"But was this the most amazing piece of television ever?"

Elsewhere Quote: "Either way, this episode managed to do the impossible -- actually made me want to watch the next series of Torchwood, on purpose." Guess what I'm talking about ...


TV They’re indomitable us fans. Predictable even. Even my shiny new computer with its wizbang fast fax/modem (no really - on dial up it’s still an athlete) can’t access Outpost Gallifrey’s forum very well as it crashes under the weight of three hundred odd visitors. As the Doctor himself once said about opening the heart of the Tardis -- it’s not supposed to do that. It’s not supposed to be filled with such overwhelmingly positive reviews either, but there they all are saying things like “That was absolutely sensational.” and “That was quite simply, the most amazing piece of television ever.” in the very place that only a couple of weeks ago, after The Family of Blood was still filled with those moaning minnies.

But was this the most amazing piece of television ever? What better than The Ascent of Man, Civilisation, Elizabeth R, Pride and Prejudice, Cathy Come Home, the whole of BBC Shakespeare, Network 7, The Sopranos, Shooting The Past (and anything else by Poliakoff), Hill Street Blues, some of Dennis Potter's work, My So-Called Life (I’m bias), Spaced, Monty Python’s Flying Circus before John Cleese couldn’t be arsed with it any more, new Battlestar Galactica, the last five minutes of Blackadder Goes Fourth, the seasons of Buffy not produced by Marti Noxon, Screenwipe, Popworld when it was properly ironic and Trumpton? Probably not. What this most amazing piece of Doctor Who ever?

Oh yes.

It’s a debate that’ll probably rage for years which is good because fans like to have something to chat about. The anti-camp and the people who are really anti-camp will point to the fact that once again Russell T Davies is portraying a far future filled with combustion engines, humans who look like humans marching like an army and can’t get through a script without a bit of the gay agenda stuff. They’ll note the Mad Max fueled Future Kind, introduced with rock music and marching about. There’s the matter of the rocket and the appearance by a Blue Peter award winner (who actually I think was rather good given her age, very Newt from Aliens), of the ’flashbacks’ which to some might make the episode as close to a clip show or a Confidential montage as the series proper has ever got and how in the end it was all forty minutes of build up to the big shock ending that really wasn’t thanks to THE FUCKING S*N.

All or some of which are true. But what Davies has cleverly done is not overload his bases. Perhaps noticing his tendency to pile in a morass of concepts and ideas and plot points, and realising that the most important things in the episode are the reappearance of Captain Jack and The Master and the exposition that accompanies both, he’s degraded the importance of the story itself, making that as simple as possible to let all of those important things breath. The Future Kind are scary buggers -- all you need to know. These are the last of the humans (oh the irony), all you need to know. One needs to escape from the other and take to the stars, again all etc. No wonking great plot to confuse matters, take our attention away from what was in the end a piece about characters. The flashbacks even worked too, simple images to remind the casual viewer of what’s been before (it’s a shame though that they didn’t have some fun with it, dropping in things from adventures we haven’t seen (similar to the second episode of the animated Clerks series) or surealism (like the cheese guy from the Buffy episode Restless). Plus it did again what this new series as always done well -- used icons and mythology of the past in a very new emotional way.

Before typing too far into the territory that requires the kind of paper towel only a fan would require, let’s first of all congratulate Graham Harper on another job well done. Like 42, many of the action scenes, particularly the corridor dashed, only really worked because he gave them some wallop, rapid cutting and whipping the actors into a frenzy. If they think its scary, we do to. John Barrowman gave his best performance ever in this episode and I wonder if Harper’s coaching, some of which was seen in Confidential, helped. It was fun though to see Graham slightly star-struck as he gave direction to Jacobi, all hushed tones and what not. But like Euros Lynn and James Hawes, he’s one of the series greatest assets and I do hope he’ll be back next year.

Speaking of Jacobi, wonderful as usual. The one person to still have any dignity left after Underworld: Evolution, I don’t think I’ve seen Sir Derek give a bad performance and to actually see rather than hear him in Doctor Who once again was a treat. Quite rightly he made us love The Professor, a sort of amalgam of the first three Doctors mixed inevitably with John Smith. If I hadn’t known the outcome thanks to THE PISSING S*N, it would have been a classic misdirection and in fact some miscreant on the O.G. (I see now) did post during the episode wondering if he was indeed some future version of The Doctor. Plaudits too to the only other major player in the episode, Chipo Chung, who underneath the latex had the instant likability only a companion the new series has. Actually, she was a bit of a throwback to the girls that Rose used to bump into like, Gwen from The Unquiet Dead in order to contrast the naughties girl with someone her own age from another time.

The interesting contrast was of course that whereas Rose simply wanted to understand, Martha tries to change Chantho, talking her into not using the verbal speech marks that are one of the cultural quirks of her soon to be dead race. It’s to Freema’s credit that she didn’t get swallowed up in the mess of other stuff happening in the episode and to Russell’s credit that he didn’t drop the focus from her too much, giving her a few good scenes. In his Screen Burn column in The Guardian this week, Charlie Brooker called Tennant the best Doctor ever, and this episode offered further ammunition to support that contention, dropping from comedy to horror in moments, the palpable confusion in the climax when his whole universe turns around in seconds and not even the sonic screwdriver can stop him from feeling impotent.

Right, someone pass me the hanky. I’m going in.

The re-introduction of Captain Jack was nicely handled. John Barrowman in the titles! Dash of the Torchwood theme on the soundtrack! Something of a pisstake though for those us who shouted our way through the bad old days of Torchwood as all of the central mysteries of Harkness in that series, the ambiguities, were dropped out in about thirty seconds of exposition to Martha. How he got from the future to the past, when he landed and how long he was hanging about, why he up sticks to Cardiff. All implied in that series, of course, but to give them all away in this fashion was either genius, an annoyance, or both. His presence didn’t jar too much either -- still the man whose been stuck on Earth all those years waiting, brimming with new excitement because the one person he’s been waiting for has returned.

I can’t wait to see how Chris Chibnall deals with it in the next series of Touchwouldn‘t. No really. If I was him, I’d flip the mystery of the new series to make the Scrappy gang wonder why he’s suddenly in such a good mood -- and I’ll be bound that it’ll be because Captain Jack has a new found sense of purpose, that he wants to be there, after whatever happens in the closing episode. Perhaps too his invincibility will be removed, making him mortal. Either way, this episode managed to do the impossible -- actually made me want to watch the next series of Torchwood, on purpose.. Even though, as I mentioned in my final review for that moribund programme, its cliffhanger ending is being resolved in the mother show entirely, which’ll confuse the hell out of Australian and American viewers were they’re showing on different networks. It’ll be Buffy and Angel all over again.

It’s just very surprising to see this series being quite so bald with its approach to its own mythology. Granted it’s something the new series have done on occasion, but for whole conversations to simply relate to what’s gone before is actually quite refreshing, even if at times, in relation to the hand especially, it’s got the subtlety of a mallet - or the Dalek Human. And the reason for the Doctor to have left Jack behind (he was last referenced in Pudsey Cutaway for goodness sake), was surprisingly touching and understandable. He now represents this anomaly in time and space and as we’ve seen before the Doctor doesn’t really like those despite having been a cause of enough of them. Plus it makes some sense of the fact that the Doctor somehow manages to pitch up in the one place were the Master might be hiding. The goodish Captain is something of a bad penny.

The re-introduction of The Master? That was something else. Unlike the past two series, there’s been a conscious effort to make everything tie together, but the last thing I expected was the mcguffin, the watch from Human Nature to be the means by which he did return. It gives the series a wonderful structure, everything interconnecting, relating to one another. Anyone with a degree in this stuff would knock on about the use of binary opposites within the narrative, the interesting way that the real antagonist wasn't introduced to the very end, the watch and how it's been knawing at The Professor all those years to be opened, drum beats in his head an black contrast to the rather benign dreams that visited John Smith.

To hire Derek Jacobi and John Simm to essay the character, two acting giants is, well, really, really impressive. Then, rightly for each of them to bring their own take, to understand, new regeneration, new man -- frankly there’s no words. It’s Doctor Who as you always hoped it could be, indeed as some of the spin-offs proved it could be done. And with a sample of Anthony Ainley’s trademark laugh as a trigger. Hn-hn-hn-hn-hn-hn. I loved the way the words echoed about The Professors head as he realised that not all was as it seems.

Anyone else notice the consistency of Jacobi’s performance with the android version of the Master in The Scream of the Shalka -- if I could access the forums now I’d imagine the Richard E Grant canonicity debate is already raging. I wonder though what the kids made of it -- how many of them will have understood the magnitude of what this all means both fictionally and in relation to the fan reaction to the series. Did the boxset release at the start of the year help? How many times will we be rewatching the John Smith moment over the next week? About as many times as the last twenty-minutes of The Christmas Invasion probably. Either by mistake or purpose, he managed to capture the manic darkness of the post regeneration Doctor when everything was going a bit wrong and he was laughing in that way that freaked Neil out.

So how did The Master end up here? How did he end up being a time lord again? Will they bother to address such things? Do they need to? I suspect not. As the evil nemesis, he’ll always return somehow and despite the old series meticulous essaying of his passage from Delgado to Ainley via a lump of charcoal, I suspect, like the gap between McGann and Eccleston they’ll leave it up to the fan to decide what they believe. Personally, I have two theories. Either that this is somehow a prequel to the old series and we’re seeing a pre-Delgado version of the character or he’s somehow managed to gain the extra set of lives the time lords frequently offered when they wanted him to do their dirty work -- or he’s stole them. Hold on -- that’s three. But you see what I mean, it’s infectious. In a way I hope they keep the mystery, but, as the Captain Jack conversations prove Russell’s in the mood to call a spade a spade. To be fair, this version of the writer would almost certainly have dropped the Davros when he was doing rewrites on Dalek. Now who needs the hanky?

I’ll leave it to everyone else to comment on such things as costume, set design and music, although I suspect no one will. It’s that kind of episode, the kind in which if everyone’s done their job properly they don’t draw attention to themselves. Sneaking a peak at the trailer for next week’s episode and it looks to be a doozy with John Simm’s big performance layered on top a million miles away from Sam Tyler and anything else he’s done. This has been an amazing series and I can’t imagine it’ll stumble at the last hurdle.

Now, would anyone like to guess how The Doctor returns to 2007/8/whatever year it is?

Kids, eh?

I was awake by eight o’clock yesterday morning as the man from Dell had said that the new computer would be delivered any time between then and five. I was excited. Really excited. Every now and then when I heared a door being slammed I’d run to the window and look out to see if it was my delivery, like a six year old on Christmas Eve looking out for Father Christmas.

Time passed. I watched final episode of The Virgin Queen, the story of Elizabeth I from last year, the one with Mary-Anne Duff not Helen Mirren, the one that no one seemed to watch and which in the end wasn’t all that good. No sign. But it was early.

I checked the delivery details through courier website. It went ‘on deliver’ and 8:32am. So it was on the van. Why wasn’t it here? It was coming from Leyland. I checked Google Maps to see how far away that is. Forty-five minutes. OK, so perhaps he or she or whatever the gender the delivery person had stopped off for breakfast on the way. I had breakfast. Cornflakes. I waited.

I watched Lost In La Mancha, the story of how Terry Gilliam failed to make a film about Don Quixote. It’s one of those documentaries that feels too short, as though you really want to ‘enjoy’ all of the knock backs and mistakes, the arguments, the pain, the failures, but the directors aren’t in the mood to feel the voyeur in you. I ate some lunch. A sandwich. I’m beginning to panic, in that childish way I’m prone to. What if they could’t find the tower block? What if they’d already been and had decided they couldn’t gain entry? What if? What if?

Watch the publicity interview with Gilliam on the dvd in which Mark Kermode asks him some awkward questions about what the documentary says about him. The former Python takes it in good humour and notes that actually this record of his failure to make one version of the film is a great advert for when he wants to remount it and that he’s already in the process of buying back the script from the insurers who took it over when the production went belly-up. I’m starting to feel tired, possibly because I didn’t sleep well the night before. This really was like Christmas, especially since Santa still hadn’t arrived. It was two o’clock.

Watched some deleted scenes and found some of the arguments and pain and a neat sequence in which Gilliam discusses the music for the film and not so neat when he goes to see a bull fight. Eventually, I couldn’t watch any more, I’m both excited and nervous and regressed so far that I’m glad that you’re only getting to hear about it through the filter of these words. I’m not pacing, but I am genuinely wondering if they’d gotten lost or stuck in the floods even though that hadn‘t touched the north west. I’m considering the things I could have done with the day and then realised that actually, sad as it is, I might not have done that many more exciting things than this.

I telephoned the courier, it’s four o’clock. After earlier unsuccesses in attempting to navigate the push button system, this time I get through to an operator. She was irish. I was talking to Ireland. I explained to her about living in a tower block, about the security gate, about previous deliveries from other companies not getting here because the courier couldn’t work out how to get in the building. She smiled (it sounded like she smiled) and said she’d call the driver (wow, that’s good). I’m put on hold. Disconcertingly the hold music is exactly the same as the one used at a call centre I used to work at. I’m still able to sing along two years later and do. The operator returns. ‘He’ll be there in twenty-five minutes.’ ‘Fantastic!’ I say (actually more like shout). ‘Watch out for him.’ She says.

And I did. I actually went down to the road and waited for him. The van arrives and the man steps out, after looking slightly freaked by me looking through the window mouthing a brand name. ‘Dell?’ He opens the van and there under some other boxes is my box, brand name on the side. He tips it up to check that my address is on it. As I go to sign for it on his clipboard, he says, ‘The day I’ve had.’ ‘Really?’ I say. ‘Well I had a load for Morrisons and that took me an hour to drop off -- we’re supposed to be away in fifteen minutes. Then I drove out to some bloke with twelve boxes which I dropped off only to be told that he hadn’t ordered them. Bad day. I’ll be glad to get home.’ ‘Take care’ I say as I take my box from him. ‘Hope you have a better evening.’

I enter the car park of the block, in the front door, up in the lift and home. The computer is set up in about twenty minutes and then as I began to get used to this strange new operating system (‘No, I don’t want to use MSN Messenger etc.’) I start to get a pain my stomach. I haven’t have I?

I eat some chicken soup for tea. Doesn’t help. I start to get a headache. Oh for goodness sake. I’ve been so excited and nervous and stressed out about the whole thing, I’ve given myself a bellyache. I suspect its wind. What am I? Two? It’s only a new computer. I hate computers. I need a lie down.

Which I do. And inevitably, with a gap in the middle where I check my email at about midnight, I sleep like a baby - until eight o’clock this morning having experienced some weird dreams which are just too bizarre or sad or boring to even write here. But I’m back online and even if I miss my old keyboard I’m tapping away and feeling much better.

Kids, eh?


Life Hooray! My new computer has arrived! Boo! I've got tummyache and don't feel very well. Full story tomorrow then ...

No, now look I'm sorry ...

Film In a summer of bloated blockbusters and hardly enticing torture horrors, I haven't been to the cinema much, preferring instead to catch up on all the films I missed in the first seventy-five years of cinema history when I hadn't been born yet. What thirties films lacked in budget they made up for with invention, tight scripts with incisive characterisation.

Largely my abstinance has been critic and word of mouth led with the new Pirates and Spiderman films apparently being particularly avoidable. By rights, I should have missed out Ocean's Thirteen too, but having been the only person who seemed to think Ocean's Twelve a work of genius (outside of the people who made it) I couldn't pass up the chance to fly against the critical tide again.

Ocean's Twelve was roundly regected by critics but the reception for this has been pretty mixed, ranging from Mark Kermode's rant and Peter Bradshaw's one star lambasting in The Guardian to Empire Magazine's four stars. Director Steven Soderbergh's has generally endured this reception of late with writers generally focusing on what a work is not rather than what he's delivered.

Which is a shame because once again, this is an amazing film, ambitious in its narrative, experimental in its use of character, visually and sonically a feast. It's disappointing that even when Soderbergh has succeeded in producing a work of purposeful entertainment and artistic brilliance there's still almost being treated like the hack he certainly isn't.

It's not entirely above reproach. The storyline, another casino heist, does not have the emotional punch of the first and to a degree second films. In addition, anyone paying attention could work out what twists there are in the climax. Although the entire crew is back minus the ladies, not everyone has that much to do with Bernie Mac in particular being particularly hard done by. Now and then it seems just a little bit too pleased with itself, but that smacks of confidence more than anything else.

These do however seem to be effects of parring the story and the requirements of the narrative down to their most basic parts. The film is about the heist and the mechanics of the operation, the opening act of the second film stretched over a couple of hours. It's comedy drama then in its purest form, grabbing the funny where ever possible. It's also clear that Soderbergh and writers Brian Koppelman & David Levien want the audience to be in on those mechanics so that they can feel included rather than excluded from the team.

That means that unlike other sequels which get bogged down in giving everyone their own subplot to keep the stars happy, its able to keep the focus on the goal. In fact, it's quite refreshing to once again see these actors, who've carried films themselves, just popping in for little more than a cameo in order to facilitate a gag. What's wrong with having something that amounts to the Record Breaker's Christmas Special were Roy Castle would be joined by a galaxy of stars during the festive period?

It's one of the first films in years not to waste Al Paccino's devlish personality and here he's in full shit-eating hoo-ahh mode as the villianous casino manager whose at the centre of the trouble. It's equally refreshing to see someone like Ellen Barkin playing this kind of comedy role again. The criticisms were basically in the order of 'How could you treat this older actress in this way, putting her in the sad position of being seduced by this young buck' failing to note how sexy she is and that actually lesser films would have cast a much younger actress in the role.

The young buck by the way is Matt Damon, who I think has finally gotten over the pasting he recieved in Team America: World Police -- in other words I don't have their way of saying his name flashing into my head every time I see him on screen anymore. Everyone in the cast is a natural comedian though, with the double acts of Scott Carn and Casey Affleck, Shaobo Qin and Damon and George Clooney and Brad Pitt all making welcome returns. The latter is perhaps the funniest, time and again the mirth developing from what isn't being said and a mere weary look or tired gesture stealing the show.

Their scenes together are just a couple of the array of very funny moments that litter the film and which, crucially unlike many sequels aren't contingent on you having seen the other two. There are character moments sure with will resonante if you know who they're talking about and why (there are still some hollywood in-jokes which will only work amongst the really clued up amongst us) but in the main the funny is brought without prior knowledge and it's the first time I've laughed out loud at the cinema in ages.

Some complained that in the second film the main gang weren't together nearly enough, blown across the four corners of Europe with the structure of the story being dictated by the scheduling of the cast. If that was still the problem here, it's largely been solved and there's certainly more of a sense of the family again, probably helped by everything taking place in Vegas. Some of my favourite scenes in Twelve were when the cast were in a hotel room or whatever generally improvising with the camera trying to pick up what it can. There's less of that here, with Ocean's team collected across the widescreen in tableau.

In fact, wasn't prepared for how well photographed the piece is, Soderbergh (who operates the camera himself) using a range of pallets, some of which recall the opening film all reds and browns through to other works -- there's even the odd shot which could have dropped in from his low budget experiment Bubble. One amazing shot which pans across a casino floor zooming in and focusing on the faces of each of the team in turn as they communicate to each other with an adjustment of their glasses. There's no doubt that the director is an auteur, all of his films sharing a distinctive look and feel.

The film is also bathed in more of series regular David Holmes music. There's also a pleasing return to the old Hollywood style montage sequences that mix text and images to communicate story points and the passage of time, accompanied by Holmes mix of jazz and blues music. There are moments when the characters return locations from the first film and Holmes quietly underscores the scene with a subtler version of music from Ocean's Eleven, in one scene in particularly almost suggesting a nostalgia for a time when it was easier to see the goal and (without givin too much away) when you knew who your enemies were.

The oddest of the criticism was unsurprisingly from the usually right Mark Kermode who when he wasn't ranting on about the appearance of Julian Sands (who isn't that bad here) took up against the film for being set and about Vegas which he didn't have very many nice things to say about. Whilst its true that this is a pretty good tourist recruitment film for the area, how could this film exist without perpetuating that fantasy? If I was something akin to social realism I'll dodge through a copy of Leaving Las Vegas or Casino(?) or Showgirls(!?!). Some of the most impressive shots are from the sky as we see the new imaginary casino photorealistically inserted into the real Vegas.

The presence of Sands though does indicate one of the more unusual elements of the film, its Britishness. As well as Eddie Izzard there's a startling appearance from Olga Sosnovska who fans of the BBC series Spooks will know as Fiona Carter and is utterly luminous in her small role. Some of the film looks to have been shot in London (and real London not the version that appears in Lost) and there are some unexpected reference to UK pop culture which you can't imagine anyone in the US audience (or anyone else) would get. Perhaps it's as an apology for Don Cheadle's accent which is noticably less mockney this time out but still doesn't sound quite right. Frankly, I'm amazed that his character Basher wasn't outed as being really American, the sound of his voice being an affectation. In Ocean's Fourteen maybe.

Since this has done great business at the box office despite the critics I can't imagine a fourth film hasn't been discussed. Whether the formula can stretch to another installment I'm not sure -- apart from anything else, would all of the cast return? If I had one small criticism, with the exception of Barkin and Sosnovska the film lacked a feminine touch and it would be great to see Roberts and Zeta Jones back next time in bigger roles. There was also an even greater reliance on technology too and perhaps next time the gang could be placed in a position where they have to work completely on their wits to succeed. It'd have to be against a different landscape though. How about Shanghai?

Not lit

About You've probably noticed that I signed up to Twitter the other week. Then like most people with very simple lives (of late) and little to report realised I don't have much to put there. Being able to text to it from anywhere is pretty exciting stuff but since I'm not up on all that random abreviated lingo it comes out as iliterate lowercase mumbles. So I've decided to totally rip-off twitterlit and actively steal quotes from elsewhere when I haven't anything better to say, except I'll add in the source where possible. Tonight, Oscar Wilde. My new PC comes Friday thank goodness. It's just taken me ten minutes to write this post. That's right ancient laptop, render that character...

"No wonder Jacqueline Hill went on holiday - she probably saw it all coming."

TV I couldn't not share this. I was having a clear out today and found the following. When I first came back to the series in the late nineties, a relative (my auntie) recorded some of the UK Gold broadcasts. Being that kind of person, I put the tapes in proper video boxes and printed up inlays upon which I wrote some mini-reviews.

Eventually, those tapes were packed away (notice not thrown out) but for some unknown reason I kept the inlays along with these initial raw reviews written before I really knew anything about the show -- I don't think I'd even started buying Doctor Who magazine yet. I thought you might find them amusing -- although it's slightly worrying how little my writing style has developed over the years. I won't post them all at once, but here, to begin with, are Billy and Pat. Count how many times you think 'No it doesn't' or 'No it isn't'.

William Hartnell Era

The Plant of the Giants has to rate as one of the dullest hour-ten minutes of anyone's life. God it's Slow. It's annoying. It feels like a thousand years. Oddly enough, the last episode was edited together from two separate episodes - and its still slow. Things aren't helped by the fact that Barbara is reduced to running around like a feckless idiot, just so that Ian can look a bit heroic. It's an example of the schizoid nature of the show that ...

The Dalek Invasion of Earth, although exceeding flabby in places is also unbelievably intelligant at times. Alright, so everything still creaks and the pace is still from snoozeville (heh, heh) but there is some really intelligent character interaction, and genuinely scary moments, especially as the pepperpots fly through London like kings. Susan's leaving scne is also some kind of genius.

The Web Planet is probably one of the slowest, dullest stories Who ever produced. I mean the thing would have seemed long stretched over three episodes, but six!?! Some have tried to excuse it by saying what 'amazing' costume design there is for the period. Yeah - it's amazing the costumer designer managed to keep their job. All this really amounts to is a bunch of guys in fancy dress running around a studio for six weeks. No wonder Jacqueline Hill went on holiday - she probably saw it all coming. When the only exciting thing to happen in a story is one of the monsters bumping into the camera, you really know you're in trouble.

The Space Museum
does have a quite good first epsiode, its just a shame that the programme makers forgot about logic, good characterisation and pace. This is the kind of story which probably gave Who a bad name all those years ago, somehow forgetting what the kids tuned in for each week. Only Hartnell seems to be making a good fist of it, as everyone else doesn't seem to care - and why should they when presented with material like this? Imagine you're making for fourth episode of this and you realise you've got six episodes of The Chase coming up - better conserve that energy guys ...

The Gunfighters. My word. Hmm. I'm sorry, but matter what anyone might imply, they must have done some really good drinking at the DW offices in the 60s. I know -- lets do a historical about the gunfight at the OK Coral and somehow shoe-horn the Doctor into the action. And lets build quite good set but shoot it really badly so that the whole thing looks like it was shot in a school hall somewhere. That'll work.

Patrick Troughton Era

Tomb of the Cybermen has a shockingly contemporary script which really sticks out because of its greatness. I mean how often was it that a companion talked about their life before her travels with The Doctor and at a moment which isn't driving the story along? The Cybermen are particularly menacing despite the rudimentary areas of the cast. That'll be a definite classic of the period then.

The Dominators. Yawn. Its stories like this which Who a bad name. Its starts slow and gets slow-er. Lots of bad acting ensues and then the whole thing slows to a halt in a more of boredom. Just awful.

The Krotons just shows how a lot of what's left of the Troughton era really begins to mass into one story in the memory. And which twerp thought that name Gond was a realistic and not funny at all name for an alien. And the confusing storytelling doesn't help. Want a glimpse into hell? Watch this and the Dominators back to back like I did.

The War Games is long, but the pace is quite frenetic and there doesn't seem to be too much padding. What strikes you is how it feels like the culmination of six years worth of build up. It has everything - the historical elements which made the Hartnell shows such a joy and the science fiction elements of the Troughton years. Everyone gets something to do - and if some of the acting is a touch wooden, the scope is a amazing. This is an action adventure movie years before its time, with a stangely more grown up feel than Star Trek was achieving at the exact same time, across the pond. Amazing.


Life I went ahead and ordered a Dell desktop through their website -- thanks though to Annette for her reassurance that they're good machines and I haven't selected the anti-virus software pre-install because I'd heard their options were pretty tempramental. It's the most I've ever spent on a computer and a chunk out of my savings but I spend so much time online and writing and doing everything else that it seems like a wise investment -- this laptop is ok for simple posts like this one but whenever I ask it do something complicated, like having two copies of Firefox open or god forbid Outlook Express it just sort of ... stops.

I spent the morning in town using a better computer somewhere to complete another job application form. It's the second submitted within the week and although it's for more part time work it is more hours and the experience will be helpful. Assuming I even get an interview. This form was quite well designed, asking specific questions about experience rather than simply offering an empty page to fill. It is difficult though to answer questions such as 'What is you're greatest achievement in your chosen field?' when you haven't quite chosen a field yet. I resorted to the X Factor approach or providing a story -- first person in family to get a degree, five year plan to return to do a postgraduate course etc. It certainly still feels like my biggest achievement, the thing I'm most proud of.

The Guardian this morning included a pull out souvenir of important covers from their history, including 12 September 2001 when the paper simply printed a photograph of the World Trade Center in flames, an images on that occasion saying more than words could. It was exactly this paper that I mentioned in this blog post all those years ago and having read hundreds of editions since this is the only cover I could actually remember without this kind of reminder.


Elsewhere It's been a very wierd weekend, which probably accounts for this rambling review of last night's amazing Doctor Who and only being able to handle a half hour of Hamlet.

14 Nicholas Farrell

Hamlet played by Nicholas Farrell
Directed by Natalia Orlova

Produced as part of the BBC's Shakespeare: The Animated Tales project, this Hamlet manages to lucidly abbreviate the story to just over twenty-five minutes employing voiceover and impressionistic imagary from the Russian animators of Christmas films who use paint on glass to create the world. Bravely, screenwriter Leon Garfield only layers in narration when absolutely necessary -- to explain the prince's tooing and froing between Denmark and England, relying instead on Shakespeare's verse where possible.

There is some creative license. In the opening narration, Michael Kitchen's delicious tones, after noting that 'Something was rotten in the state of Denmark' goes on to imply that there are already whispers in court regarding Hamlet Snr's death, that perhaps he was poisoned, a fact that in the play only Hamlet and perhaps Horatio is privy to. It's pretty unequical as to the Dane's state of mind on hearing the news: '(Hamlet) hides his terrible knowledge under a cloak of madness'. It seems pointless to list the cuts because there are so many, but it's interesting to note that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern don't survive (simply referred to as 'spies' when necessary) but the Gravedigger still manages to enjoy a few jokes.

With little time to create a pschological coherance it's perhaps understandable that the performances whilst distinctive don't leave as much of a mark as the mystical images. That said, Nicholas Farrell's Hamlet perfectly carries some of the narrative burden even if there's little time to establish much of the humour inherent in the character on the page -- but its telling that he only really flies when interacting with others, Tilda Swinton's etherial Ophelia or Dorien Thomas's rather stolid Horatio (Farrell would later appear in Banagh's Hamlet film is Horatio).

It is the first time I've seen the same actor doubling the two older brothers, Claudius and Hamlet although the irony is lost of course because the character designs are so different, the former reminiscent of The Walker Art Gallery's portrait of Henry VIII. Claudius is perhaps the most memorable of characters with Hamlet perhaps being a touch too much like a yokel -- but is long golden locks do contrast nicely against the stone grey back drops and the crashing of the sea that buffets the castle.

Overall then, it's a treat, the kind of pleasure which is best enjoyed in the evening with a cup of coffee and some rice pudding, feet up next to a radiator and I wish that the funds had been available to animate the whole play in this style. The most effective moments are when the visuals and sounds take flight, as in the terrifying appearance of the ghost, with actor Joseph Shrapnel's booming voice relating the terrible deed as he floats stately across the battlements. But the most emotional scene is reserved for Ophelia's decent into real madness and her sucide, her songs echoing about the halls of Elsnore, her figure decending into a ghost like state before disappearing into the garden, her drowing signalled by the disturbance of a crane.

All the small things

See, this is what happens when you, y'know ...

Top Twenty by audience

1. 7.9 (36.8%) - Any Dream Will Do (22:00) BBC1
2. 6.6 (33.9%) - Any Dream Will Do (20:00) BBC1
3. 6.1 (36.8%) - Doctor Who (19:00) BBC1

Top Twenty by Share

1. 7.9 (36.8%) - Any Dream Will Do (22:00) BBC1
2. 6.1 (36.8%) - Doctor Who (19:00) BBC1
3. 6.6 (33.9%) - Any Dream Will Do (20:00) BBC1

Warm day outside so viewership down across the board -- not a failure by any means, especially since the channel gained three million in time for the show starting. It'll add at least a million through timeshifts and I think the BBC showing tonight will be popular too.