Love & Monsters.

TV Ironically, I too am double banking this week, with the first chapter of a dissertation to write and so just like the Doctor's appearance in tonight episode of Doctor Who, I'll keep this brief, and in the style of the marking sheet for an essay I've just got back:

Relevance: You could say that this series is lacking a momentum and after last week's bombshell about Rose it might have been prudent to move straight into a story which had her as central stage or else added to the heartache. This episode could have appeared earlier in the series, although there were references to what might happen to Jackie and Rose so I seriously think at least one of them isn't long for the Whoniverse. Either that or Rose'll regenerate -- wouldn't that be a turn-up?

Structure: I liked that the Doctor's appearances book ended the episode with Marc Warren's superb performance carrying the rest. I liked the slight leap into Simpsons-style sight gags ('No not that Elton.') and the feeling that this was someone telling a story with all of the messing about with time and restricted narration that allows. For once the foreknowledge of who the Abzorbaloff would be worked to the episode's advantage because it allowed some of the double meaning in Peter Kay's dialogue to make sense first time around.

Strength of Argument: Actually this might one of Russell T's best episodes. I don't think it descended too far into parody or comedy -- even the Scooby-Doo style corridor running in the teaser was funny -- although I could have been laughing at just how outrageous it all was. Before I even look at Outpost Gallifrey (which appeared in Confidential afterwards representing the geek end of the audience) I can see this is yet again going to split fandom down the middle. I think the reason is clear -- this isn't the series we once knew any more. Not better or worse necessarily -- just different. If there's an issue, more could have been made with the parallels between Elton losing his mother and Rose not paying hers enough attention. Although -- where was Sad Tony?

Coverage: Really I lost my heart to Jackie Tyler tonight (confession -- I've always fancied her). Camille excelled when given more mileage for once and being allowed to have her own story independent of whatever her daughter is up to. If there's a criticism of the episode, it's that there could have been a whole adventure were Jackie was at the centre, about her loss rather than seeing it from the point-of-view of this new new outsider. Dave and Billie were funny with the bit of material they had; which if you look at it from their point of view might have been a story something akin to Doctor Who Adventures (which hammers out mini-classics on a fortnightly basis now -- the last two were great). Even Peter Kay worked within context. But another amazing guest cast again. Shirley Henderson trying not to be Moaning Myrtle too much (did anyone else see a show she was in called Glasgow Kiss? Amazing romantic comedy stuck on over a summer a few years ago). And Kathryn Drysdale from Two Pints. Apparently. Never seen it. Bella Emberg! Let's move on...

Independence: Nope, there really hasn't been a tv episode quite like this one and somehow it still worked within the chemistry of the new show. It reminded me somewhat of that BBC Short Trip Glass in which a shop girl talked about the aftermath of Shada. It's a shame that LINDA only lasted the episode, although I think potential for a Baker Street Kids style spin-off for kids around a similar concept could be fun -- or a kind of Red Hand Gang with aliens. Hmm.

Clarity: It might have sagged a bit in the middle. A bit like the Abzorbaloff.

Referencing and presentation: Perfect opportunity to bring in lots of continuity for the fans and ... well that's a shame. I'm not talking about random photos of Troughton, but something a bit more substantive than the line drawings. I understand why this wasn't done, but the show's been back out in the world for a while now and the awareness of its past is a bit higher. But, hey, despite that joke at the end, this was a show for kids. I don't remember seeing director Dan Zeff's name before (although he's worked on everything from At Home With The Braithwaites to Fat Friends), but his work was excellent, giving the show a completely different look -- although I might have liked something was a bit darker in places. One of my few problems with the series is that it aspires to be a film without looking like a film -- there are some excellent filmising techniques available. Series Three is apparently being shot in HD -- that should help.

Comments So yes, really enjoyed it again, a change of pace and a great way to deal with the availability of actors. Given that they might have a similar problem next year with the double banking, I'm actually quite intrigued to see how they deal with it. Fabulous deployment of ELO too ...

Provisional mark (subject to confirmation by Board of Examiners): 73%

What now?

TV "Here is the Doctor, and here is Rose again, in Victorian Britain in episode two of the current series, just as they were in Victorian Britain in episode three of the series before. Dickens was last season, so let?s do Queen Victoria this time; we?ve had ghosts already, so let?s have a werewolf for a change. In the event, what appeared to be spirits of the restless dead turn out to be rapacious aliens; the werewolf turns out to be a rapacious alien too. The marching dummies are under the control of rapacious aliens, as are the Yeti, the exploding Santas and the evil lady played by Maureen Lipman. The aliens invade, and infect, and colonise, and zombify; their aim is to exploit our resources and herd us like cattle, i.e. exactly what we would do, if we had the resources, to them. Rapacious aliens, it seems, are at the bottom of everything mysterious in our universe; it is a curiously un-magical, unforgiving prospect. The only thing worse is the traditional consideration that the rapacious aliens are really us." -- Jenny Turner in The London Review of Books

Really excellent, well researched, loving, musing on Doctor Who new and old. Repetition is to some extent killing the series. Although I adored last week's episode it was still a retread of a bunch of ideas and tricks from the past forty years. It needn't be that way. This is the ultimate flexible format but because of production decisions, the Doctor and Rose are still trotting about either in 20 or 21st centuries or in the far future, and nearly all evil has been alien made. The Doctor lacks for a perpetual nemesis like the Master (although not necessarily the Master) for example or a visit to a place that's truly alien. Tomorrow night's episode is a real format breaker but the final double bill depite a certain departure is another (yawn) alien invasion on 'contemporary' Earth (well actually 2007 if you pay attention to dating).

While I'm sorry to see Billie Piper leave I'm surprised its taken this long. The character's arc ended at the climax of the last series and has been of less importance to the stories in this series, very much fulfilling the 'typical' companion role of yesteryear if more motivated. She lacks for a hook now and the slightly sparky relationship she had with the ninth has evaporated. That dynamic led to some of the truly great scenes last year -- at the end of Dalek when she talks the Doctor into putting down his gun and in The Unquiet Dead when she questions his ethical position. This year although the chemistry has obviously been there and there have been some very touching scenes (see the one about the mortgage), because they lack that 'spark' the result has been something akin to Frasier after Niles and Daphne became couple, just a touch less interesting.

So who'll replace Billie? Like Tennant I wouldn't be that surprised if the role hasn't already been cast in time for film to start for the Christmas episode but interestingly a name hasn't already been put out. So here's my list anyway ...

Laura Fraser
Emily Corrie
Lenora Crichlow
Kate Ashfield
Rashida Jones

And as I previously said on 'Sofa'. It's not just a Rose-clone. That would be weak. Like The Doctor, the new companion needs to be substantially different to the old one. Not from contemporary Earth again -- I understand the issues related to offering the viewers a way in to the story but again it would be too much like Rose 2.0. Which doesn't mean it needn't be someone from the last century some time. One of the great wasted Who companions was Polly, so someone from the 60s would be good a mix of the wise yet innocent. An alien would be mistake -- and costly in terms of prosthetics -- plus theres the possibility of the week ending in which everyone is save because the companion is 'super'. Oh sorry, that's been done. Some who's assigned to the Doctor and has another agenda - not in a Turlough sense -- more Romana I -- tricky without Gallifrey although perhaps it's a forgotten child of Gallifrey and the story of the season is trying to bring their home planet back. I'm pipedreaming. No companion. A different dynamic each week. See 'The Idiots Lantern' as template -- or make the appearance natural -- so he travels alone for a few episodes then meets someone who fits the bill. Sarah Jane Smith

I'm out. [via]


dvd "The Narrator somehow imagines that the job of an audio commentator is to painstakingly explain what's happening onscreen for viewers too stupid to follow the action. Though Narrators seemingly derive great satisfaction out of merely explaining a film's storyline in jaw-droppingly literal terms, they're also generally keen on explicating how this relates to resonant themes and character motivation." -- one of the 15 People You Meet Listening To DVD Audio Commentaries

Amazingly perceptive as usual from the AV Club. Here are ten further 'notables':

Rob Reiner -- I'm yet to hear a Reiner commentary in which he says anything that isn't either in the extras or doesn't describe something on the screen. It's particularly annoying on A Few Good Men because you know they had fun making that film.

Brian Grant -- whose single commentary, for The Long Game episode is just appauling. He describes everything that happens on screen, even interupting the couple of actors who are there and almost say something interesting just so that he can tell us something thats already no doubt on the official audio description for the blind

John Logan -- commentary for Star Trek : Nemesis -- sometimes gets character and actor names wrong and generally doesn't seem to care too much about the final product.

John Hay -- another describer -- There's Only One Jimmy Grimble -- in which he appears to have written the commentary down beforehand. This is the one occasion when I can say, yes, I know, I was there, and it wasn't like that.

Eddie Kaye Thomas -- honorary mention because it's not his fault -- American Pie 2 whilst the rest of the cast enjoy a party track elsewhere Finch is all on his lonesome. At one point he says something like 'I'm sure there are some very interesting and funny things I should be saying here...' Yup.


Food "There's always excitement in the lab when we empty the contents from a type of can that we've not opened before and see a new ingredient for a 1907 Antarctic meal. However, I admit to having been apprehensive about treating a tin of ox tongue." -- Nicola at the Antarctic conservation blog

They're still reconditioning tins for display, which involves opening out the contents. There's a photo of the contents so you can expand your knowledge by finding out what hundred year old tongue looks like. Tasty.


Life Remember that essay I was having all the trouble with at the start of the month? Got the mark back -- 68% -- which goes to show that just like the movies, you can never tell. This plus a really helpful meeting with my dissertation tutor in which I realised that I'm not wasting my time, that what I'm think is valid, and it's been a pretty good day. Now I'm off to watch the England match on video. Which you will know the score for and which I've been taping. So that may become an ironic statement as soon as I click 'post'.

Updated It's 7:30 -- I've been watching the on video for half an hour and my mum who's in Yorkshire calls. I think you tell what's coming next...
Mum: I called you earlier to see what the score was.
Me: I don't know. I'm only about half an hour in on video.
Mum: It was 1-0 ... (and before I can get the receiver away) ... Peter Croach ...
Me: Aaaaaaaah!
Mum: No. No. It wasn't that. It wasn't. But it is worth watching...

Later ... phone rings again.

Mum: I'm sorry about before.
Me: S'alright.
Mum: I'd forgotten about you waiting until you got home.
Me: S'alright. Really. Because it was 2-0! Gerrard!
Mum: Really! I didn't know. No one here knows!

So the match had an extra surprise, even though I knew the score. My theory is that England ropadoped T&T, letting them run themselves down before turning on the pressure in the second half. Not that I know anything about football. When I was describing the second goal to my mum I had to ask what the line across the middle of the pitch is.

Passing through Liverpool City Centre beforehand though, I noticed that the big screen was blank apart from the words -- 'World Cup Matches Will Not Be Shown On The Big Screen'. How embarassing.


Have you seen Earthquake? What an amazing yet brilliantly awful film. Apart from the chizzled heroic performance from gun loving Charlton Heston, there's a pre-Coma Geneviève Bujold playing an actress and Walter Matheau in a bright red hat doing the I can't get a drink routine whilst people are dying around him in a bar. Horrifyingly it's a hyperlink film as a whole range of dispirate characters with their own storylines all apparently meet or know each other. But consider: one of the plotlines is about Richard Rountree, a black Evil Kneavil attempting a wooden rollercoaster of a stunt to impress an agent from Vegas. And we get to see him do the stunt. With a big seventies soundtrack. Before the Earthquake hits ...

There's a fan site here which is a labour of love and includes a page that details a television mini-series version that was prepared that included extra scenes shot on a tv budget that were added in but didn't match the rest of the film at all -- including stock footage from Airport. I think this is a version I really want to see ...

Expensive force

Film Just recieved a notification from that what should forever be called the evil Star Wars rereleases have a rrp of £22.99. Each. So if you bought them all they'd end up costing more than the original boxset by a good twenty pounds. Play are pricing them at £16.99. Y'know. Still not tempted. Unless the market gets as flooded as I'm expecting and they'll be extra cheap in the secondary market in about twelve months...

Fun with ...

Film I was out taking a study break at Tesco buying a loaf when I stumbled into a Choices Video and picked up far too many dvds for myself and for presents from their £2.99 range (the best being Minority Report, I Robot, The Dreamers, Big Fish, Master & Commander and The Truth About Cats and Dogs if you must know) and decided that I'd have a look at what was out to see if I could support my rep cinema discussion from the other day. The art house cinema racks were full. The thirty or so copies of Big Mommas House 2 and Fun With Dick and Jane were all out. I don't know if this means anything though -- I've read in many places that actually behaviour in the rental market is considerably different than theatrical -- people will actively miss some things at the cinema and wait for the dvd. That's what I'm hoping is the case here, otherwise my hypothesis is in serious trouble...


North West Life The consistently great The North West Enquirer now has a blogwatch feature, and amazingly, I'm already on their blogroll because they published that recent post regarding the kamikaze window cleaner.

La, la, la, la

Music La, la, lee la, la. What a great idea. I hope something similar launches over here. Although I'm not sure anyone would want my random copy of the Traci Lords album 1,000 Fires which I've just seen on the shelf and don't remember buying. Where the hell did that come from?

Hold on. Let's see what it sounds like ...


[The cover features a photo of Lords, with two heads. That's wrong, wrong, wrong.]

New Arden Editions

As Lea says: "As a wannabe future editor and recovering Hamlet junkie, I'm not entirely certain how I feel about this. It opens up interesting questions about the status of the Shakespearean text, since on the one hand, basing the primary edition on one particular version of Hamlet acknowledges that the text we usually study is a construction -- but then, isn't any edited text a construction? Especially if it's Hamlet and has megatons of cultural baggage attached to it anyway?"

It's All To Do With Who You Are

Film Forward talk on Pixar's latest Cars had not been great. The reviews are materialising and thank goodness, giving the work a thumbs up.


Life Carried on reading for my dissertation today. I'm beginning to see the same names and recognising sections from articles I've already read being criticised which suggests that I must be doing something right. I'm also taking a position on things which is quite exhilirating. The first chapter is taking shape in my head, the structure and some of the turns of phrase. I'm still finding it hard to concentrate however, even though it's a much cooler day today.

I've been picking the World Cup up between the cracks, generally through osmosis. The Italy/Ghana are playing at the moment, so far Italy obviously seem stronger. Coincidentally the last championship was whilst I was commuting to Manchester for work and I remember walking for a quarter hour during my lunch hour so that I could sit in the square in Manchester and watch on the big screen while I eat my Boots meal deal sandwiches -- I can still smell the mayonnaise and chicken on granary bread.


Film One of my regular readers who I can't seem to get through email (Keith!) might like to know that in the film 200 Cigarettes, the Paul Rudd character gives Courtney Love's character the titular 200 and they're Morleys (that's the brand of choice of the Cigarette Smoking Man in The X-Files) ...

News Worthy

TV Making The News takes a satirical look at rolling news presenters. It's like a British Daily Show without the political commentary, star guests or Jon Stewart.

Before they were sort of famous #1

Victor Garber from TV's Alias in the film Singles (1992)

Meeting Debbie at the airport in Cameron Crowe's film Singles. Look at that hair. That moustache. That smile. I'll never think of his Alias character Jack, who often has the cold eyes of a killer and is uncannily a smooth operator, the same way again.