syndicated World News material from the Internationl Herald Tribune which are supposed to have a local angle but seem a bit random. Also, and what would have been of the most interest to me, the arts coverage, is wedged in the middle when I would drop it much closer to the front of the paper. There's also a missed opportunity in not including some kind of web or technology content, covering local online issues. But I would say that wouldn't I?

Also the paper has consciously decided not to include a listings section, because they say, 'there's not much point in our repeating info readily obtained elsewhere'. Such a shame, because I was looking forward to a one-stop-shop for the whole of the northwest for people who can be mobile and are missing out on that really funky Shakespeare production in a small town because they aren't aware of it because the local paper doesn't reach that far and it's too local for The Guardian Guide to publish.

But I'll still pick The Enquirer up at least for the first few weeks to watch it bed in and see how it changes based on the opinions of its readers. There are some excellent idiosyncrasies such as The Big Picture at the centre which this week compares a photograph taken from Liverpool World Museum steps by Edward Chambre Hardman in 1946 with a similar shot from today. Also, there's an exhaustive local sports results page covering things like Squash championships that I?ve not seen elsewhere.

Too much information?

TV The BBC have released online access to the infax programme archive catalogue. Whilst I was trying to confirm that, yes, there once was something called Soapacabana, I found this programme list for a certain other programme. Brilliantly it doesn't think much of The Twin Dilemma ...

"The Doctor escapes from confinement & saves Peri from the Gastropods. He then goes, rather stupidly, to confront Mestor.The Dr is overconfident, due to his unstable state & Mestor tries to kill him. Azmael sacrifices himself to save the Doctor & Mestor is killed. The twins are returned to Earth."

'rather stupidly'? Not our Doctor surely? Also with details of the series' other appearances elsewhere...

Why girls love men.

Relationships "The way you feel "protected" in their presence. When you are important to them, you know it. When you get a look or touch from a special guy, it makes your heart skip a beat. I love when a guy chases me in order to win my admiration. The way I can say and do goofy stuff and they don't run away thinking I am as dumb as I feel." - Jodi

Why girls love men. How many of these are true? Now I'm really worried that have my work cut out.

Snakes on a re-shoot

Film "A recent news item reported that the producers of Snakes On A Plane ordered five extra days of shooting, spurred by internet interest in the film. With the aim of getting the film's rating bumped from PG-13 to R, the filmmakers have added the line "I want these motherfucking snakes off this motherfucking plane!," as well as, according to the news report, "more gore, more deaths, more nudity, and more snakes." -- Fametracker

I'm disturbed that they thought that they could make a film with that title and make it a PG-13. I'd been reading here and there that early reports were that this was actually turning out to be a fairly conventional actioner despite the presence of Sam Jackson, snakes and a plane. Great to see that someone's decided on reshoots just so that they can make the thing cooler and actually live up to our expectations. I don't think I'm happier than when I hear Jackson making inferences about matriacal sexual encounters, very loudly. Frankly, that's what was missing from the Star Wars prequels.


Life Today was about restructuring, my essay and my attitude to life. My essay has been looking confused for many days, possibly because I wasn't explaining what I needed clearly enough for it. But this afternoon I took a deep breath, read through what I had, realised that bits of weren't awful and that the introduction actually worked better at the end, the middle at the beginning, and the end in the middle. I know this not how one is supposed to structure any kind of an argument, but it seems to work for me. Also, for the third day running I wore my t-shirt without a jumper, which means that it's getting warmer, which means my spirits are lifted. I'm actually in a really positive mood. Five months of my course to go...

"And it shall be called..."

TV Exciting Torchwood casting news. A bit of a cult began on Outpost Gallifrey over the Toshiko Sato character played by Naoko Mori who was in about two-odd scenes of the surprisingly entertaining (now) Aliens of London. That cult will be pleased to know that both actress and character will be back for the spin-off. I can't wait for the "You know the Doctor?" "I know the Doctor." "But I betcha don't know the Doctor the way I know the Doctor" conversation.

Incidentally, are we going to be posting about Torchwood here or in a homage will it have its own spin-off blog? How about calling it 'Fab Hide, Honest!' Seems about right.


Cities "Don't fear carrying around a map and being singled out as an "outsider." Because, umm, how else are you going to learn your way around. Maps these days are incredibly user-friendly and take pains to point out tourist destinations and attractions. And spending two days with a map and learning your way around is a much better way to get around then having to stop every five minutes and having to find someone who currently is not using their cell phone, listening to their iPod or reading US Weekly to ask for directions." -- Michael Orrell defends people's right to be new in a city.

hammer out

Life It's exam time at the university which means that the library is teeming with people today waiting for things -- waiting for computers, waiting for the booking desk. I even think I saw some people just waiting who weren't completely certain what for, just to give themselves a purpose. I know the feeling.

For all the busyness, I managed to hammer out another thirteen-hundred words which leaves another eight hundred of this essay to go. By now I have a slightly greater idea of what the answer might. It seems that yet again, I'm going to be using my usual approach to accademic essays. Writing something which fits the word length so that I have something I can hand in if I'm really desperate then go back and give it a structure, toss out the unnessary and make sure that it sounds like English and not my version of the language.

Can the word 'often' be used in the following context? 'Robert Riskin, often collaborator with Frank Capra' It doesn't look right to me...

on reflection pretty good


Sometimes the best moment in a film has nothing to do with the main action. I've just been watching Paul McGuigan's Wicker Park, an on reflection pretty good Hollywood re-telling of the French classic L'Appartement*. There's a scene were one of the characters is dashing along a street at some speed and she passes a beauty shop.

It's called "Wignail and I".

How cool is that?

* It's a shame that Mr McGuigan felt he needed to shoot most of the film handheld and edit it within an inch of its life. I've been watching a lot of Frank Capra's films lately and it's amazing how much more effective scenes can be if you shoot them in two shot, continuously and give the actors room to breath and well, act. But it's still exciting in places even if you know the original very well. Some great in-jokes too.

Overnight sonata

TV I'm going to keep it short this week, because a single line of figures tells the whole story ...

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