Last of the Time Lords.

TV Yesterday, I rewrote someone else’s article to express why I think fans love Doctor Who, and I think tonight’s finale was the ultimate expression of that. It has to be said the reaction hasn’t been kind (Dave et al) and I’m not trying to say you’re wrong. In fact to a degree this whole wam-bang season finale-itis is quite tiring in a way and indeed it’s not difficult to hanker for the days when the most you got was a relatively low key story ending in a chat in the console room to close out a series. Everything has to be BIG and EPIC these days and when you do BIG and EPIC you’re riding on a laser-screwdriver edge.

The CGI was fairly tiring in places and I don’t mean the old old Doctor which I thought was a masterpiece (considering -- and let’s not forget this people -- it was created for television). The reveal of the paradox machine as the big red reset button was too predictable for words (even if it sorted out all of the potential problems some of the continuity freaks amongst fandom were probably having). Even the reveal of who these Troclofane where actually lacked bite simply because we knew that as this was a three parter, a major element such as the Utopia rocket and the remnants of humanity couldn’t simply be left in the future.

But however unfortunate many of these things are, I fundamentally couldn’t hate it because I loved the central concept, that all along the Doctor and Martha were playing the long con. From the moment the Doctor whispered in Martha’s ear and she zapped herself from the ship the Master was done for. A whole episode ahead of schedule. It didn’t matter what he did in the mean time, how many people he killed, the good time lord and his companion’s own trust in humanity that ultimately they would have trust in him is what saved the day continuing the seasons central thematic connection, the power of faith and one in particular.

It’s actually been quite surprising to see this Judeo-Christian thread through the season, from ’To Be A Pilgrim’ in The Family of Blood to interestingly named Lazarus ultimately being vanquished in a church to The Old Rugged Cross in Gridlock it’s crept in throughout and even an anti-monotheist like me has found it heart-warming. It bespeaks of a spiritualism and in each case of humanity winning out. It’s nothing new of course but it’s interesting that Russell’s writing has gone from what could be seen as an anti-religious stance in The Parting of the Ways’s version of the Daleks to the whole of the surviving humanity stopping and shouting one name in order to cause his resurrection.

It was also a showcase for performances. Although Tennant had little to do for much of the episode, encased in prosthetics for one half of the time, a CGI character most of the other, he was redeemed in the closing moments both for his very real breakdown over the death of the Master and his understated understanding of Martha was leaving. Agyeman gave a spirited defence against the naysayers from a certain tabloid whose name I dare not speak with a wonderfully layered performance holding her own against the massed ranks of thesps. Simm’s work was just as flamboyant as last week but somehow less incongruous and more like the Master we’re used to. Barrowman wasn’t given all that much to do, but I’d like to think this return to the sparky Jack of the past will be appearing in the next series of Torchwood. Please.

And see, once again, even though the fan reaction has been particularly sour and even a quick look around the photosphere suggests that the general populace aren’t that please, it’s still possible to see expressions of love surrounding the reveal of Captain Jack as potentially being the Face of Boe and all the implications that has. The moment after the Return of the Jedi re-enactment when the Master’s ring was retrieved indicating he’s not gone yet. The Sea Devils. The Axons. The playing about with the convention of someone saying one thing and doing another with Martha walking out of the Tardis, walking back into the Tardis, then walking out again and into the arms of her family, a reprise of the situation at the end of The Lazarus Experiment.

Will Martha return? Of course she will and actually in some ways I’m hoping she’ll be a semi-regular companion, calling the Doctor in when Earth’s in danger Brigadier-style (and wasn’t the reference to a UNIT headquarters in London such a tease?). I rather like the stories when the Doctor lands and there’s someone of the place to fill the proto-companion role. And the Gallifrey quest is still on and I still don’t think those pesky time lords are gone for good. Wouldn’t it be an interesting symmetry is the 10th Doctor‘s regeneration at the end of the next series is brought about by sacrificing himself for their return?

In the meantime: Titanic. Expect Celine Dion references. Oh, my heart will go on…

Not so cool, world.

Film Another in Nathan Rabin's magestic 'My Year of Flop Case Files', this time investigating the sorry tale of Ralph Bakshi's Cool World, the one with the animated Kim Basinger:
"Accordingly, the film’s producer Frank Mancusco Jr., had the film rewritten without, um, telling Bakshi. Mancusco Jr., it seems, having produced the timeless gift to cinema that is the Friday The 13th series, was burnt out on horror and seemed to linger under the misconception that it was Bakshi’s job to help realize Frank Mancusco’s vision, not the other way around.


Bakshi was so enraged, he punched Mancuso in the face during a dust-up, but in one of those dark little twists that characterize Bakshi’s surreal career, Mancuso Sr. was president of Paramount, so he had nowhere else to go."
That's the juice for a Bad and the Beautiful-style modern revenge tale right there.

The Complex and Terrifying Reality of Doctor Who Fandom.

Inspired by this, found here.

I don’t have a girlfriend so I don’t know what she’d think of me liking Doctor Who. Not too long ago it wasn’t actually something you would talk to girls about unless they were fans as well and you wouldn’t know that unless they inexplicably mentioned the indomnitability of something. But it’s never something that’s impossible to justify and hardly a handicap.

There is an explicable twist to Doctor Who fandom, that is completely understandable and in the life-blood of all Doctor Who fans. It is this:

Doctor Who fans love Doctor Who.

If you run into somebody who tells you they thought the franchise was quite enjoyable, and they very-much liked the originals as well as the new series, and even own everything on DVD, and a few of the books, these too are Doctor Who Fans.

Doctor Who fans love Doctor Who.

The primary fulcrum for the Doctor Who fan’s love (including my own) are Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert, creators of Doctor Who. Like Browncoats who adore Firefly creator Joss Whedon, Doctor Who fans love the parents of their obsession. We love that Sydney and Verity got it right from the beginning, creating a time machine in the shape of a police box. We love the fact that Verity was clever enough to see that Sydney was wrong about bug-eyed monsters and hired Terry Nation who created the Daleks, even though the name had nothing to do with the pages of a dictionary no matter what the Trivial Pursuit question says. We love the entire existence of literally all of the Doctor Who stories, often only blaming John Nathan Turner’s later flawed ‘vision’ for everything.

We believe that Tom Baker should live forever.

Doctor Who fans also love the original Doctor Who series. We think Peter Davison’s acting was authoritative, the pacing was structured, and the first fifteen years were better than the second, making the end of the series a let-down. We love the way Adric died, and we love the cantankerous, articulate duel between Pertwee and Troughton in The Three Doctors. We don’t understand why people thought Daleks couldn‘t go up stairs, and we don’t get why the empire building Cybermen can create bloodthirsty Cybermats yet be beaten so easily by a lack of gravity in The Moonbase. Doctor Who fans love omnipotent war-machines that get the name of their hero wrong especially since there’s never really been conclusive proof that WOTAN was wrong. They love Sylvester McCoy’s face and that 'wonderful' spoon playing. Doctor Who fans also love the original Doctor Who series.

There is also, as you probably know, a series of dvds that have remastered the original Doctor Who stories, and these are also loved by Doctor Who fans with an even more scorching fervor. Doctor Who fans love the glaring CG changes made to scenes we already loved to begin with. We love that The Ark In Space’s exteriors now match the interiors, even though nothing could be done with the roll of bubble rap that is the Wyrrn lavae. We love the fact that the cardboard space ships in The Dalek Invasion of Earth (whose name is an anagram of ‘Ski Into A Halfhearted Oven‘, by the way) are replaced by canonical flying saucers that look like they‘ve been borrowed from a fifties b-movie. Doctor Who fans are unsure if these forgive the Restoration Team‘s mistakes, but we love the dvds of the series just the same.

There is of course also the sequel programme to Doctor Who. It is newer, more epic, more expensive, and more visually stunning than the original series. Doctor Who fans know this, and so we love it even more. We love it with the burning passion of a living sun. Jackie Tyler, Moxx of Balhoon, technology that is blatantly less sophisticated than the “earlier” original series…we embrace all of it. There’s nothing a Doctor Who fan loves more than the new series. They demystified the Master, contradicted countless lines in the original series (Sarah-Jane: “Did I do something wrong? Because you never came back for me. You just... dumped me.” Doctor: “I told you. I was called back home and in those days humans weren't allowed.” Sarah-Jane: “I waited for you. I missed you.” (Doctor: (not in script) “Oh right, and sending fucking K9 to help you and all the stuff we went through in The Five Doctors never bloody happened did it?”)

Doctor Who fans think Christopher Ecc … uh … David Tennant’s acting is superb. And the pacing is flexible.

Beyond the television series, there are also various audio-related Doctor Who endeavors which Doctor Who fans enjoy. Starting with that atmospheric “The Sirens of Time” in which Colin Baker appeared dynamic and tried to prove he was the best Doctor of them all now that we couldn‘t see his costume. We think “The Chimes of Midnight” was a classic, The Bernice Summerfield Adventures is an extension of everything we loved about the New Adventures, and we’ve heard both seasons of Gallifrey which we loved because we believe them to be immensely consistent with the classic series we also love.

Doctor Who fans think that Doctor Who Magazine is a storehouse of trivia written for archive purposes by people who know everything about Doctor Who. Every gimmick imaginable to capture the excitement of the new series and token regular articles about the classic series spring forth from the magazine, and Doctor Who fans can’t get enough of it. Doctor Who fans have read the one in which Ben Cook interviews McFly and we were pretty impressed.

Then, naturally, there are the websites. Doctor Who fans love, and the innovative content that comprises most of the interactive apexes found in the Doctor Who mini-sites that they publish every week while the new series is being broadcast. Doctor Who fans know that podcast commentaries can be a very good thing, we yelled at our PCs when the third series trailer came out, and we kind-of like Outpost Gallifrey, even more since it returned. Doctor Who fans even like Behind The Sofa, unless they are RTD fans. This does not count. Doctor Who fans love Doctor Who websites.

The final main elixir of Doctor Who folklore is the ever-growing library of Doctor Who books. These have managed to make a complex main character out of practically every background monster seen in the series, and expanded the universe into a colossal, self-perpetuating chronology. Doctor Who fans love this. We love how complex and canonical the books were getting during the New Adventures series, and we love the BBC Books series for being so radically different, and perhaps even more complex and canonical. Doctor Who fans love it when previously-deceased characters are brought back to life, and we also love Lance Parkin for bringing all of mythology to life. Some Doctor Who fans did not love Sam Jones, but they do now, because she is dead. The Doctor Who series also contradict and completely ignore droves of information within the Doctor Who novels. Doctor Who fans now know that Russell T Davies has every idea what a kronk burger is, and it makes us very happy. Doctor Who fans love Doctor Who books.

Now that I have covered all of this, you can finally begin to compute why I could prove to a potential girfriend Doctor Who is a monumental epic worth devoting one’s life to. The very nature of the argument means I have to describe Doctor Who, and since I am a Doctor Who fan, I totally understand how to do that.

Maybe I’ll put it like this. To be a Doctor Who fan, one must possess the ability to see a million different failures and downfalls, and then somehow assemble them into a greater picture of perfection. Every true Doctor Who fan is a companion, looking at his boisterous, effervescent timelord friend, and always seeing good.

My earlier statement needs slight revision. We love everything about Doctor Who.

And the idea of Doctor Who…the idea we love.

Well, I like it. Except for 'New Earth'. And ...

Elsewhere Some of the reasons why Doctor Who fans love Doctor Who: "The primary fulcrum for the Doctor Who fan’s love (including my own) are Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert, creators of Doctor Who. Like Browncoats who adore Firefly creator Joss Whedon, Doctor Who fans love the parents of their obsession. We love that Sydney and Verity got it right from the beginning, creating a time machine in the shape of a police box. We love the fact that Verity was clever enough to see that Sydney was wrong about bug-eyed monsters and hired Terry Nation who created the Daleks, even though the name had nothing to do with the pages of a dictionary no matter what the Trivial Pursuit question says. We love the entire existence of literally all of the Doctor Who stories, often only blaming John Nathan Turner’s later flawed ‘vision’ for everything." [I enjoyed writing that.]

Well, I like it. Except the prequels. And ...

Film Some of the reasons why Star Wars fans hate Star Wars: "The primary fulcrum for the Star Wars fan’s hate (including my own) is George Lucas, creator of Star Wars. Unlike Trekkies/Trekkers who adore Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Star Wars fans hate the father of their obsession. We hate the fact that George Lucas got it wrong from the beginning, creating incest between Luke and Leia. We hate the fact that he wrenched Return of the Jedi off of Kashyyyk and set it on Endor with those tiny, furry Hobbit bitches he called “Ewoks”, which is a syllabic anagram of Wookiee if you’re obsessed enough. We despise the entire existence of literally half of the Star Wars movies, blaming George Lucas’ greed and flawed ‘vision’ for everything." [via]

Old Spice

Music So The Spice Girls are back. For a while. Pop Justice was there. Frankly seeing the five of them standing next to each other was a fairly impossible looking situation, even considering what Ginger was wearing, Posh was peroxide and that Scary's had her hair straightened. As is usual with all music, I actually ended up buying the albums about four years after they split up and realized their brilliance then, although not Forever -- no Geri, no good.

Revenge of the Sixth

About In just over a month's time, this blog celebrates its sixth birthday. Last year I was interviewed by Annette and I've been thinking of ideas for this year because as you know I'm the kind of person who doesn't let such occasions pass me by.

Although I've one or two things up my sleeve, I was wondering if any readers wanted updates on anything I've written about over the past six years -- if you've ever wondered what happened next and I haven't bothered to mention it.

I really don't know how much people actually remember from reading blogs, so perhaps it'll be an interesting experiment. By email or comments or facebook or however you want to contact me...

An interesting way to hand in your p45.

Politics There he goes then, but not for long. Tony Blair was never going to be someone who simply disappeared from public life and now he's at the epicenter of one of the world's great problems and as a representative of the quartet to the middle east he's probably an even greater global figure than before. So we'll still be hearing about him except in a different part of the news bulletin. Just as after the election 1997 when it seemed really strange that the Tories weren't in power (something that hadn't happened in my lifetime up until then, it will take a good few weeks before the phrase Prime Minister Gordon Brown sounds right (and for some it never will).

Blair's final questions was fairly amusing what with all the joking about ('I'm not going to bother with that' etc). Ming Campbell still looks incongruous in the chamber and not at all like he should be the leader of any party and David Cameron was particularly gracious, probably because not long afterwards he put the boot in on his annoyingly titled WebCameron and inevitably called for a snap election because none of us voted for this new man to lead the country (a sentiment -- ugh -- I can't totally disagree with), and if Blair's final words were statesman-like it's a shame it was marred I thought by the p45 joke; funny out of context but all I could wonder is what some of the people at Longbridge who'd lost their jobs and still hadn't found employment thought of a question about their future being co-opted for humour by their then Prime Minister, a man who unlike many of them actually has a job to go to.

Brown's entrance into Number 10 was a quiet affair suggesting that he's going to bring some of the dignity back into the job. He's going to have an uphill struggle on his hands though as he attempts to distance himself from his predecessor but not so far that it looks ridiculous since he was there and helped to make to many of those decisions. Layered on top of that, there's the matter of the fact that he's a Scottish MP taking up the post of Prime Minister and will be making decisions that effect English voters but not his own constituents. Don't expect constitutional reform in that regard whilst he's in charge.

Not presently having a life, I watched the events on the rolling news programmes from about eleven o'clock through to three. I've always found the process of politics riveting as the cogs of the constitution clatter away. The highlight was probably the hour that the new Prime Minister spent at the palace with the monarch as experienced newscasters, the likes of John Sopel and Nicholas Witchell diggedly filled the time by interviewing lots of cabinet members suddenly without jobs and talking about the history of what's occured and stressing that Stephen Frears film The Queen is a bit of a fabrication (despite showing a clip). No one can over these big occasions quite like the BBC...

Cloned on Mercury

TV According to Gareth McLean, ITV1 are inevitably somewhat cloning Life on Mars: "Lost in Austen, in which a woman finds a gateway to the Regency era in her bathroom" which as a pitch also has hints of the Doctor Who story The Girl In The Fireplace, oh and a Red Dwarf episode. It might work -- its all to do with the execution and the character they place at the centre of the drama.

Not one of us.

Music Kevin fights the good fight:
"Now, while it’s a common (albeit puzzling) mistake for people to associate that song with Alanis, anybody who’s been paying attention to music over the last decade knows that it’s Joan Osborne who sings “One of Us”, not Alanis Morissette. So since I’m helping, friendly guy, and since I have a passing familiarity with both Alanis and “Dogma”, I drop the author of the review - a one Anita Modak-Truran - the following email…"
I've had similar 'conversations' in the past via email where the person I'm correcting simply won't concede the point in the face of overwhelming evidence and it's even more excruciating when it's a subject you know something about. In this case, given that Smith knows Alanis Morissette, what are the chances she'll here about this and come out with a 'My Humps' style cover version just to confuse things even more.

In a new light.

Art ‘I didn‘t understand until now. Thanks very much.’ I was talking to one of the curators of the Art Gallery at Liverpool University and she'd just taken a group of us around the rooms talking about its history and the collection within. Towards the end of the tour she'd explained something with such clarity that it completely clarified a subject that's always been just slightly out of my grasp.

I've never really been a fan of Turner's paintings. I've visited galleries, passed by his works, watched documentaries and although I can appreciate his technical abilities I simply can't come to terms with why these landscapes in particular should be the source of so much worship in comparison to other works. I will admit to a prejudice though -- I'm not a fan of landscapes in general, much preferring portraits, being able to look a subject in the eye.

The University Art Gallery has five works by him, a canvas and four watercolours. The oil is out on loan but the others are currently on display together as part of an exhibition expressing the highlights of the collection before it moves from its current base of thirty years in Abercromby Square to the Victoria Building at the top of Brownlow Hill, a much larger space that will give the pieces room to breath.

As we stood before these four paintings from across the artist's life and career, the curator explained that the reason that Turner is special is because he painted landscapes. She said that before Turner and even whilst he was working, there was a hierarchy, that portraits and religious subjects where more sought after by the great and good and rich because there was a prestige to them, capturing the image of someone or something important.

Landscapes simply didn't have that import, I'm speculating, because it was before the industrial revolution and the hills and rivers and country wasn't under the kind of rapid change that would come later and didn't need to be remembered as they were at a certain time. And since painters needed to earn a crust and generally painted what they were told to they didn't often paint landscapes.

But flying in the face of tradition and expectation, Turner did. He took his own path and would inspire all of the landscape painters that would come after him. He painted he wanted to. More than that he was one of, if not the first to use watercolour as an artistic medium in and of itself -- before then, someone would put pencil and wash to paper in preparation for a more larger painting. He was a pioneer. Which is just amazing.

"No, you don't understand. If we watch Borat tonight, I'm going to die ..."

Films I'm not a naturally superstitious person -- I'll walk under ladders and I really can't understand why you can't put new shoes on a table. About the only thing that gives me the heebie-jeebies are the kinds of lists that have been cropping up more and more lately recommending a certain number of somethings to see before you die, so for example this week The Guardian has a series of pull outs suggesting a thousand films to see before you die.

The reason I'm wigged out?

Wondering what happens when I've actually seen all of those films. Will it be time to die?

It's stupid, it's bizarre, it's a superstition and yes, it seriously wigs me out. A glance at Google shows that there are many different examples of this kind of list, mostly travel. The travel lists I have no problem with. The furthest I've been abroad so far is Paris for three days so if any of them have Fiji in there I'm safe.

But the films lists are a real concern. I've seen a lot of films. Of the first two hundred published today in The Guardian, I've seen about half and after I've loaded up my Lovefilm subscription I'll have seen a few more. Depending on what the next four days hold I could quite easily view my way through them all. About the only thing I can think of is to pick a film and vowing never to see it. Which is fairly easy -- for some reason they've included the Borat film which is something I've no intention of watching...

... but then I find that Channel Four have published a list of fifty films to see which frankly is irresponsible. I've seen forty of those and I really want to see the others. Yes, even Pink Flamingoes.

It's stupid, it's bizarre, it's a superstition and it's wigging me out. Especially, if some time in the future I have to use the phrase: "No, you don't understand. If we watch Borat tonight, I'm going to die ..."

Caught on camera

Life This afternoon I was interviewed about blogging. The brilliant Katie Lips is one of the people behind the Bold Street Project, a multi-media project about one of the shopping areas in Liverpool close to the FACT arts centre, where, beginning this Saturday there will be an installation collecting together material contributed by local people. There's a blog about the project here which includes photographs, poetry and yes, interviews. Katie wanted someone to talk to on camera about weblogs in general terms and for some reason she chose me.

After being introduced to some people in the offices at FACT, Katie took me into the media centre and we picked a spot in front of some rather swish iMacs for the interview. I haven't really talked about blogging in the real world much and in fact to most of the people I know it still seems like quiet a curious thing to be doing so there are still a lot words like 'audblog' which I'm simply not used to saying. More than that its only about the fourth time I'd actually attempted to explain why I do this, and this time it would be filmed.

You'll have to watch the videos themselves when they're posted soon to tell me how I did. Since it's the first time I've been interviewed for anything other than I job I was quite nervous and all the standard old ticks drifted in, the gabbling, the inability to remember the English language and forgetting to say all the things I really want to say. Somehow I managed to mention Heardsaid without being able to remember any facts (I mumbled something about the Grand Canyon) and spent more time talking about The Hamlet Weblog than anything else. When asked what my favourite weblogs were I failed to name any, which isn't really true as I then went on to choose couple no doubt offending everyone I didn't.

Certainly Katie was more articulate than I was, particularly in relation to what a blog actually is. I think I came across as being more evangelical than cynical about the whole thing even if I did imply at one point that there was a kind of divide between London and the rest of the country in terms of how blogging is perceived, which on reflection I'm not sure is actually true. It was another case, though, of realising I know more about this stuff than I thought I did tossing in types of blogging and practices from nowhere, dropping the 'blogosphere' word somewhere in there too. In the end we talked for fifty minutes instead of the expected twenty and I think we could have talked for ages more given the size of the subject.

It was a great experience and I've certainly got the bug. If any of it was usable and is posted I'll let you know and you'll be able to see what I look like moving around and talking. But really, if it's anything like my previous experiences of seeing myself on video, expect bad hair, boss eyes and wild gesticulations ...


tv All things being equal:

6.9 million (38.2% share)

Pretty good, especially since 3 million thought Scooby-Doo 2 would be more entertaining.

Incidentally, did anyone else see that Russell seemed to have a crack at sorting out UNIT dating? Begun in 1968 apparently, which tallies well with what was said in 'The Invasion' which suggests the Troughton and Pertwee stories at least were contemporary with production. Although Sarah Jane Smith does say she's from 1980. Oh. Erm... hold on ...

The Sound of Browns

Politics There's something a bit disconcerting about watching someone you went to school with shaking a new prime minster with both hands and having them grinning at each other, but that's exactly what I saw this afternoon on television as Gordon Brown 'stepped' into Bridgewater Hall in Manchester for the special party conference. Tris began his support for the party all of those years ago and there he is now on the front line which sort of makes me wonder what the hell I'm doing with my life. After rewatching An Inconvenient Truth again this week I was suddenly determined to join The Green Party.

Perhaps I should.

Anyway, in the ensuing speech Gordon Brown came across as a far better communicator on the range of issues that he'll now have to deal with than I was expecting -- sure the budget speeches indicated he can hit a mark and pitch his words well, but it takes something more to make a room full of people passionate without shouting and that's something her certainly managed. Whether any of the promises made will come to pass and if in fact what'll happen next will be significantly different to the past ten years under Tony Blair remains to be seen. Parts certainly sounded like a refiguring of old policies and issues using more open language.

Brown's appearance on the Newsnight special on Friday night was certainly more telling and filled with the kind of language you'd expect from any politician, however thoughtful. He talked around all kinds of problems, unable to provide a coherent answer when asked about why English kids have to pay tuition fees in parts of the kingdom where their classmates have none. In other interviews he's also failed the address the particularly post devolution rule that Scottish MPs can vote in parliament on English only issues that no longer have anything to do with them, but bristle at the thought of our MPs heading up to Edinburgh and doing the same.

I can see that in some respects, the UK is a better place after ten years of Labour in power. But there are too many anomalies within that for me to actually consider voting for them.