Life I've just put the clocks back and its 10:30 again. Except that it isn't. This confuses me every year.

Hello girls.

Gender Politics Isn't this lonely hearts advert mysterious? Any female Manchester readers interested in this offer?
"Hi. I am a London based successful businessman visiting Manchester on business from Tuesday 7th November to Thursday 9th November.

I am keen to unwind in the afternoons and evenings with a lively, sexy and uninhibited female companion, aged between 18 - 40, who displays elegance, poise, charm and sensuality. Are you intelligent and articulate, free during those 2 days for good conversation, companionship, dinner, perhaps a late bar, even some dancing if the mood takes us... And then some relaxation and no strings fun late into the night. If so please email me with your thoughts how we might share some laughter.


I would hope you are a good conversationalist and educated, professional, fun, adventurous, exciting and intelligent, sexy, wicked, spontaneous, decadent, patient, willing, sensual, insane, delightful, but above all delicious to be with."
Also in there he generally lists his CV, what car he drives and what he likes to do at weekends. Really is the dating scene that specific now? Reader survey -- isn't this too much information? Is he trying too hard?


Liverpool Life Employment hunting and checking again through the always entertaining Job Centre Plus listings, I've stumbled upon a company called Global Accent Ltd that are heavily recruiting in the Liverpool area. The description says: "To work on a self employed assignment basis doing face to face interpreting and written translations. Assignments will vary and include hospitals, courts and immigration issues."

They're asking for speakers of the Russian Latvian language, Portugese, Polish, Korean, Turkish, Thai, Vietnamese, Bengali, Slovak, Mandarine Cantonese, Hungarian and Albanian. There's also Ewe (which is spoken in Southern Ghana, Togo and Benin), Tigrinya (Eritrea and Etheopia and Igbo (Nigeria).

What's perhaps most interesting about this rash of adverts is that rather than indicating the agency is covering the whole of Britain, they're specifically asking for local applications which suggests that the languages they're requesting actually provide an interesting snapshot of the peoples now living in Liverpool. I love that we're that culturally diverse.

Building a Robotic Dalek Pumpkin

Since it's the season, how about Building a Robotic Dalek Pumpkin? And for the interested, Make A Cylon Jack-O-Lantern [thanks Ian!]


Life Boringly, about the only reason I haven't been writing here is the Blogger outages have coincided with the time I usually write things here; so no I haven't been contracted for a secret mission by MI5, no contract missions to take out despotic presidents or anything approaching a social life. I'm working again which means that I'm back in the routine. Even though I'm only in a few hours in the afternoon each day this week, it tends to run the cycle of everything else -- I've never been very good at doing more than one thing at a time.

Four more days to the birthday. I have noticed that once you breach the thirty barrier some things are even less easy to understand and that I'm even more wistful and philosophical and naval gazing even more than ever. I'm excited that I'm essentially starting again, but the mountain doesn't seem a big this time. I have decided on a direction -- I do want to be a writer and researcher -- so yes, Lisa, a MA in Journalism would have been a helped, but I was even less qualified for that at the time of applying and I'd worked towards film studies for so long that would have always wondered about the now knowing. Also there are shorter courses that are accredited and available if I really need them. Plus asked around just before application and a few people advised me that actually that was the best option because you can either write or you can't.

So yes, Annette, I have been too hard on myself. If I can be given a film like Water or Eloise, both without foreknowledge and patter out seven hundred odd words on each, that does mean something and that I'm bound to write in a slightly different style here than I would professionally and there is nothing wrong with that because it means I'm flexible. Something I've noticed is that here I have the urge to post straight away whereas in other writing I'll put it to one side for a while and return to it before publication. I'm going to try that. Naval gazing over. For now.


TV Dave Sanders at Behind The Sofa suggests what might happen if the slightly annoying Owen from Torchwood met a Dalek ...
"OWEN: Giz some chips Dalek, we're starving.
OWEN: Greedy bastard, eating all the chips.
Nice segway too ...


Life Before going to the see the careers advisor I'd remarked to someone that actually I was really expecting to sit with someone and listen to them telling me many things that I already knew. It was like going to someone looking for relationship advice even though you know yourself actually what you need. She noted that actually what you end up doing is going to the person you know will give you the advice you want to hear.

And that's absolutely some of what happened when I sat down in the little office in the university careers office. That it is up to me to put myself out there, that I shouldn't be afraid to apply for jobs even if I'm not entirely qualified but more importantly that I should pick the one profession from the range of possibilities that I'm really interested in and focus on that. Otherwise my seemingly random career will continue and that I'll never find a place were I'm truly happy. But my advisor did say two things which really arrived like a smack in the face.

Although I got the feeling that the advisor I spoke to was more knowledgeable about careers in archiving and librarianship, two of the main sectors that are reflected on my cv, the most useful thing she explained was that if I really do want to become a writer, and particularly a film journalist I shouldn't be afraid to write to people in the industry, people whose work I admire or whose job looks really attractive and ask for advice, perhaps including samples of my work.

She also introduced me to Prospects, and extraordinary website that presents up to date information regarding the experience that is actually expected in vast range of jobs with potential contacts, employers and agencies that you might not necessarily have been aware of before. This is amazing stuff and really one of the best things which came out of our discussion. She also explained that often candidates for jobs will not have all of the expected experience, and that I should ring up the employer, talk enthusiastically and really ask whether it is worth applying. I remember having similar conversations before applying for both of my university degrees and why I hadn't thought of it before is mystery.

There are still barriers though which I'm sure are psychological, not helped by the fact that I won't actually know if I'm going to graduate until my dissertation mark is released in mid-November. Looking at both of the reviews I've hammered out today and my writing in general, there seems to be a country mile between my amateurism and what people are paid for in the industry. I'm hopelessly self critical about my work and although I've had some indicators that I'm not too bad, I look at the work of the people I do admire and it has an effortlessness and pithiness that I seem incapable of. Perhaps I should stop trying so hard and just go with the flow...

Water (2005)

Deepa Mehta's film Water (the concluding part of a trilogy of film that includes Earth and Fire) was apparently an extremely controversial work in India. The accompanying documentaries on the dvd relate the story of how the film was originally mounted for production at the turn of the millennium, but after an early draft of the script was leaked to the local press in the locality where the film was to be shot, with doctored fragments released to the local populace portraying the work as being critical of the Hindu religion, riots ensued that led to the destruction of the sets and production being shut down. The film was later shot secretly in Sri Lanka under another working (River Moon) and with a different cast.

This is the story of Chuyia, a seven-year-old girl who is shipped off to an ashram by her family after the death of her husband. The practice is apparently for Hindu widows to spend the rest of their lives in a state of renunciation, essentially a non-person because they have lost the greater part of their being. That a child should marry an older man was not unusual during the timeframe of the film, towards the end of colonial rule whilst Ghandi's power is about to take hold. As the monastry, Chuyia befriends Kalyani, a young woman who as a child was forced into prostitution to support the ashram. Slowly the dark heart of the place is revealed as Kalyani is offered the chance to leave and marry Narayan (handsome John Abraham), a local middle class Gandhist.

The doubtlessly difficult subject matter is largely handled with much subtlety and delicacy, balancing ancient words against those of Ghandi, amplifying the strengths and weaknesses of each. Which isn't to say that there isn't some criticism of blind faith. One key line spoken by an apparent holy man suggests that removing the widow from a family is hiding a financial decision within religious doctrine. But it is clear to demonstrate that for some, the life in the ashram is seen not necessarily as a burden but a choice, a way of honouring the god's wishes. Water appears throughout, both cleansing and as a source of tragedy when withheld.

The film's key successes are photography and casting. Giles Nuttgens visuals from the opening scenes of Chuyia's family traveling through a verdant green landscape to the many shots of the widows bathing at the river are ravishing; rather than working against the scenery, Nuttgens takes full advantage of it, contrasting the primary colours of the outside world with the drab stone walls and dull white shawls of the ashram. The girl playing Chuyia, Sarala has a depth beyond her years, a respectable part of an ensemble of actors of which the highlights are the luminous Lisa Ray as Kalyani and Manorama as Madhumati the matriach and leader who could the pantomime villain if her actions weren't so despicable. Seema Biswas is worthy of note too - her character, Chuyia's mentor Shakuntala's dark eyes carry the emotional burden of the climax as she realises what must be done.

Opening as a Hindu version of Buddhist Monk comedy The Cup, the film quickly shifts mood to take in a much wider territory of emotion. The economic script is modular - although the story opens from Chuyia's point of view each of the following quarters largely focus on Narayan then Kolyani and finally Shakuntala which means that the context of the ashram and its inhabitants can be revealed carefully if sometimes shockingly. Like a Shakespearean problem play, the predicted plot elements become twisted and present a far more meaningful yet still logical experience. Despite initial appearances, the story that unfolds is not easy, yet rewarding. More importantly it still manages to have warmth and heart even as it surprises.

"Letting everyone down would be my greatest unhappiness."

Film After the brilliance of both The Virgin Suicides and Lost In Translation, I was salivating at the prospect of director Sophia Coppola tackling the life of the ultimate corset wearer Marie Antoinette. It's a shame then that despite all of the lavish period detail, experimental casting and post-modern attitude to music, the film is ultimately a confusing and disappointing experience.

The positive first: it really is a sumptuous looking film, not a shot throughout that couldn't be framed and hung in a gallery, as good as any of the Heritage films that the French themselves are famous for, not a vista ignored, the halls of Versailles given the respect they deserve. Lighting is sensitively handled too, not quite as dark as the candle lights of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (surely one of Coppola's influences), but perfectly natural, especially at the very end when only the fires of the masses gathered at the walls illuminate the house.

Music too is a perfect accompaniment, with a soundscape that is never intrusive, never jars with the setting flipping from melody to moody rhythms. The much hyped anachronistic inclusion of pop music, from Bow Wow Wow to Adam & The Ants, isn't anything new, but truly works well, even if (sometimes) it recalls New Romantic pop promos, which were fabulous at the time but ?

Dunst is a marvel; granted to an extent she's merely transferring some of the valley girl shtick from her previous roles, but she has that rare quality of allowing very tiny, very telling micro emotions to lap across the edges of her face providing a depth of characterization not always apparent in the dialogue. Jason Schwartzman's Louis XVI is suitably enigmatic, but the real stars are Asia Argento as Madame du Barry and Steve Coogan as Ambassador Mercy. The former steals every scene that she's in, her generous performance as the King's consort married to costumes in rich primary colours against the pastels of the surrounding walls and courtiers. Coogan is for once warm, and without his tongue in his cheek, presenting credibly and with dignity a man that could have been the source of parody.

Coppola has decided to present Antoinette's life as a tableau - concentrating on a bored Austrian teenager shipped off to marry in a foreign land, first resisting then assimilating an alien lifestyle. The first stuttering moments in which she watches the rules of court and almost freezes to death in her bedroom as a succession of people, each of a higher authority are given the privilege of dressing her is nicely observed. For much of the time her life is portrayed with little direct speech, events explained through rumour and hearsay within court, time passing through montage sequences with selective editing mixed with very brief snatches of dialogue almost entirely from Marie Antoinette's perspective, the troubles of the realm reported to her, the court being a sealed captivity.

The problem with this approach is that it becomes repetitious. If the intention is to indicate the listlessness of living in the French court, it succeeds. The side effect is that you're constantly seeing Dunst in costume against Versailles, running, walking and gossiping sacrificing story momentum. Endless montages that tell the viewer that Marie is spending oodles of money to stave off boredom, throwing a seemingly endless succession of parties (which is commented upon) keeping her friends onside. It has the effect of making the film seem far longer than it actually is so that when the details of history, the reasons for the revolt of the people are introduced it's a relief because something is finally happening. The middle section of the film drags horribly, rather like that moment at the end of a meal when you've eaten far too much and you will end up leaving half of your desert.

The film also comes unstuck in the scenes that carry the burden of historical and biographical exposition which often feature quite stilted dialogue and almost feel introduced by studio decree. The first happens twenty minutes into the film when Mercy underlines to Marie the need for a son to keep the family line intact and seal the fate of Austria and France. There isn't any information that hasn't already been presented elsewhere and neither Dunst or Coogan looks particularly comfortable. Similarly later scenes in which Louis XVI is advised to help fund the US war and the raising of taxes is suggested (one of the inferred causes of the royal revolt) seem wrongly executed because they fall outside of Marie's point of view.

What stops me from damning the film too much is the poignancy of the ending, which I know has been criticised elsewhere because we don't actually see Marie get the chop. Actually its to Coppola's credit that she doesn't sacrifice the tone of the film to present complete historical accuracy. The story begins when Marie enters French aristocracy and Versailles and ends when she leaves both. As was largely no doubt the case in her life, at no point does the film venture out amongst the peasantry of France and to suddenly have them throwing her in prison and massing about the guillotine at the climax would have worked against what is overall the portrayal of a dove trapped in a cage of privilege.

Day One.

TV Like second albums, the second episode of any serial is always tricky, since it needs to stand shoulder to shoulder with the hopefully high quality opening, consolidating the style of the show without that opener's probable high budget and not be a disappointment. Arguably Doctor Who only hit its stride in its second story (which works for both the old and new series) whereas something like say I don't know, Buffy, spluttered out The Witch, a body swap episode which still seems like a bizarre choice all of these years later. Torchwood's Day One mostly worked although certainly didn't benefit from being in a double bill with Everything Changes. I wonder how many people were still getting over that climax as the meteorite was plunging into Cardiff.

Despite appearances, I'm really not sure how 'stock' (to use a word I picked up from a documentary about Metallica) the whole 'sex crazed alien possesses human because the orgasm is addictive' actually is. What it did manage is to demonstrate that actually this isn't a show for the kiddlywinkles - the explosive coitus scene in the toilet and the subsequent hilarious riff on onanism are probably the filthiest seen so far in the Doctor Who universe - and you thought Jabe calling Rose a hooker in so many words or Jackie accusing The Doctor of grooming her in a chatroom was wild. No dancing around the subject here -- expect at least one of the tabloids to nickname the show Touchwood tomorrow. I can imagine some would suggest all of these things are fairly gratuitous, especially later when said alien seduces Gwen, but so what? There's no reason that science fiction shouldn't take a metrosexual attitude to this stuff, rimming the edges of taste and decency. The key here was making the possessee a pretty ordinary girl and present the two new sides of her personality fighting it out for supremacy of her body (all every metaphoric) - immediately creating some sympathy for her rather than just titillation.

Again, Gwen was at the centre of the episode and in the companion role of asking many, many questions. For some reason this seems less invisible than nu-Who although understandable in character context - she's a police officer and so naturally asks many questions. But it's good that they're willing to let her make mistakes and all the apologizing for releasing the alien seemed absolutely right. Cleverly too, the ratio between her Torchwood life and the time she spent outside was almost the complete inverse of that in the 'pilot' demonstrating how much of her time this new job in 'special ops' will take. My only problem with Chris Chibnall's script was that it seemed too quick at times to go for the laugh, although I loved all of the stuff related to Gwen researching the life of this girl she wanted to save. And at the end, answering the question which had been nagging throughout - what will her role be in Torchwood. Her interaction with the other characters was well executed too, particularly with Jack.

It's good to see him developing shades to his character. I think a fair comparison would be Batman, the essentially good man who doesn't quite understand sometimes that his methods aren't always ethical. He's still the same man that faced up to the Daleks, but there's a weariness to him. If he can't die, how long has it been for him since The Parting of the Ways? And why did he go from apparently caring for humanity to this? I love that despite his vulnerability he does have a weakness - I think it's going to be that he never seems to be able to find answers to why all of these things keep happening to him - The Doctor's hand being his only real link to his old life - much like the TARDIS console for Pertwee.

Of the other characters Owen's cock sure and a touch undimensional at the moment (he reminds me a bit of Danny from Hustle) and neither Toshiko or Ianto have been given enough to create definition yet, although I'm really surprised and pleased that the former has such a central role - she was certainly one of the three good things about Aliens of London. I'm imagining that the series will go the route of placing each character at the centre of a story throughout the series so they'll all get their chance. I fear however, that Gwen's boyfriend isn't long for the Whoniverse. Although RTD said that he'd never kill off a Rose because Doctor Who is essentially optimistic, Torchwood doesn't have that 'all life is important' edge. The dustpile count at the sperm clinic shows that there will be many victimfull crimes and Mickey Mark Two is just too nice and loveable to survive.

I forgot to mention The Hub, an amazing piece of design, so unlike the expected gleaming metal and fiber-glass, presumably contrasting Torchwood One on purpose. I can't wait for the expected moment when the railways is back in action as the team head up to Scotland, to see the weird guy (The Brig?). Its geography isn't entirely clear at times though - perhaps this is intentionally - it means that new rooms can be bolted on when needs be. The problem with that approach is revealed during action sequences - such as the fight scene between Jack and the girl, the proximity of the exit wasn't clear and neither was the depth of security. It really is a prop fest though - there are more bits of the last two series of Who here than at the exhibition on the Wirral. Has anyone noticed any bits of Auton?

I seem to have drifted from reviewing the episode which I'm sure is another byproduct of this being part of the double bill. As I write this, first comments for both episodes are flying in and I'm really surprised at how balanced the positives and negatives are. I really hadn't imagined fans would be this divided. But I really don't think that having these two episodes as a double bill helped either of them, especially with their tonal differences. This had a much slower pace - despite all the dashing around in cars and smashing into flats with guns - it was almost languid as long scenes explored the events and how some of the characters felt about them. The scene in which the staff speculated on Jack's origin was all good stuff and vitally reveals that conflict should ensue simply because they don't know who he is and actually what he's capable of.

The series needs to be careful about this though because no matter how enjoyable that dialogue is you need to keep forward momentum and it certainly shouldn't feel as though an action sequence is being thrown in because it hasn't happened for a while which is something most shows in this genre can be accused of. I think it got away with it simply because everything is so new, but as we become more accustomed to the characters and formula predictability factor will increase. Day One's surprises were far less potent than Everything Changes and I'd say we need at least one really good revelation per episode to keep us interested. Still a very strong second episode, well paced, devilishly sexy and funny - and importantly with heart. We cared about the fate of the girl because Gwen did - even if, perhaps, a little too much at times. It made for a great trailer ..

But see the whole thing was slightly marred by the bloody presentation from BBC Three. How big is their DOG/logo and why were they running it through this of all things? I mean it's not as huge as Five Life's but it's still pretty obtrusive, blocking whole heads and eyes chunks of Cardiff indiscriminately. I can't be the only one who was distracted by this thing. Oh and then there was the wonking great blue banner appearing at the end of the episode telling us what was on next just in case we'd missed the anouncer (apparently mainlining ritaline) or the buffers, spoiling the end of both episodes. And what was with knocking off the titles of the first episode and sticking them at the end of the second. Give us a breather! I barely had enough time to go for a bathroom break before the second episode had started. This is the first time most people would be seeing these things and I do wonder how many of the negative comments which have appeared on-line have been from people who've not been able to give it their full attention. Looks like I'll be recording it on Wednesday instead then.

Yes, but not as good as a Research Machines 480Z!

Computers "Grab a cup of coffee for the biggest mistake, and largest computing stroke of luck that created Microsoft, and one of the wealthiest fortunes the planet has ever seen. In 1980, IBM finally realized they needed to put a home computer out on the market extremely fast. However they could not find the time to wait around to build their own operating system. They wanted to buy one, and the best one at the time, Gary Kildall's CP/M operating system. Where was Gary Kildall on this fateful day that the IBM suits came knocking? Out of office flying a private plane. IBM went back to the office's and looked up Microsoft, which they thought had a broad license to sell CP/M. Microsoft came in and negotiated a per licenses model to sell the operating system at 50 dollars per machine. Bill Gates had created the Software Licensing Industry!" -- Miguel Carrasco on the ten Biggest Computer Flops of all time [via]


Bug Is anyone else getting a cPanel logging in window when they visit this blog? It's really annoying and I can't work out what's causing it ...
Update! All gone, at least on the front page. Thanks everyone, particularly anon who figured out it was the tagboard code -- although I've no idea what it was doing there in the first place...

"Freedom came my way one day"

TV Many of the reviews I've seen of Torchwood have begun with something in the range of 'After the disappointment of Robin Hood...' which is odd considering that they're hardly in the same genre. I've not been a fan - and I haven't met anyone who will admit to liking it. Ratings have dipped considerably too. But I have to say, that Saturday's episode, Who Shot The Sheriff? was a marvel and actually seemed in places to be something like the show people might have been expecting. It had a simple old school story -- Robin was being framed for murders and had to clear his name. There were contemporary resonances -- much talk from the Sheriff of winning over hearts and minds etc. And some of the acting was first rate -- Keith Allen actually looked like her was enjoying himself and the chemistry between Jonas Armstrong and Lucy Griffiths as Robin and Marion worked brilliantly.

But I think the lift was really in the writing which shouldn't be too surprising because this was a Paul Cornell script. Cornell was one of the key Doctor Who spin-off writers and I guess whose work more than anyone else's influenced the style of that new series. His one episode for them Father's Day is rated very highly amongst and to be honest I can't think of something Paul's written that I haven't enjoyed. His non-Who work has included episodes of Casualty and Holby City so he knows the tv formula very well. But the pacing of the episode and dialogue took a step up -- there was a lyricism to some of the dialogue and it was genuinely witty in places -- Robin and Nottingham finally throwing insults in way we'd imagined was possible but hadn't seen yet. Favourite moment obviously being 'He shot the sheriff!' 'No -- he shot the deputy...' It's less clear on this series the extent to which the writer dictates the story, but this was very, very good indeed by comparison. The direction was more sedate too but didn't noticeably lack pace -- the dog chase through Sherwood was scary. Dominic Minghella back next week and it'll be interesting to see if that episode has the same bit of magic.

Any problems seemed to be as a result of the series premise rather than the writing. The merry men are have a cypher-like quality, even Little John -- what's the point in hiring Gordon Kennedy if all we'll here are a few grunts -- what happened to the loud gregarious man from previous incarnations? Iconic moments, such as the big meeting between John and Robin have been ignored which is a brave move but has left the series looking a bit colourless. It seems to me at least that the arc of the first season could have been about Robin's return from the cruscades through to his acceptance as the people's champion -- but he's already that in episode three. Whole episodes could have been wrapped around the introduction of the Sheriff, of Marion, of the Merry Men, of Robin's decent from lord to outlaw. But such moments have been almost thrown away to the point that everything has the potential to look very generic and samey. The decision was obviously taken for stand alone stories rather than a serial but that risks not making the thing unmissable. There's hardly any mystery here and so if you do miss an episode you won't feel like you're missing something, which these days feels like a mistake. And don't get me started on the costumes -- in Saturdays episode one man seemed to wearing a stripy t-shirt from the seventies.

Funny though, how I'm not entirely happy with this series, yet I'm still drifting back week in and out...


Art Despite the mishap when I visited, it's absolute tragedy that Antony Gormley's Another Place is leaving Crosby Beach. It seems to be a decision made to keep happy a few dozen people who haven't taken the time to appreciate it in the face of half a million people (so far) who have. I understand that there'll be people in New York who would like to see it there, but like Gormley's Field these figures need not be unique - new objects can be made and shipped anywhere. Gormley himself believes that they've in an excellent place here and are giving the area a character it didn't have before. Shame.


Elsewhere And so, as promised, reviews of the first two episodes of Torchwood -- Everything Changes and Day One. See if you can work out what my title for the first post is referencing.

Everything Changes.

TV It's Wednesday 18th October at 9:40 pm and I've just returned from Manchester and a High Def preview of Torchwood. Although I'm sure in the next four days the web will be awash with spoilers I've decided to write this review now and blast it through the time rift into the future. Because really after the ending of Everything Changes it would be like telling a four year old that there isn't a Father Christmas and there's a seventy percent chance they'll spend most of their life working in an office. It wouldn't be fair or right. The screening was (I think) a success -- everyone laughed in the right places and gasped in others although I can't tell who were fans, I suspect a fair amount where from the Torchwood.tv blog.

But really, again I say, that climax. Not since Lisa Faulkner found the wrong end of a deep fat fryer in Spooks has something been so unexpected. 24? Yes, stock in trade, it'd be wrong if someone didn't die horrifically at the close of an hour. But here? Suzie even enjoyed gallery pictures at the official website and appeared on the cover of Radio Times, and warranting a profile which on reflection looks somewhat threadbare in comparison to the others but which I originally put down to the overall veil of secrecy which has hung over the project (until tonight).

I wonder how many people in the audience, like me, wondered when it would be revealed as an initiation trick to test Gwen's mettle, even the bullet to Jack's head. Which cleverly provided a second twist - so when Rose brought him back to life she also (inadvertently?) made him unkillable (Can he still age? Is he actually immortal? How old is he now?). Does this by implication mean the Rose too cannot die since she too was exposed to the time vortex? Does this mean that Indira Varma's IMDb page is wrong - or will there be some great resurrection later in the series?

But I'm getting ahead of myself, more speculation later. Really this is the most enjoyable fifty minutes I've spent in a cinema this year. Blown up to the size of a house, the episode looked amazing, better than some films in fact. Funny, thrilling, hilarious, gripping, Torchwood is probably everything I wished some episodes of Season Two of Doctor Who had been. This looks like the work of a group of people who are finally getting to make the kind of show they've wanted to make. Nothing is misjudged, with even the sex, violence and swearing fitting within context.

I don't think Cardiff has looked this good and as promised, the city is presented in all of its potential glory - and yet with Weevils, the dark underbelly, the sewers. Did I mention it was funny? Lines that got a laugh in the screening 'Just a pterodactyl', 'Well if this'll make it easier.' 'That's harassment.' 'Walked here. I bloody walked' 'All that CSI bollocks. I'd like to see CSI Cardiff - they'd be measuring the velocity of a kebab.' 'You Welsh. Someone shows you something extraordinary and you criticize it.'

As an opening episode, this was perfectly structured. The drawing of a newby into a fantastic realm, has quite rightly been described as nothing new, but here it worked beautifully because Gwen's natural curiosity drew into the 'inner circle' rather than through some kidnapping or mistake. Also, unlike Rose, the 'real world' seemed perfectly realistic, well realistic in a television sense in that it looked like an expensive episode of The Bill, which meant the fantasy she was being diving into really was different. Her initial interaction with the Weevil was natural - no such thing as aliens so it has to be a guy in a mask, right? One of the lovely threads which ran through the episode which perfectly retconned why almost everyone seems to forget big spaceships and robot troops is the creation of something even more unlikely but which somehow fits within our realistic expectations.

Perhaps most impressively, Russell T decided to take time to carefully set up the world of the series rather than running half-cocked through some forgettable plotline of the week hoping that the viewer will keep up. Here, the story was Torchwood, or rather Gwen's discovery of it and that was more than enough for the running time. Some might criticize the seemingly endless shots of items in the hub, they were obviously fascinating, particular the hand which was revealed in Radio Times to be the one that The Doctor lost in The Christmas Invasion (wonder where it landed). The other character introductions were perfectly pitched too, each receiving a moment that defined their character - the highlight obviously being Owen's experimentation with the love potion. Do Toshiko and Jack both know that the other has met the Doctor - I do hope they have that scene together, although given that Jack's reluctant to talk about the time lord I'm not sure it'll happen soon.

And what of Captain Jack? As befits the mood of the piece, John Barrowman has tuned down his performance slightly and whereas during his brief spell on Doctor Who he didn't seem like someone who could fit in any reality, he works very well here. Anyone else notice that he's now given to Doctorish speeches? But he's still funny. Pregnant? Really? As I left the screening I heard two guys talking about what they'd seen and one said to the other 'It was alright I suppose, but they should have shown Captain Jack arriving through the rift…' NO. NO. NO. Don't waste the mystery, don't reveal everything straight away, and if you do reveal anything, make sure that it simply creates other questions.

For example, does Jack know all about the Sycorax and Cybermen because he was in the country then? Did he know The Doctor was around? Why didn't he contact him? Is he still pissed about being left behind in the future? How much does he know about the setting up of Torchwood? Does any of this actually matter? Contrast this with Robin Hood, in which we already know everything we need to know about the lead character. The series isn't rejecting established mythology but it is having fun with it - like the cloaking effect left behind by the appearance of the TARDIS in Cardiff bay during Boomtown. I do hope that is a cyber lady in the trailers.

But there wasn't a weak link in the cast, everyone fitting very well into their characters. Obviously Eve Myles had the most screen time here, and thankfully she was mesmerizing able to leap tall acting buildings in a single bound, presenting tragedy and comedy with equal measure, something that wasn't reflected in The Unquiet Dead (although I'd still love there to be some kind of connection between those two characters). Some of the biggest laughs in the screening came from Myles moments, including the way she lifted her head from the keyboard after the insomnia pill. That hair.

The bloke I ended up sitting next to in the screening, was very quick at the close of the episode to note that 'someone had been watching Angel' and its true that throughout elements of other genre series could be seen. The brooding moments on top of buildings taken from helicopters were similar to Wim Wender's Wings of Desire (and its blah US remake City of Angels) and the now unkillable Jack is very Angel-like (although it doesn't seem to be bothering him too much, but then he can see the sun). But none of this matters. Buffy looked like the work of someone who had absorbed years worth of horror films since it managed to be influenced by most of them during its seven years.

What's important here is whether it's entertaining, and oh good lord, yes it is.