"I make no apology."

TV Excellent rare interview with Sophia Myles: "I'm pretty excited about the fact that my boyfriend has an action doll. How cool is that? Now, all I'm waiting for is for the Doctor Who people to make a Madame de Pompadour doll so I can do a bit of Barbie and Ken action with them ... You know what I'm talking about." [via]

Links for 2006-12-08 [del.icio.us]

  • Filmlog: Bringing Up Baby (1938)
    I was amazed by the jagged edges of the story telling -- it's got a real stream of consciousness approach as though the filmmakers were literally making it up as they went along. Very dense script though with dialogue bouncing off the walls.
  • Filmlog: Underworld (2003)
    Mostly dreadful with incomprehensible action sequences and awful dialogue. Helped by some atmospheric photography and a great narrative twist about two thirds of the way through which changes your understand of who the heroes are.
  • Nature: In search of lost time
    "The ancient Antikythera Mechanism doesn't just challenge our assumptions about technology transfer over the ages — it gives us fresh insights into history itself." If this is possible what else has been lost in time?
  • Ain't It Cool News Interview: Dan Zeff
    Zeff directed one of my favourite episodes from this past season of Doctor Who, 'Love and Monsters'. It's a very in depth interview, covering in particular the use of the music of ELO in the show.
  • Review 2006

    Neil from Tachyon TV asks:
    Why do people say "cheap at half the price" when they mean the full price is also, well, cheap? Makes no sense to me!

    "Cheap at half the price" is one of those idiums which is frequently asked about online but no one seems to be able to give a valid explanation for. Most of the articles I've read in attempting to prepare this answer are the literary equivalent of chasing your own tail, with this oft linked to posting agreeing that it must have some origin and proper meaning but with those facts being obscured.

    There are over twenty thousand usages in google and many of them seem to be in totally different contexts and means. Either it's something expensive being bought on the cheap or it's cheap and therefore excellent value - which I think is only just about the same. The Phrase Finder suggests that in this case 'cheap' refers not to price but the quality - in other words it would be cheap quality no matter what price it is. I don't like that and I don't believe anyone uses it in that context.

    There are pop culture references. The late Roy Kinear starred in a pilot for a sitcom with the phrase for a title, about an antiques shop owner who's held back from his dream of becoming Lovejoy by his wife. Fred Frith released an album with that title too, although as with the sitcom the title doesn't appear to have an extra level of meaning other than bland recognition.

    Frankly, I'm stumped. Any ideas?

    Life Uninterrupted

    Life Received the papers yesterday with instructions for graduation which confirms once and for all that its really happening. Brilliantly the ceremony is going to be streamed online so if anyone would like to see it (!?!) email me and I'll send you the link. Mostly preparing for Christmas, buying presents and the things you need. I've decided to go for quality rather than quantity this year with an accent on the not so useless items. You wouldn't believe the number of drawer worthy items I've bought in the past. It's also the first year that I've asked people for money, which is a sure sign that I'm growing up.

    In other news, I've enough questions to take me up to the 20th of December so if you have anything more please get them along asap. I've had some very positive comments so far which are appreciated and I'm really enjoying myself. It's good to have something to work on and some of the questions have been especially challenging. You'll not believe the heartache I went through with the love question about naming names and how much information I should give, and tomorrow's question has puzzled me for days.

    Thanks too for all the nice comments about the annotation for the Imagine programme and to Tom for recognising that it is an annotation. I really did enjoy the programme, if only because in some cases it was the first time I'd heard some of my favourite websites being mentioned on television.

    Review 2006

    Jacques asks:
    Have you ever found the one true love in your life, but not been in a position to do anything about it, for whatever reason?

    Of all of the questions this is probably one of the hardest to answer - not because I don't want to write about it, but because I simply don't know. Which could suggest that actually I haven't. One of the running themes of what's turning out to be a review of my life rather than necessarily one year of it, is that almost everything appears to be filtered through film, and my history with the medium. I make less apologies for this than I should given that it's my primary form of entertainment and hopefully the future source of my income. But what it does offer is a few ideas as to what love means.

    Inevitably there's When Harry Met Sally: "Men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way." Have I ever been friends with a woman that I've found attractive and haven't wanted wanted to sleep with? Yes. But the more revealing question would be whether I've ever been friends with someone I've been in love with. If I answered no, I'd be lying and I think that's possibly the point of the question.

    There haven't been any Romeo and Juliet situations but I would say there's been a pattern of falling for someone only to find they have long term boyfriends, successions of boyfriends or (as time goes on) are married. And since I'm not the kind of person who's brave enough to try and steal anyone, especially if they seem happy I've always stood by and watched and enjoyed their company trying to ignore what I'm really feeling. At other times it was because every other bloke she knew had already asked her out and I didn't want to lose her as a friend. Or because I simply already knew what the answer would be, that she didn't think of me that way and that again our friendship meant more to me than trying to answer some question.

    I've always had something of an oscillating self esteem. At times I feel as though if I met Kelly Reilly at a party we'd be dating by the end of the night. At other times, most other times, I really worry about whether the Burns family will end at my generation. Usually I'm somewhere in the middle, and the fact that I'd even consider myself Kelly Reilly worthy is all down to one woman, who I'll not name but knows who she is.

    We've known each other for a very long time and I met her when I was at a very, very low ebb. But the fact she was around, and me being around her really turned my head and very quickly made me realise my own self worth. I can't say that I'd be even half as happy as I am now if it wasn't for her. We were only ever just friends, and in the end that was enough. Was she my 'one true love'? Time will tell.

    I could take the view of Tom (James Fleet) in Four Weddings and Funeral in that touching scene after Simon Callow's gone and Auden's popularity has been reinvigorated. Tom doesn't believe in love at first sight. "The truth is, unlike you (Charlie), I never expected the thunderbolt. I always just hoped that l'd meet some nice, friendly girl, like the look of her, hope the look of me didn't make her physically sick, then pop the question and settle down and be happy."

    Is that what usually happens, is all this waiting around doing no good to anyone? Should I just follow this advice? But in the end Tom does feel the thunderbolt. I think the word you need to keep in mind is reciprocation. This suggests that actually true love is a mutual declaration, that both of you need to be in the moment, a collective realization that actually you're going to be spending the rest of your life with the person standing in front of you. If that's the case, it hasn't happened to me yet because I hope that I'd know. Unless it has and I've missed it. Which would be a tragedy.

    Links for 2006-12-07 [del.icio.us]

  • Cinematical: Rachel McAdams is Pepper Potts?
    Rachel might be appearing as the female lead in John Favreau's 'Iron Man' film -- she's got first refusal on the script which let's face it could mean anything. Good to see her doing *anything* though.
  • Better World Books: Our History
    Last night I bought a book from Amazon's Marketplace and was pleased to discover that I was actually doing my bit for charity. 'Better World Books' use the profits from sales to fund literacy throughout the world. This is their story. Great stuff.
  • Delboy's Daughter: Sickly.. send fruit and chicken soup.
    The perfect headgear for anyone whose under the weather. Hope you're feeling better.
  • Digital Spy: 'Spaced' star Jessica Stevenson joins 'Doctor Who'
    I was watching the rather lovely dvd catch-up documentary the other day which is recommended if you can get a copy. Still funny after all these years. Great detail in the linked article about who'll be directing her in her two Doctor Who episodes.
  • ...yet I'll hammer it out: Richard II review
    "I hate when (these) productions decide to present the whole thing as an extended flashback [...] It never, never adds anything to our understanding of the play [...] in the case of this movie it means they show us a lot of not-very-good footage twice."
  • Boing Boing: Belt-drive watch
    My Dad says: "It's great. I wouldn't like to fix it mind you. Not yet anyway."
  • troubled diva: ADMIN: An embarrassing oversight regarding e-mail.
    Mike discovers an email account he never knew he had which included an invite to a party most of us would have given out left arm to visit. This happens all the time with me and BT -- their spam filter is a bit over zealous. So if you've emailed and...
  • DVD in My Pants: Corrupt Christmas Films
    Includes the Pheobe Cate's speech from 'Gremlins' which is still chills me to the bone even after all these years. Apparently the studio wanted lose it because it didn't have any relevance to the plot. In fact it means everything.
  • Katie's Blog: Party Strands
    This sounds like a great idea in theory -- your iPod becomes the jukebox when you visit a bar and you pay for your music to be the soundtrack of your life, but what if the music doesn't fit the atmosphere of the place? You'd ruin everyone else's night.m
  • Karinski.net: Partying like it's 2001
    Bit of an old review but 'All Saints' play Shepherd's Bush to a select crowd. Apparently the single's done very well but the album's not selling. Shame.
  • GirlHacker's Random Log: That Dress
    Apparently Audrey Hepburn's dress from 'Breakfast At Tiffanys' is not unique, there are three of them in circulation which explains the 'low' original estimate and makes the final tally (nearly half a million) all the more impressive.
  • Twitch: Teaser for Taxi 4
    There's a 'Taxi 4' coming. I actually had to study the first one at college and was even more impressed, although not enough to write the essay that was in the offering which ended up describing how Luc Besson's 'Nikita' isn't really feminist.
  • Guardian Unlimited Film: Mayan descendants slam Apocalypto
    When a producer joined Star Trek:The Motion Picture just before the film was set to go, he decided it should include something related to Mayans because he'd seen it on a documentary the night before. See, it could have been so much worse.
  • SpielbergFilms.com: 'Superman' producer talks Spielberg loss
    Salkind apparently had Steven Spielberg as his first choice to direct the Superman films. Link carries transcript from recent dvd commentary.
  • Doctor Who in My Pants

    TV The brilliantly titled DVD in My Pants recently had a Doctor Who week and reviewed this year's releases. It's funny and irreverent which is why I'm posting it, but if you ignore everything else at least look at this review of The Beginning boxset from someone who doesn't know anything about Doctor Who. "Around this time it might dawn on you: The Doctor is kind of a dick – but a loveable dick, mind you."

    Review 2006

    Anonymous commenter asks:
    I only thought of this last night, but I'd be interested to read your musings on the adverts shown on the programmes you watch a lot. There is a point. They must be aimed at a certain type of audience, the people they expect to be watching, but they're often wildly off. What's sort of person do they think you are, and what can be the logic behind those decisions?

    Review 2006 About the only television programme I've seen lately in which I've actually sat through the ad break was the excellent Dinner For Five, a chat show in which actor John Favreau and a bunch of his Hollywood pals eat what looks like good food and tell each other anecdotes about their careers (or rich and famous lifestyles). Last week was the Daredevil special (signaling how old these programmes actually are) which was filmed just before Ben Affleck and that Jen (Garner) joined together and you could already see some of the chemistry. Predictably it's in a post midnight slot on a Sunday on ITV4 and you can imagine the kinds of adverts that being shown with it.

    The best of a meager bunch (which also include Dove soap oddly enough) is for something called Textmates, an obvious development of chatlines for the mobile generation. The process seemed to be that a 'user' would text the number given and receive a reply from a 'worker' who is waiting to receive their text, with conversation of an adult nature proceeding from there at 75p a pop. It seemed to be that by reducing the communication to just text, taking away even the voice, it was entirely possible that the replies could be a pre-prepared set of responses being sent back from a computer, with human, monkey or artificial intelligence at its heart. Would the 'user' even care?

    According to the break buffers Dinner For Five is sponsored by an online casino company which given Ben Affleck's success at the poker table seems like undoubtedly unplanned but perfect product placement. As far as I could see this was probably not the right set of ads for an audience that would be tuning in to hear Kevin Smith telling his (undoubtedly hilarious) Page Six Smith slams Tim Burton story for umpteenth time. But since this was probably the only time of night that the proprietor of this company can actually advertise his wares, I've a feeling that ITV are actually targeting the advertising at the timeslot rather than the content. Similar adverts appear across the channels at that time of night and it's a slot that major companies tend to shun because of the tiny audience watching then.

    Here Comes Everybody.

    TV etc. An old work colleague Willow emailed me this morning about Alan Yentob's Imagine documentary, www.herecomeseverybody.co.uk which was broadcast on BBC One last night. He pointed me to this post at Frankie Roberto's blog bemoaning, quite rightly, the lack of a web presence for what was actually a pretty comprehensive survey of the social side of the web.

    Given that omission, I decided to create something of my own. So, four hours later, find below a selection of links related to the documentary. I've tried to make it as comprehensive as possible without becoming (hopefully) boring including both contributors and anything of interest that might have flashed past in each section. I did try to track down Yentob's myspace and livejournal but they appear to have been removed.

    The title, www.herecomeseverybody.co.uk resolves to BBC One's listing page.

    Alan Yentob [wikipedia]
    Toby Warwick Jones, Alan's helper [blog, Imagine recording]

    [General contributors]
    Clay Shirky, internet consultant [website, wikipedia]
    Dr David Weinberger, Harvard University [blog, biog]
    Professor Henry Jenkins, Massachusetts Institute of Technology [blog, home page, wikipedia]

    Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor, World Wide Web [blog, homepage, wikipedia]
    Charles Babbage, Analytical Engine
    Morris Wilkes -- EDSAC, world's first practical programmable computer
    Sputnik -- caused internet to develop because of US end of the space age
    Doug Englebart -- demonstrated an online system using the world's first mouse
    Enquire within Upon Everything by Anonymous
    Enquire -- early project by Tim Berners-Lee

    Jimmy Wales, co-founder, Wikipedia [blog, wikipedia, user page]
    Ewan McDonald, author, millionth entry, Wikipedia [user page]
    Arabic Wikipedia
    Jordanhill Station
    Charlotte Bronte
    Albert Einstein
    Britney Spears
    Christopher Wren

    Abby Lee, blogger, 'Girl With A One-Track Mind' [blog, book, wikipedia, imagine broadcast]
    Dickon Edwards, blogger, 'Diary At The Centre of the Earth' [blog, wikipedia, imagine recording]
    Natalie D'Arbeloff, blogger, 'Blaugustine' [blog, home page, imagine recording, imagine broadcast]
    Tom Reynolds, blogger, 'Random Acts of Reality' [blog, book, imagine broadcast]
    Jon Snow's Newsroom Blog
    Nick Robinson's Newslog

    [Arctic Monkeys]
    Tom Flannery, Arctic Monkeys fan [unable to find web presence]
    Roxana Darling, Arctic Monkeys fan [last.fm]
    James Sheriff, founder, www.arcticmonkeys.com [flickr, portfolio]
    Steven McInerney, Arctic Monkeys fan [blog, interview, myspace]
    Alan Smyth, Producer, Arctic Monkeys Demo Sessions [wikipedia]
    Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

    Spider Webb, The Horrors [myspace, home page, wikipedia]
    Lily Allen, singer [myspace, home page, wikipedia]
    The Horrors
    Travis Bean
    the whole shebbang.
    Leila NoFriends
    The Schla La Las
    die panda die

    Chris Anderson, author, The Long Tail [blog, book, wikipedia]

    [User generated content]
    David Firth, animator, Salad Fingers [blog, wikipedia]

    Ken Russell, Director [wikipedia, imdb]
    Pacman Fever
    Minor Threat - 12xu & Small Man Big Mouth
    Larry and Rita Argue Over Celery (Starring Larry and Rita)
    Re: JaffaCakes!

    [Viral Marketing]
    Daniel Myrick, director, The Blair Witch Project, The Strand: Venice, CA [imdb]
    Abazab online audition site

    [Second Life]
    Kim Plowright on creating Alan Yentob's avatar
    Images of Alan's avatar
    Deathline, the band featured in Second Life

    Links for 2006-12-05 [del.icio.us]

  • DVD Verdict Review: Dungeons And Dragons: The Complete Animated Series
    "Ranger, barbarian, cavalier, magician, thief, and acrobat." It's "The Breakfast Club" reimagined by Tolkien...
  • Tim Lucas Video WatchBlog: The Trouble with Blogging
    "In a nutshell, then: Blogging means overwork, neurosis, depression, radiation. Plus, as I've griped before, there's no money in it."
  • Review 2006

    Graham from Off The Telly asks:
    You might have covered this before, but, why Stuart *Ian* Burns - and not just Stuart Burns? And, if I can squeeze in another related to that, how do you feel about people who spell it "Stewart"?

    A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me to write a character reference for her. After spending agonising hours trying to decide how best to describe her within the allotted three lines, I managed to jot something down, mostly adjectives. After spilling onto an imaginary fourth line underneath, it asked for the referee to enter their name. I wrote Stuart Ian Burns without hesitation.

    I've been using my middle name for such a long time, that when it's missing, it doesn't look right. The envelope from the reference form is address to Mr. Stuart Burns and that seems like a different person. As to why I use it, the simple answer is that it's an affectation, a pretension the reason for which is lost in the mists of my mind and personal history. In other words I can't remember quite why or when it began.

    Actually I can remember using it as a child. I have a memory of being very young and being asked for my name and address in primary school and saying all in one go 'Stuart Ian Burns. 89 Lovell Road. Speke. Liverpool. L-2-4 3-U-E?' Although my exercise books from the time all say Stuart Burns. But my GCSE certificates all include the Ian and that pattern is repeated through my A-Levels, it's on the cover of my BA dissertation too and that degree certificate. It obviously happened some time during secondary school for some unknown reason, particularly since it was the kind of school in which I was referred to by my surname right into the sixth form. Perhaps it was a reaction to that.

    When pushed for an answer as to why the full name, I sometimes tell people it commemorates my father, which is surprisingly accepted more than you'd think. My Dad's full name is Ian Hugh Burns, and his middle name also commemorates his father. I've asked him why after a long line of Hughs he was suddenly christened something else and ?. He doesn't know. He said that he was going to be called something totally different but his father jumped in with Ian Hugh and it stuck.

    I was originally going to be called Ian Stuart but Mum decided that it would mean I'd be little Ian to my Dad's big Ian and that wouldn't do so she switched them around. Mum says that Dad had planned ahead enough that if I'd been a girl I would be called Alison, but that Stuart came about at four in the morning the night after my birth when they were casting about for a Scottish sounding boys name because they at least wanted to continue that bit of heritage -- although my grandfather, the last of the Hughs was born in Kensington.

    Stewart began use after a Breton knight settled in Scotland after the Norman Conquest. His descendents were the 'stewards' to the Kings of Scotland, and so the surname is a corruption of that. The really surprise in researching this answer is to find, having spent half of my life when asked to spell my name of saying that it's the Scottish spelling to be 'helpful', that 'Stuart' is in fact French, introduced by Queen Mary, who lived in France after her marriage to the Dauphin. So I'll have to say it's the French spelling from now onwards.

    The good news on the Scottish heritage front comes with the rest of the name. Ian is the Scottish Gaelic version of John and the Burns are a clan (hence the night). Burns apparently means "someone who lived or worked by the burn" either a stream or small river which seems apt in Liverpool and we have our own night which our family always celebrate by eating haggis. The clan isn't apparently big enough to stand alone which is why we ended up mucking in with the Campbells. We wore their kilt design until a Frenchman designed one for us. Which sort of gives my full name a circular logic.

    Sometimes using my full name gets me into trouble. I've been to events and the organizers have assumed that it's a weird double barreling, a male version of Sarah-Jane and printed that on a name badge. Online, middle names aren't allowed in this way so to actually have it appear on websites I have to put Stuart and Ian in the Christian name box during registration hoping that it keeps the space. Someone who is almost a household name always replies back with the full version on the odd occasion when we swap emails, and I'm sure he's making fun of me. And who could blame him?

    But since I'm the only apparent Stuart Ian Burns using the internet if people want to find me all they need to is throw some speech marks around it, drop into Google and take a selection from the thirty-four thousand results, with my email address not too far behind. Which also means that tantalizingly all kinds of people I've met could be reading my blog and I wouldn't know it - although now and then it pops up the referrer logs.

    Somehow whilst at university some very net savvy people didn't realise I was writing so much online which strikes me as odd because the first thing I did when I found out who I was on a course with was to google them (not that it helped with one or two names, being namesakes for well known antiques experts and oscar winning actresses). A few years ago I discovered that there was another Stuart Burns online who was a Doctor Who fan, so using my middle name helps to differentiate me from him on discussion boards and elsewhere. There have been some discussions I've had with him which basically look like someone talking to themselves. Which is wrong.

    I've never really had a chance to see if I have any enmity against people who spell it Stewart because I've met so few Stuarts in life. There was a Stuart Brown on my university course, and I think I might have worked with another in a call centre somewhere along the line but both had spelt it my way. It is an oddity how often I'll get Christmas cards from people I broadly know who do spell it the 'odd' way but I don't hold it against them because it's just nice to be remembered whatever your name is.

    Review 2006

    Stephen asks:
    Throughout most of The Empire Strikes Back, the Millenium Falcon's hyperdrive is not working (should have gone to Kwik Fit!) so it can't travel faster than light! However, there is a point where they travel from the Anoat System to the Bespin system. Separate Star systems would never be less than a couple of light years apart (I presume!), i.e. at least two years travel even if they could attain just a tiny bit less than light speed! It clearly doesn't take them this long, so is it some sort of 'worm-hole' or curved universe phenomena that they utilise to accomplish their trip? I simply must know! :) Thank you!

    "Bespin is pretty far but I think we can make it." - Han Solo

    I've seen Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back countless times but for some reason, y'know, this never occurred to me. Perhaps its my artistic background taking things at face value little realizing the implications of science and real world physics. Of course the two star systems have to be at least a few light years away from each other and taking into account Hans' bit of exposition even further than that. So how could they get there without their hyperdrive, something which takes them further than the speed of light?

    There some things to consider. Unlike Star Trek, these films never had a science advisor. In making them, George Lucas was more interested in the fantasy aspects than creating something that physically makes sense and what with everything else that's happening with the artificial gravity, light sabers and the presence of aliens (none of which is explained) I'm not sure that something as 'simple' as the distance between planets and worlds was high on the agenda. Additionally, although the opening of each films explains that all of this is happening 'A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...' that seems to be a way of signaling to the audience that what they are about to see is influenced by mythic traditions and that like Middle Earth and Narnia, the world we are about to see has nothing to do with the world that we have in our universe.

    So obviously Leia unconsciously used her latent Jedi powers inherited from her Dad to push them there without anyone onboard the Millenium Falcon apparently being aware of it. Or they hitched a lift on the back of a passing delivery ship with just happened to be passing by on its way to Bespin. Or a wormhole opened and dropped them off at the co-ordinates they needed. Or this part of the universe, on the outer rim is more compressed than everywhere else and distances that seem very far to us are much close to them. Or The Doctor and Rose on their way back to the Whoniverse from fighting the Cybermen accidentally stopped off here landing on the Falcon. Chewbacca helped to power the TARDIS back up and in exchange the timelord created a tachyon bubble around both ships and transported them across the vast distance instantaneously. See -- it's all gobbledegook.

    Which isn't to say that someone hasn't asked the question before and this discussion at fan site The Galactic Senate knocks it back and forth. I rather like this answer, that the Millenium Falcon:
    "was moving at the speed of plot"
    although it's revealed elsewhere that the spin-off reference book Star Wars: The Essential Chronology by Daniel Wallace and Kevin J. Anderson, has retconned a solution:
    "Han managed to cobble together a hyperdrive to get most of the way to Bespin."
    during which time Boba Fett presumably worked out where they are going, let Darth Vader know and set the trap.

    All of the Star Wars films have an interesting approach to plot duration - or the amount of screen time used in telling the story. It's implied that Revenge of the Sith takes place over several weeks or months although its never made explicit using captions - with all of the intercutting and crossfaded days could and would have to have passed by between some scenes - otherwise the fall of Anakin is very abrupt indeed. Similarly I've always thought that in Empire there always a kind of Shakespearean double time in play with the Han & Leia story taking place over a much shorter time than Luke's training which would have to have occurred over several weeks. Looking at it again with this question in mind, assuming that there is a time gap between leaving the Anoat System and reaching the Bespin System, both stories could quite happily be running in parallel.

    Also, as with all films, we're only ever told the narrative information we need to know. Although watching Han et al throw together and then testing this possible make-shift hyperdrive might have been an exciting moment (will it work? won't it work?) it would have slowed down the plot which needs to be driven forward (a mistake Lucas would make twenty years later with that bloody pod race - exciting? Yes! Relevant to the overall plot? No!). I think on this occasion, journey is less important than what happens when they get there. Which means that my slightly more prosaic or mystical suggestions it seems valid too.

    They Keep Killing Suzie?

    TV Who wrote They Keep Killing Suzie? Speculation suggests that this is the episode that Russell T Davies mentioned rewriting from top to bottom in a recent issue of Doctor Who Magazine and it certainly shared many of the same qualities as the opening episode -- excellent dialogue, pacing, characterisation and the sense of Torchwood as a team rather than a bunch of individuals thrown together.

    If it wasn't for that bloody awful music cue at the end this might have been only the third episode which didn't make me wince at the thought of having to come on here and write about it. But here I am writing floridly for the first time in weeks. And having also seen the disappointingly disappointing Pan's Labyrinth tonight. Perhaps I'm just in denial about everything.

    It was fairly inevitable that Suzie would be resurrected after the closing scene of Everything Changes and against all the odds they didn't waste the opportunity. Although the rejuvenation glove is the kind of magical device familiar to anyone whose played role playing games, its execution, sapping the life force from Gwen was excellent, especially the 'You're being shot in the head ... slowly ...' moment.

    Indira Varma is the missing link of the entire series and her performance was by turns gruesome, sympathetic but importantly weirdly convincing. As she sat in the car almost channelling Eve Myles speech patterns I genuinely wondered if they were going to drop in a real surprise and let Gwen die, Suzie carrying on with some of her personality.

    Seeing Torchwood from the outside once again proved to be a highlight, with the brilliant Yasmin Bannerman's comic timing seeming to coax from John Barrowman the sense of fun that's been lacking in previous episodes. In other series she would be a recurring character, like Kate Lockley in the first few seasons of Angel, helping Torchwood but not getting too close.

    The one genuine laugh I think I've had in weeks occurred (and I want this marking on the calendar) when her entire office were huddled around the speaker phone to hear that Torchwood were locked in their base. Frankly like large sections of this episode, these scenes looked like they'd drop in from the alternate reality where Torchwood is the best thing on television.

    Of course, not everything worked. The chat surrounding what to call the glove and knife was a bit blank and not a patch on the similar scene in the film Tremors (Graboids?). Once again there was a sitcom like attachment to the Hub presumably because, having spent half of the programme budget on the set they want to get the most use from it. There was another visit to what looks like the worst night club in the world (last seen in Day One).

    The cavalier attitude to continuity -- as they're speeding at night to Gwen's rescue in the Torchmobile, Owen explains she only has minutes to live only to arrive in broad daylight, or should that be the dawn of the dead? Oh and that final music queue crashing in like a someone with the Best of LeAnne Rimes cd at a student party.

    There's also still that ever present lack of interest in the fate of humanity which tends to make it difficult to care about any of the main characters too much. Although calling the amnesia drug, some might say a blatant steal from Men In Black, 'Retcon' has a modicum of cool, it's generally their fault that Max is in the brain sucked condition he's in, but there were Jack and Owen treating him like an animal when he actually deserved their compassion.

    But all of these seem like nitpicks in an episode that was doing everything we'd hoped Torchwood might be doing from the off -- asking the big questions about life and death within a soup of humour, cartoon fantasy with sprinkling of violence. Even Tosh was likeable and Ianto regained is original cool. Owen gained something related to character detailing when it was revealed he'd tupped Suzie before Gwen -- so that's a pattern with him is it?

    We even found out what was in store for all Torchwood personnel -- you're stuck in a freezer, the rest of your life in a lock up garage -- these are the details that we should have been hearing all along instead of the insistence on focusing on plot over anything else. And the movement in the darkness? I think Jack is going to look Death in the eyesocket and offer to show him his stopwatch.

    Next week: Business as usual as another ex-cast member from As, If runs through a storyline which will look strangely similar to one from Star Trek: The Next Generation (The Next Phase if anyone cares at this point -- "C'mon Data, put it together...").

    Links for 2006-12-03 [del.icio.us]

  • DVD Times: Disney aspect ratio conundrum
    Discussion of how these films should really look on DVD -- open-matt or not open-matt?
  • OFF THE TELLY: A Continuous Panorama of Pure Entertainment
    Chris Hughes investigates the origins of the nearly forgotten squarial broadcaster BSB.
  • Tate | Shop Online
  • ChavTowns
    "Another interesting trait about scallies or chavs is that they gloat about the fact that they have been to town since they were 12. It seems to be a competition that whoever has been to town at the youngest age is the hardest or most respected. But how d
  • National Media Museum
    New name and website for the 'National Museum of Film, Television and Photography' to reflect their shift into covering radio and the web. New exhibition spaces coming soon.
  • Review 2006

    Colin asks:
    Whenever I think of doing something like a blog, I always worry that anything I write would either sound really pretentious or be very boring. How do you handle those fears and just write?

    Just write.

    Which is really easy for me to say and I share your fear. Most of anything I write on here is potentially pretentious and probably boring not that I can tell and no one's told me it's either. Not all of us has an interesting or exciting life or for that matter is all that engaging when they do write anything. I find it incredibly difficult sometimes to put fingers to keyboard, let alone produce something that someone else would actually want to waste thirty seconds of their day reading. My writing style is either embarrassingly prosaic or keyboard stammeringly simple. And I can never seem to strike the tone I'm really looking for. But here I am, five and half years into this, still publishing something.

    I can't say how you can handle your fears though and anything I suggest will very much fall into the do as I say rather than actually what I do category. I suppose it all depends on what you want to achieve with the blog. Is it going to be an online diary, the record of your life, or are going to cover just one aspect of that life, a pastime or whatnot? Are you going to write only about a subject that you're interested in, and express your passion for it to the world? Is it going to be a link blog even, your interests and yourself appearing in the words not spoken between the items your publishing, readers getting to know you by what you direct them to look at online?

    One of the strengths, but also weaknesses of this blog is that I don't really have a mission statement and it's a combination of all of those things that can make it seem unfocused, but also unpredictable. I used to post links and write about a much wider range of subjects, but sometimes it seemed a little bit forced, so now it's mostly films and television and news but that's ok because it's where I'd like to think my career is headed. I also like that there is a mish-mash of writing styles (I think) with sometimes quite serious headed reviews with rotten bits of opinion knocked together when I'm exhausted which I can later read with fresh eyes willing myself not to go back and edit.

    Looking through the archives I can track how my tastes and interests have changed over the years and I'll often stumble across something I've forgotten or forgotten I'd forgotten. It's not a detailed account and not everything is there because of the rules I've given myself - no talking about work or friends in a bad light or about things I know nothing about. Of course I'll break those rules now and then but there is a lot of self censorship - but that means there's always the possibility I can talk about things years down the line which I haven't mentioned before when the dust has settled and coast is clear. So there's always material.

    So really my only advice, if that's what you're looking for, is to just write and there is always the chance that somewhere along the line you'll find a voice and an audience and you'll be winning all the blogging awards and book deals that have so far eluded me. Not that I'm actually doing this for any of those reasons you understand, thank God.

    Robin Torchwood

    TV The brilliantly chipper Torchwood.TV has blurbs and book covers for the first wave of spin-off novels and they seem to be infected with the same 'blah... blah... not sure what this is about' storylines that we've enjoyed over the past few weeks. Also, can anyone explain what's going on with the eyeline angles in the cover for Border Princes? Jack's looking in one direction, his gun's pointing at the neck of the random captive who himself is looking at the sky probably trying to work out how he managed to make the cover.

    Also on topic, Tom Charman offers a genius suggestion for why Torchwood isn't working. Not enough story to go around each week: "Even though it looks from the outside like an ensemble show, it’s miserably failing on such things, partly because it keeps insisting on only having one plotline to sustain you for 50 minutes of runtime. [...] Putting five cast members together running through the same plot just gets dull." Tom's right -- even Spooks often has something approach an A-plot/B-plot/C-plot structure beloved of most drama series and yet in Torchwood they hammer a single story through the fifty minutes which means that often action and information is repeated or there are cutaways to characters doing practically nothing but stand on roofs just too keep them in the story.

    Off topic, last night's episode of the increasingly brilliant Robin Hood (I still can't believe the upturn in quality) was written by Paul Cornell and directed by Graham Harper. Gunpowder filled in for nuclear power in a parable about how forces for productivity can so easily be turned to evil. As well as the kind of blistering but legible action you'd expect from Harper, loyalties were tested and the ongoing secrets and conspiracies mounted once again on top of one another in a beautifully funny and literate script from Cornell. Despite the name that is the title, it's also fundamentally an ensemble show, and although just sometimes the merry men tend to flock together they're all given a slice of the action as are the sheriff, Guy and Marion. Really it's great and if you can catch one of the BBC Three repeats you'll not be disappointed.

    Links for 2006-12-02 [del.icio.us]

  • Mark Kermode's Film Review Advent Calendar
    Twenty-four days of Mark being rude about films. Worth it just for 02/12 and his review of 'Little Man': "If you've been to see it -- shame on you!"
  • Guardian Unlimited Books: Feel free to browse
    "Marshall McLuhan, the guru of The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962), recommends that the browser turn to page 69 of any book and read it. If you like that page, buy the book. It works."
  • Review 2006

    Aisling asks:
    If you could have your own total fantasy life, what would it be like?

    Manhattan's waking up again. It's seven-oh-four in the morning and I'm sitting on the window ledge of our apartment watching the city stir on the sidewalk below me. I should be nodding off but for some reason lately I've been able to function on about three hours sleep. I've never understood how I've been able to wake up bright and early after such wild nights and not feel the knock on effect for the rest of the week. Must be perfectly normal because everyone else I know seems to be able to. Jogging through Central Park earlier, I was struck by how many people there were. The after show party was a blast last night and I'll write some more about that and the show when its coalesced in my brain. I love that the Buffy episode wasn't a blip and that Joss is going to have another string to his bow. Objects in Space is bound to be become one of the Broadway standards.

    Which reminds me (for no apparent reason) that the deadline's looming for that introduction I promised, for the collected volume of my film writing for the New Yorker. It's surprisingly difficult to reflect back on what's been such a short but prolific career without sounding pompous. What am I supposed to talk about? The list I put together for the film festival is a good indication - I'm really pleased they've been able to source new prints of Map of the Human Heart, Love and Other Catastrophes and In The Bleak Midwinter so I suppose I could just talk about my passion for fairly obscure films. For some reason I've been lucky enough to write about something I love and get paid very well for it and touch people's lives.

    I mean, I still can't get over that moment at the New Years Eve party when Rosario told me that she'd only won her Oscar because she'd been so inspired by what I'd written about her in my review of Emotion Going. But then I live in a constant state of amazement that she fell in the love with me. Oh good lord, I've still need to find something nice for her mother for Christmas. We'll do Macies. Or have breakfast at Tiffany's (I've always want to say that). It's the first time I've spent any time with the Dawson clan and I'm pretty nervous, especially since I'm the new boy and they'll be wondering what she's doing with this funny looking English bloke. I'm sure she's right about it being the perfect time to announce the engagement though.

    Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a dreamy bubble, everything feels just too perfect. I was reading more comment in the Guardian Weekly earlier about Clooney announcing that the entire defense budget would be used to feed the world. No one could believe that the Republicans would support that kind of move from a Democratic President or that all of those countries you'd think would use the opportunity to attack the US said that they would lay down their arms in support of such a selfless act. People used to half jokingly drink to world peace, but no one thought it would actually happen.

    If six months ago some diplomat had said that North and South Korea would open their borders or that live and let live would become the new motto at the UN they'd be pensioned off. If I wasn't so settled and in love I'd be tempted to move back home - they're calling Charles Kennedy the best prime minister since Churchill with his benevolent reforms of public services. I've even heard that all trains are running on time everywhere. Amazing.

    I'm more political than I used to be aren't I?

    Anyway, I'd better post this, Rose will be back soon with the bagels and coffee. I hope they had some of that Christmas blend . . .