Spaced Out

TV From the Comic-Con:

"Edgar Wright was asked to direct the first episode of the new Doctor Who series, and he turned it down. Nick Frost is admittedly, "Not a Who fan."

Well, that is intriguing -- was that the Christmas special or the actual first episode?

Are you wise?

[Spoiler] Casting news. In the comments.

[Not Spoiler] Utter nonsense. Steven Moffat himself posting at Outpost Gallifrey:

"The James Nesbitt story is a total fabrication. Made up. A fantasy. Just a guy sitting at a desk and just inventing stuff.

"I wasn't going to say anything, but I'm getting embarrassed for the deeply wonderful Jimmy Nesbitt. So tell everyone please, cos it's getting very silly."

Extra marks for quashing the rumour at OG and going straight to the fans. Classy move, Mr M.

Mathew Street Festival cancelled

Liverpool Life Oh for goodness sake:
"But today, in Liverpool's 800th birthday year, when it should have been grander and more ambitious than ever, Mathew Street Festival has been called off.

The decision to pull the plug follows independent advice from London health and safety consultants Capital Symonds, employed by the Liverpool Culture Co, who highlighted the loss of the Pier Head (see Not Strictly Confidential earlier this week) and the building site that is Liverpool city centre as a major factor in the decision."
Of course, I'm biased; Sefton Park was seen as potential new venue for the main stages during the fix up which would have been usefully local and would have for once brought the fun to the suburbs and yes, I can understand that there are issues related to the city centre being a giant building site at present with weird bus stops and what not.

But you would have thought something could have been sorted out just so that yet again we're not in position were, as Liverpool Confidential say, on the city's 800th birthday, one of the biggest parties has been canceled. In addition, given what's actually planned for the proper celebration, how can that be less of a safety risk and indeed isn't there potentially going to be even more people turning up for that? What are the 'unique conditions' in relation to this festival that don't affect the others?

Perhaps a fringe festival will be formed in the pubs around the area. Unless there's an order banning live music for that weekend...

Update! It's been saved! Ish.

It's all a matter of taste.

Music I thought I was beginning to suffer from Prom fatigue. This isn't how festivals are supposed to be heard. People don't go to Glastonbury to see everything (well they can't, not without a time machine) they pick and choose what they think they'll enjoy most, what they're a fan of. I'm sure most proms audience members do much the same. That's why when I tuned in to Prom 25 late last night, the assembled crowd sounded thin.

But I've made a pledge, a bet with myself so I sat through every excruciating note of Pierre Boulez's Derive 2 even though if you'd included a light show it would have been a perfect brainwashing tool of the kind seen in The Ipcress File. Earlier in the evening, during Prom 24, after Varese's Ecuatorial, the visiting expert on BBC Four made the quite reasonable point that people tend to be far more forgiving of experimental paintings and they'll happily give Picasso a glance but won't give twelve minutes of their time to Varese.

I'm sure if someone explained to me what Boulez was attempting with his work I'd probably be more open, a fan even. I mean I like the kind of modernist architecture from the 60s which is being demolished by the brickload across the country, so I'm really open to ideas. But last night, having enjoyed the sublime Le Mer from Debussy, which certainly did sound of the sea and offered the blue print for a dozen other scores related to the ocean, Derive 2, just sounded, and I know I've used this phrase before but I can't think of another one, like random musical noise.

Helpfully, Verity Sharp who was covering the Radio 3 concert, and the Proms website offered a few pointers. It is, apparently, "an essay in notions of time" in which "harmonies march pretty well all through, while the surface activity may be dazzling, surprising, exciting and, at times, graced with the less common trait in this composer’s music of humour. The work proceeds like a river, sometimes dashing through rapids, where the instrumental lines crash against one another and break up, sometimes entering pools of harmonic reflection. There are passages where the beat is strong and others where movement is flexible." Which sounds amazing, but I couldn't hear it. That in fact sound more like a description of La Mer than what I heard later.

On the occasion of the deaths of Bergman and Antonioni, Noel Murray writes at The AV Club about having a blind spot when it comes to certain film directors, no matter how hard he tries he simply didn't get their work. At first he thought it was because he simply wasn't clever enough to grasp the nuances that, even after much reading, it was simply about him. Then it occurred to him that he simply just didn't like the work that much, that he just wasn't a fan. I feel much the same about this Boulez piece (and some of the abstract noodlings that have graced The Albert Hall) -- it's not that I'm stupid because I don't enjoy this stuff. It's just not to my taste. And that's OK.

Because essentially it means that this musical odyssey is doing one of the things I wanted it to -- develop my musical taste -- or help me to decide what I actually like. I just need to find a way of making the most of what I don't like. Odyssey being the operative word probably in relation to the other piece last night Harrison Bertwhistle's Neruda Madrigales which sounded for all the world like the alien chorus that greeted the appearance of the monolith on the moon in 2001.

Which brings me back toProm fatigue. After last night's Prom, I also wondered if I'd simply reached a limit. Certainly turning off my Prom 3 catch-up two thirds of the way through this afternoon, possibly the most spectacular of shows (the bit with the coat rack -- how funny was that?), would suggest that perhaps I should walk away and get back to the visual and verbal narratives I'm used to where music is secondary to the cause, and to a place where I'm not writing sentences quite like this one.

Then, of course Prom 26 got me right back on track. If the Gyorgy Kurtag's Stele had me reaching for yet another filmic reference again -- Alien this time -- very Jerry Goldsmith -- Mahler's Symphony No. 9 just drained me. What I'm discovering is that I have a taste for music that isn't just an intellectual experiment; that I like music which has a story attached, either within its fabric or which led to its composition. In this case:
"His daughter Maria (known as Putzi) had died of scarlet fever in July 1907; indeed it was when the doctor visited to minister to her grieving family that he gave Gustav a check-up and discovered his heart murmur. Most parents are far more consumed by the deaths of their children than the anticipation of their own demise. and if Mahler was indeed working out his grief over Putzi in the Ninth, he could not have left her a more lasting or more loving memorial."
I'm sure that what I was tapping into - this was certainly the work of someone surrounded by death; listening I'd at least noticed the loss and loneliness (I suppose you always identify the emotions you can most empathise with) and although right now I can't recall specific details, couldn't hum to you any of the themes, an echo of what I felt whilst listening is still here. That I like too.

Still no Mozart though ...

I'm mad as hell etc.

TV I've just posted this comment at Off The Telly, but I'm so annoyed by this, I thought I'd leave it here too. It's in regards to the controversy surrounding the documentary Malcolm and Barbara: Love’s Farewell which the lazy media are suggesting misleads the viewer into believing that they're seeing the point of a man's death when it doesn't.
Well, the film maker, Paul Watson was on Front Row on Radio 4 this evening and from what he's described he took an artistic decision to leave the close of the documentary deliberately ambiguous because in this case the point of death was ambiguous too -- he filmed the moment when the gentleman lost consciousness which as he described as far as his widow understood to begin the process towards death.

The tape was then sent to the ITV who reviewed it and wrote the press release which as far as he's concerned misrepresented the content of the documentary. He said that if he was guilty of a crime it was not paying attention to what was in that press release which seems ridiculous since surely he should have been able to trust the information being put out by the people who commissioned the programme, admittedly in a very different period for television.

The interviewer was very lucid, asked the difficult questions but Watson at no point came across as someone who'd set out to deceive and was on the defensive.

Something I didn't know was that the controversy was stoked by Mediawatch, the new name for Mary Whitehouse's National Viewers and Listeners Association. He mentions it again in here:,,2138932,00.html

Which makes my blood run cold, frankly.

It seems entirely horrifying that a filmmaker can spend eleven years of his life following the decline of a man taken by a debilitating disease, hoping to highlight the plight of people in that situation and hopefully providing some solace to the relatives of people in the same situation and pointing out that they're cared for, for *years* unpaid by loving relatives only for the whole thing to be over shadowed by the current flash in the pan over probity in television with hysteria once again being stoked by newspapers whose own sensationalism in regards to well, any story, is far more reprehensible.
One aspect of my university course last year was a series of talks given by a range of documentary filmmakers and although some where more lucid or likable than others the impression I was given across the board was that they were all sincere about the work they were doing but also, crucially that they are being chased into a corner in relation to the subject matter that can lead to a commission in the new television world order. Watson began the process of making this film eleven years ago. Does it seem likely that the contemporary ITV would wait that long for results?


Music The BBC has advertised a vacancy for a 'Rank & File' Viola No.4 at the BBC Symphony Orchestra and reading through the job description has done nothing but increased my admiration for the players, since as well as having to be at the top of their class in relation to their musical ability, they also have to show an exceedingly strong commitment to the work:
"The R&F Viola No.4 will work 100% of the Orchestra’s schedule. All members of the Orchestra receive 5 weeks leave per year. Three of these weeks are fixed within the orchestral schedule, and the remaining 2 weeks may be taken as flexible leave subject to operational requirements and by agreement with the Orchestra Management.

Whilst this position does not require the R&F No.4 Viola to work exclusively for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, it is expected that the Orchestra will have first-call on your availability. In accordance with BBC policy regarding leave, any time off must be agreed in advance by the Management and is subject to the scheduling requirements of the BBC."
It probably sounds obvious, there is a level of sacrifice being expected here which I'm not sure many of us would be able to keep up with. So yes, tons of admiration.

A Great Entertainer

Film Woody Allen reviews Ingmar Bergman's autobiography in 1988: "In addition to all else - and perhaps most important - Bergman is a great entertainer; a storyteller who never loses sight of the fact that no matter what ideas he's chosen to communicate, films are for exciting an audience. His theatricality is inspired. Such imaginative use of old-fashioned Gothic lighting and stylish compositions. The flamboyant surrealism of the dreams and symbols. The opening montage of ''Persona,'' the dinner in ''Hour of the Wolf'' and, in ''The Passion of Anna,'' the chutzpah to stop the engrossing story at intervals and let the actors explain to the audience what they are trying to do with their portrayals, are moments of showmanship at its best." [via]

Autumn Mist.

Books  There’s a scene which I think is in the final season of Friends, when Pheobe is passing by the window of the coffee house, looks at the sign on the window and says:  ‘Oh hey -- Central Perk!  I get it!’  I felt like that during Autumn Mist and specifically the scene in which the Doctor and Sam chat about their respective origins.

The Doctor suggests that when timelords regenerate it doesn’t just affect and change who they are at that moment but also drifts back through their bio data, effecting their origins too, which explains the comment in Unnatural History about having a collection of those and also more importantly why Eighth was suddenly gifted with a half human heritage.

There aren’t many moments like that in David A. McIntee’s book which is a far more straightforward endeavor at least in relation to its storytelling.  More akin to the historicals of old, the TARDIS still going through its temperamental phase plonks the clue slap bang in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge in World War Two and they spend half the book getting separated, taking cover in opposing sides and then finding their way back together amid the battle.  The quasi in this particular historical though are elves or extra-dimensional beings who are crossing into ‘our’ world because theirs is being effected by another rift in time.

Yes, another book another rift.  Even the Doctor’s noticing the pattern and tries to deduce a connection somewhere in here which is more than the crew of the Starship Enterprise ever did even with an android on board.  There are eleven dimensions apparently and the elvan world exists in the top reaches of them, but not far enough up that they’re not being devastated by the battle.  The strength of the book is you can understand where ‘above’ and ‘below’ begin and end, what the stakes are, and how in the end war is stupid.  The primary contacts are the king and queen of that realm, order and chaos, who in a nice literary reference are referred to as Titannia and Oberon.  Does that mean A Midsummer Night’s Dream is canon?  I hope so…

McIntee has obviously done his research and there’s a range of military hardware scattered about the place, but arguably the weakest parts of the novel are when he’s trying to elucidate their movements and what they look like.  I have no clue about such things so I made heavy weather of many these passages and will admit to skipping ahead here and there.

Which isn’t to say the book doesn’t have bags of atmosphere -- there’s a particularly horrific moment related to a regular character which is heart-stopping and any book which works its climax around this can’t be all that bad.  Incidentally, Autumn Mist was Hitler's codename for the Bulge; but perhaps it's also a reference to Puff The Magic Dragon, who frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called called Honah Lee, a place that seems not unlike the extra-dimensional realm described in the novel.

In fact, on the whole this is an enthralling read, even if now and then it seems to be counting time until Interference, replete with teases again.  Most of the army officers are fairly two dimensional, but you’d never criticise the repeatedly referenced The Great Escape for that so it seems pointless to here.  The fairies have greater depth and Titannia in particular doesn’t disgrace her Shakespearean counterpart, a sexual chemistry evident between her and the time lord.

The Doctor generally seems in character, with a new ability to pull beverages from thin air (or his pockets) and a touch of the lonely God about him taking sides in the war for a greater purpose.  Fitz seems quite at home in the war zone and gets once again to play secret agent as he gathers information about what’s happening within Nazi territory.  He's a surprisingly complex character though and hardly ever drifts into the stereotypes that you'd expect.

Once again Sam is abducted for various reasons (another pattern that’s formed in recent novels and which the Doctor notices) and finds herself being genetically reconfigured, again for various reasons, leading to a final decision to leave the TARDIS.  Despite everything that’s gone on though, unlike Chanelle walking from Big Brother,  it just seems a bit out of the blue and arbitrary.  But then wasn't the loss of a companion always like that in the old days?  Look at Dodo.  And Tegan, for that matter.

Next:  Larry's Interference and I've decided to read both novels all together as one long story.  It's the Nu(ish)-Who equivalent of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, all six hundred odd pages with very tight line spacing.  I'll see you in a week or two ...

I think that's actually on at the wrong speed, there.

Music "John Peel got his hands dirty. The BBC hated him for it but try as they might, he just wouldn't go, and people kept on listening to his show. It had been the same a decade earlier when he was playing Tyrannosaurus Rex, Captain Beefhart, Fairport Convention and The Third Ear Band on The Perfumed Garden and Top Gear. They wanted rid of him then. He went on Top of the Pops once and forgot the name of Amen Corner who were Number 1. The producer allegedly told him "I'll see you never work in television again." Fourteen years later, he was back on the show. That was John Peel - he outlasted eveeryone." -- Keith Topping celebrates Peel's life

Dead bolt

Etiquette "We had a great night (I think) and slept pretty soundly (I think) and when the morning came and I woke up, Eddie was nowhere to be seen. In addition to noting he was gone I also noted the sound of the shower running and noted that I had to pee. Big time. [...] I got up from the bed and went to the door. I deduced that Eddie was in the bathroom showering and figured that I would just quick go in there, do what I had to do, and leave... but I couldn't do that because apparently Eddie dead bolted the bedroom door. [...] With me inside." -- Kat reveals that sometimes the fine line between real life and sitcoms is thinner than you think ...

feel emu

TV "Emu still looks pretty much like Emu. Except he moves independently of Toby, and seems to have an arm. Otherwise, good, slapstick fun." -- Graham Kibble-White on the new Emu series.

"I'm a photographer."

Film Xan Brooks says it all: "Ingmar Bergman left in the early hours of yesterday morning. Within a few hours, Michelangelo Antonioni had followed him through the exit door. It remains to be seen whether this signals the onset of some art-house apocalypse - some Biblical purge of revered European auteurs - but the omens are hardly encouraging. How are Godard, Resnais and Rohmer bearing up? Can we urge them to stay indoors, wrap up warm, and maybe put on some old DVDs. Anything to keep them out of circulation until the storm blows out."

"I was drawn to it somehow..."

TV The following vacancy has just appeared on Mandy:

Vacancy: Storyboard Artist - Dr Who DVD
Employer: Dr Who DVD
Location: Work From Home
Duration: Freelance Contract, starts ASAP

We are looking for a storyboard artist to draw us some fantastic storyboards for a forthcoming Doctor Who DVD release.

The style would be "Batman Comic Strip" type drawings, storyboard size with loads of colour. This is a work-from-home type job as we only require the artist for a couple of productions and although IT IS PAID work it would not be full time or even part time, its more on an, as-and-when-we-need-you, basis.

We're looking for dedication, someone really fun, work to tight deadlines, have access to a computer and scanner to send us drawings, be able to make changes quickly, have a very creative eye, someone that's not camera shy as they might be put in front of a camera at some point and ideally knows their Doctor Who (both classic and new series is a bonus but not essential)

For your application please email a covering letter and an example drawing of: A Robot looking at the TARDIS that has landed on an alien world (no more than 1MB email please) If you don't hear from us within 28 days please assume your application has been unsuccessful.

Good luck!
Apply to: Brendan Sheppard

Brendan produced The Tunnel Effect documentary and prepared the new CG effects for The Time Warrior as well as the making-of for that release.


Music I’m in something of a routine with The Proms; having decided to listen to all of them, I’ve started the almost pathological process of forever checking broadcast times and whether they’ll be appearing on BBC Four or Radio 3 or at all and made sure that I’m working everything else around them and when I can’t that I’m able to record for listening later.

I don’t think I’ve committed to something ‘cultural’ with this much vehemency since Big Brother 4, or the last time I really paid attention to that (although it’s a shame that Chanelle’s walked -- she was the most interesting character in there this time and the one I wanted to win for reasons you might never get to hear now). Well alright, there’s the Hamlet marathon and this, but both of those are spread out and in neither case am I developing an awareness for a branch of the arts I was only dimly aware of before.

It’s never a bind. It’s helpful and useful to have something solid to look forward to at the end of the day or to do at the weekend, a fixed point when I know I can relax and let everything fall away. I’ve even taken a break from the stream of rental dvds from Lovefilm for the first time in a couple of years which is a good thing because what with the BBC’s British cinema season I’ve lots of other things to watch anyway.

Sometimes I’m disappointed as in the case of Peter Wiergold’s He is armoured without, which closed out Prom 21 and Brass Day and simply didn’t work on the radio, coming across as a messy cacophony of random musical noise but obvious worked much better in the hall where you could actually see the whole ‘performance’ and perceive the sound better as it emanated from the whole space (the piece was written to be played from the posh boxes as well as the stage).

But they’re more than made up for by the sense shattering majesty of items like Bizet’s L’Arlesienne (Prom 22), the Polyphony set at Cadogan Hall and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Piano Concerto which received its European Premiere in tonight’s Prom 30 and was a total surprise since it demonstrated to these amateur ears that not all contemporary music is minimalist, that it can still very specifically draw influences from the past whilst still motoring forward.

I’ve noticed the influence some of this music has had on film composers but here the traffic was in the other direction, with Salonen (who was also conducting) obviously enamoured (as the BBC Four expert suggested) by John Williams and Danny Elfman, and I’d say Bernard Hermann. It was more like a rock track in that sense, drawing on other composers in all kinds of fields and reflecting them in your own work.

With Prom 23 I’m now around a third of my way through. I still haven’t caught up on Prom 3, but I’ve reheard the Blue Peter Jamboree (on Saturday night would you believe -- I listened to nine hours of Proms that day) so I’ve about fifty to go. I’m trying not to look ahead, allowing each new concert to provide a few new surprises but I do hope there’s some Mozart and Chopin in my future. The former appeared in a chamber concert but it’s almost as though he’s not being included for being too obvious which seems a strange choice given all the Beethoven which is rattling about the place. We’ll see.

"I hope I never get so old I get religious." -- Ingmar Bergman

Film Ingmar Bergman has died. He was 89 and went peacefully in his sleep on the Faro Island where he’d settled a few years ago. Not all that long ago Joe Queenan wrote about watching all of Bergman’s films in order. Despite his criticisms his insights stand as a good tribute.

Bergman has, or had, a reputation for simply churning out ninety odd minute depression experiences and whilst its true that some of his work, such as Winter Lights, is quite dark, all of them have a warmth somewhere within, even if it be from the director towards his characters in always giving them a glimmer of hope.

Wild Strawberries, at least to these eyes, is as much a romance as a philosophical investigation into paths not taken, decisions not made, something that Woody Allen noticed when he all but remade the film in Deconstructing Harry.

I can quite honestly say he was one of my favourite directors and if it wasn’t for him amongst other I wouldn’t have the love for cinema that I do today. When I was at university first time around there were three films that really opened my eyes to possibilities beyond the English language -- Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, Beineix's Betty Blue and Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.

I was intrigued by the video cover, the knight and Death (whom I recognised from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey) playing chess at the sea shore. It was iconic and surreal and I really wanted to know what led to that image.

What I hadn’t expected was a medieval settings on the edge of apocalyptic disease, inscribed by such atmospheric photography. Also the thread of good humour and black comedy especially between this knight and Death even through the former knows that no matter how hard he fights, there’s an inevitability to his fate.
"I shall remember this hour of peace: the strawberries, the bowl of milk, your faces in the dusk. Mikael asleep, Jof with his lute. I shall remember our words, and shall bear this memory between my hands as carefully as a bowl of fresh milk." -- Block, The Seventh Seal
Thanks Ingmar. Take care, wherever you are.

But what about Michaela Strachan?

Birthday Today is this blog’s sixth birthday and as regular readers know I always like to mark these milestones (millstones?) with something, anything that says that yes, I’m still here, still typing away. I thought this year, rather than disappearing back through the archives and republishing some of my favourite posts I’d go even further to when the internet as we know it hadn't even been invented and present the following (which I found in a folder during a clear-out not too long ago).

Some context. I was, as best as I can remember, in my sixth or seventh year at secondary school and as part of the General Studies A-Level, there was some kind of communications course that included a test in which pupils were asked to give a talk on some subject or other for the class. I think I was volunteered to do it by the teacher and after improvising a title on the spot, went away and slaved for a few nights to produce something on-topic.

Imagine the scene then. I have a forty-minute morning lesson to fill in front of my class mates many of whom hate me, others who I never talked to and a couple of friends. Neither they or the teacher know what I’m going to say and I’m visibly sweating because I’m not sure if I’m going to get through it, especially since I have no confidence in what I’ve written. The teacher asks me to stand, and I step to the front of the class and I begin to speak:
“ ‘TV Fantasies in the perfect world’. Why did I choose that title? OK, I agree. There was an element of being a smart arse in there somewhere. But after I actually sat down and thought about it I realised I could actually come up with some kind of an argument to answer the following question: ‘Are our dreams and aspirations directly influenced by the media?’ And to answer this question, we must first look at my smart arse title - bit by bit - just like any good old GCSE exam question.

TV, is we can safely say ruling our lives. Everybody’s got one, even the Queen. Ok, so not everyone nowadays is going to sit down with a good book (and even read it) but when you find out that nearly 35 million people are watching television sometimes, is it no wonder that cinema’s dying? I means it not at though there 35 million are watching anything of quality.

According to BARB -- the ratings experts - East Enders on Thursday of last week got 22.5 million viewers. ‘It’s a good drama’ I’ve been told by a friend whose watched it since the beginning. But when you see that the rival programme is either regional current affairs or a regional news programme -- is there any wonder that the thing got 22.5 millions viewers?

Other top shows include: You’ve Been Framed featuring the most popular guy on tv and Big Break with Mr. Ism (racism, sexism, stoutism). More soap than the Radion adverts and Start Trek -- well perhaps the world isn’t exactly dead. OK so we’ve ascertained what TV is, but what about fantasies?

When I first mentioned the title a few weeks ago, you could almost hear your imagination run riot, when I said this little word (smallish - but size isn’t important). When I say fantasy, I don’t mean the sordid little ideas that filter through from the top shelves in newsagents. I’m talking about dreams.

Everybody has them and we can split them into two categories. The one was have when we’re asleep and the ones we have when we’re awake (although since I turned 17, I’m increasingly under the impression that there isn’t that much difference between the two states).

The dreams you have when you’re asleep you ordinarily don’t have much baring on. According to various the dictionaries that are available, dreams have some kind of hidden meaning. Quite what being an urchin in a shopping mall is supposed to be I haven’t a clue.

The dreams we experience when we’re awake are perhaps a little bit easier to explain. They are the girls or guys we love from afar. The holiday we’ve always wanted to go on. The car we want to own. These the are things that give us something to live for. Our Godot I could say.

But what about the last part - our perfect world. This is something we can never attain. OK - so isn’t as idealist as Plato, but it might come close. I don’t even mean global peace or an end to famine. Each person has their own perfect world they’d want to live in.

For years now mine has been to go to school without there being any bullying or taunting. Perhaps this has something to do with people poking fun at my weight’ all of the time or by my ability to ‘pull the birds’ as one neanderthal put it a few weeks ago. I’ll also admit to pulling people’s leg sometimes -- its all part of human nature -- only some of do it with malice in mind. Lack of this throw back from out cave dwelling days would be my perfect world.

But how does all this develop? I say that it all comes from the small box in the corner with the light behind it. I would say your dreams start developing at about the age of five or six. When I was that age, the only thing I thought about -- the only which mattered to be was becoming a zoologist. I used to love animals and the zoo became a great hang out. That dream died when I cried my eyes out when a puppy was put down live on TV at New Year’s Eve a few years later.

Also, at about the same time, I was running through house with a lightsaber vanquishing Darth Teddy and the smurfs from Endor. The Star Wars phase continued until about 1982 when Return of the Jedi comic ended and the A-Team began blowing up the screen. Also at this time, I remember rushing home every night in the time for the quality cartoon Jimbo and the Jet Set. Season 3 of classic Star Trek was getting its second re-run on BBC 2. I became a fan. I was only a small time fan at that time, but you can see how it’s ballooned and so now my other impossible dream is to love in the 24th century - which might even come true.

That’s because of the afterlife theory put forward by Dr. Inkoran Frobisher. He hypthosised that when we die, instead of meeting the great birded dude upstairs or red hot guy downstairs, we enter a permanent dream like state were we actually live out our dreams. Which means that Ensign Stuart Burns would stride onto the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. This would also mean that Christians will indeed go to heaven, and the rocking dudes could live in an eternal heavy metal concert.

OK, let’s get away from the absurd into the real world.

You are an advertising executive. Big office. Large account at the bank. What you say goes. In the true thirtysomething style, two of your employees come to you with radically different proposals for the sale of Venus Beer. Each one has a well drawn storyboard for a TV ad. The first one is straight out of school and this is one of his first assignments.

His idea is to show beer as it is. A trucker spends the night drinking and gets up the next morning with a hangover. Next, a businessperson drinks all night and gets up in the morning with a hangover. The tag line is: ‘If it’s gonna do this to you, shouldn’t it taste good beforehand?’

The second employee has been working for a while and hand in his proposal. This is a stock advert. Hotel bar full of people. Handsome men and beautiful women all sitting around, drinking, talking, doing the kind of thing men and women might do after they’ve bed a few drinks. Bar empties just leaving just the bottles of Venus on the tables. The tagline is: ‘What a time to go off the bottle?’

Which one would you choose?

The exec sits back for second and then points to the second person. He likes it, but sats he must take joint credit with the first one since he thought up the best catch line of the two - which was ‘If it’s gonna do this to you, shouldn’t it taste good beforehand?’

Why number two? It would appeal to the market the beer is aimed at -- upwardly mobile twenty, thirty or fortysomethings. But is could also appeal to upwardly mobile teenagers like ourselves who hope that this is the kind of thing we’ll be doing in adult life.

What I’m trying to suggest is that advertising people, while trying to create adverts are usually unconsciously creating live we would like to live in - I say usually - because we don’t went to have to bomb around a kitchen in a string vest, or breed dogs for a living, but I’m sure that bright futures might be found in the Ariel/Mothercare young executive, or David Yip and these other two selling Proton Cars. OK, so they are the top of the ladder, but sixty percent or so of the people living in jobs within which this is the pinnacle of their career and besides I’d love to be making the kind of money are when I get to their age.

Now, let me take you to the land of the rising sun. In Japan, talent scours tour schools looking for teenagers who have a certain spark -- something which sets them out from their friends. Beauty is usually that spark. These people are then trained for three months in fame, and then turned into media stars. Of course, this is the a dream come true for the girl or boy next door types, who enjoy every minute of it, appearing on everything from the latest TV game shows to walk-on parts in films to advertising on soft-drinks bill boards.

After about six months, new stars appear and the old ones go back to whatever it was they were doing beforehand (unless they’re offered another job in the media), without any questions asked and forgotten. Why Money for the companies. Immoral? Yes and no depending on your point of view. What does all this have to do with dreams?

Think about it. Two different parties can directly effected in a dream kind of sense. The teenagers of course would be dying to be given the chance for a bit of stardom - for no matter how long. But I suppose the most injured party might be teenagers in the 12-15 year old age bracket - and we all know the kind of thing which takes place at time of life.

Now put that into a larger scale. How many kids experience dreams concerning these corporate ‘idols’, and how many times these dreams are dashed. The whole thing stinks. We could sit back and arrogantly say ‘that could never happen here’.

But it is already happening. Right now, such people do need to have some talent, but slowly our screen are being filled with teenagers who are usually here today and gone tomorrow. Media personalities such as Sonia, The Reynolds Girls and multitude of rap and house ‘stars’. Anyone remember Lina Zavaroni? Aled Jones? Ok, so this group aren’t exactly the stuff of every teenager’s fantasies - but it can’t be too long …

But what about the other type of hype mobile? It for now all to easy for people in the media to enter everyone’s dreams and aspirations both unconscious conscious. Let’s take the hype-queen Madonna for example. In 1984. She sang at Live-Aid and the answer to that name would be Who? In 1991, Cannes in France stopped when she went for a job. Why? Popularity. Why? Newspapers and TV seemed to be have fed on her like leech -- so now she’s like a god and as much of a household name.

And why does she hold such a position? Because the masses read and buy newspapers who treat her like royalty - they give the masses what they want. But why do the masses want the info? Because they like the records. Well maybe -- at the beginning but the beginning, now I believe, it’s gone beyond that - could it now also be because people not only desire her, but also her lifestyle. That she has become an idol? OK, so her popularity started from her records, but what about Michaela Strachan?

She was harassed to the point that might have meant her death by a man who believed that when she appeared on TV, she was actually talking to him personally. I know that he must have been strange in the head (perhaps stranger than me) but it does show what might happen if we lose the divide between reality and fantasy. And as the media develops, the smaller this divide will get -- meaning that these situations will develop even further.

Let me take you again into the realms of science fiction. As NASA right now, a new system is being developed called Virtual Reality - or Virtuality for short. The briefest description is that it is a large piece of computer technology built into a headset which also contains two liquid crystal screens at two points which correspond with where the eyes will go. The screens show what you would see in this computer generated world. You may have seen one on Gamesmaster the other week or Tomorrow’s World last Friday the other week.

Simply put, these give a sensory computer generated world which is totally divorced from our ’reality’. I’m probably not explaining it very well, but, hey, I’m no scientist. Say a company is trying to sell kitchens, but does not have enough room for a show room -- or if they design kitchens made to measure, they merely have to programme the computer and the customer can actually walk around this new kitchen and note any changes they would like to make -- without even having to construct it.

Even though this system is pretty crude, designer hope that in the future it will have a built in full sensory net meaning you will feel the touch of the thing you’re touching in the virtuality world. But they also admit this is the next big step in computer entertainment -- which will obviously go light years ahead by the next century.

I’m no scientist, but I predict that virtuality will go beyond pixels and screens, to the extent of actually placing small electrodes on the temples on your forehead and electrical impulses blocking actual reality and creating a new one in your mind. This new blocker reality will be so exacting that you could not only see what is going on, but hear, smell, taste and perhaps touch your environment. It will be a dream world.

To begin with, you would by yourself, but as the system developed, you could take another personae - even to the point of having a memory built around the personae which you have while playing the game. The first of the extra personae games would be just that -- games. Levels of play and no life beyond the adventure. But as it develops, you would no doubt be living the life of your personae. Imagine being Indiana Jones bombing around for artefacts. How about being a fairytale prince or princess? Stranded on a desert island?

This would also of course all have to be heavily regulated. Film like ratings introduced. Games like a Predator or Terminator conversion will no doubt be produced underground for masochists and the dreaded porno game would be written by perverts and that would be the problem - crazies like the one who went after Michaella Strachen would probably become more of a problem, since reality and game-world might be too close. And there is also of course the addiction factor -- the game world becoming so good, would you want the real world? Drugs would seem mild by comparison.

This is of course in the distant future and might never happen. Right now dreams must stay just that - dreams and perhaps it is best they do stay that way. If you could actually touch your dream -- have your dream - what else would you have? Another dream of course. There can never be a dreamless person - except perhaps even the most rich.

‘TV Fantasies in the perfect world’ was my original title and although I have probably gone off on a tanget a few times, I hope that I’ve given you something to think about. It isn’t wrong to ‘Dream the Impossible Dream’. It’s part of what we are -- and the no matter how far away it seems - we can never give up hope.
What was I thinking and what kind of reaction was I expecting? I don’t understand what half of the above means and I wrote it. Some of it is hilarious for all the wrong reasons and I’m not surprised that I remember people laughing at me during the class or chatting enough that they had to be told off by the teacher. I had included a couple of interactive elements (which I’ve clipped) which involved people describing their dreams which didn’t obviously work.

There are the pop culture references that date it perfectly. I must have been going through a phase of fancying Michaela Strachan, and so stricken by her predicament was I that I mention her stalker more than once. The eye popping sentence that is: “Media personalities such as Sonia, The Reynolds Girls and multitude of rap and house ‘stars’.” Whatever happened to Virtuality? The fictional scientist Dr. Inkoran Frobisher?

But there is also the fairly surprising bit where I confront my bullies (sort of) and although I’ve laboured the point I wasn’t that wrong about the fragility of celebrity. If only I’d quoted Andy Warhol instead of Plato (oh and I’m quoting Plato?). I’ll let you decide if my writing style has improved and whether I’m any less of a square.

So happy birthday weblog, and here's to another six. Thanks to everyone who's been reading for even some of those years, putting up with my mood swings, poor grammar and obscure interests. Some day, I promise, I might start getting this right.

Just be happy that I didn’t inflict on you the fan letter I wrote to Star Trek: The Next Generation instead. Maybe next year.

Unnatural History.

Books  Wow indeed!  Knotting together threads from stories as diverse as the TV Movie, The Eight Doctors, Vampire Science, Alien Bodies and dozens of others retconning some, developing ideas from others, Unnatural History is one of those ludicrous, compulsive, excessive, surreal, imaginative novels which is difficult to define, consistently infuriating to read but paradoxically engrossing.  This is less straightforward than either of Jon & Kate's previous novels so there’s a lot to talk about but I don’t want to be here all day and I’ll probably forget to mentioned something I’ve enjoyed.  So instead I’m simply going to warn you that this may not be the most consistent piece of writing you’re ever going to read.

It’s difficult in an age when incidents of new Doctor Who fiction are reported on a daily basis to remember when these monthly Eighth Doctor novels where the only real continuation of the narrative outside of the DWM strip.  Something like this must have been devastating and exciting, with even the merest continuity mention (Grace! Kramer!) having led to Utopia sized incidents of mass squeeing years before a word had been invented to describe what was going on (and I personally am not going to rest until Victoria Coren is flouncing purposefully around a Panoptical convention looking for the origin of the word ‘Squee’ for an episode of Balderdash and Piffle).

In many ways this is a traditional Doctor Who adventure with the time team investigating, getting captured, escaping, getting captured, escaping, doing some more investigating before a big finale and a downbeat epilogue.  The novel picks up a couple weeks after the close of Dominion when the Doctor and friends had been drawn to San Francisco.  It’s to the scene of the Doctor’s last ditch effort to save the planet when the Eye of Harmony within the Tardis opened at the end of the millennium, the hitherto unnoticed effect of which has been to create a dimensional time rift drawing all kind of fantastical entities to the city which is being bent out of shape.  The Tardis has been dropped in to try and stop the rift from doing the nasty and it’s up to the Doctor and Fitz and a new version of Sam which has been created for various reasons to try and sort it all out.

Meanwhile, other complications mount (which is noted at one point when its suggest that one of the villains of the piece collect a number and wait in line whilst the Doctor deals with the whole of the range of crises that have developed).  The local area is filling with Men In Black-style with all kinds of strange sights, mythic beasts including unicorns to interesting attired aliens in fezzes.  An unnaturalist (beautiful concept -- someone who collects mythic creatures), is in the city collecting specimens with the help of some new series friendly Henchs (which as their name suggests do his dirty work) with the Doctor and this alternative Sam at the top of his list.  An emissary of the Faction Paradox, a small boy, has dropped into the mix too, to observe and make the most of all of the well, paradoxes that are building up around the rift taking samples to and making deals at opportune moments.  There’s also something large waiting under the Golden Gate Bridge with the potential to destroy half the city.

About the only disappointment actually is that we don’t get to see much of the city as it passes by through the window of the Bug as it sweeps about the streets, or rather, much is implied instead of described (is that all potential uses of the word used up)?  It’s not really any city in particular apart from the aforementioned landmark.  It’s almost as though there’s a meta joke going on about how Vancouver doubled for San Francisco in the TVM and that’s where the action is occurring here.  Or with everything that’s happening the characters haven’t much time to take in the sights so why should we?  Plus it’s a very odd experience reading a story set in the near past which was written for the near future with none of the cultural references you’d expect.

That’s generally offset by including characters who’ve drifted in from other times or whose point of view hasn’t changed in decades.  Fitz has a web of contacts in the city collecting information about the strange happening and the most important is Kyra, a woman born at the same time as Fitz, but obviously older than him now, whose appears to have stepped in from an Armistead Maupin novel, totally aware of her status as a cultural stereotype.  When she’s not pointing out where stray bits of the Doctor’s timeline are floating about the city (don’t ask) she provides an opportunity for Fitz to wallow in nostalgia and come to terms with his place in the universe.

Most of which could potentially alienate the reader, where it not for the very human, indeed Human Nature story at its heart.  Again some time before the novel’s story unfolds, our Sam, blonde Sam, was caught up in the rift and her timelines has been rewritten creating the dark haired version glimpsed in Alien Bodies who never travelled with the Doctor, but instead lived on the streets, became junkie and now has a relatively normal life working in a video store.  As the book opens, the Doctor has come to find her and she grudgingly agrees to follow him back to the US for reasons she can’t quite understand.  So yes, like Human Nature, we have an alternative version of Sam and the question is whether she should have to give up her life so that the Doctor can have his version back.  I won’t tell you how it’s resolved, but lets just say that it’s a handy way to update the cultural references which are often one of the joys of this book series.

This Sam is superbly drawn, absolutely sympathetic like and yet unlike the one we know and love.  But unlike John Smith, the irony that eventually develops is that our Sam, blonde Sam, might actually be the wrong Sam.  The implication is that the Sam who entered the Tardis in The Eight Doctors had been re-engineered by the Doctor’s regenerative cycle to become the perfect companion, with two alternative sets of bio data created in the process.  Oddly enough this is an idea which was toyed with in the new series, that the episode Paul Abbot never wrote for the Boomtown gap in the first series would reveal that Rose had been engineered by the Doctor to be the perfect companion after years of taking imperfections around the universe.  See what I mean -- wild concepts wrapped up with normality.

[Update:  I've just been reading Lance's AHistory and it seems I might have slightly misunderstood this and it's more closely wrapped up with something that happens in the end.  But actually, I think both theories are valid.  Possibly.]

What isn’t normal but totally luxurious is this concept of bio data, which is another hold over from Alien Bodies but better explained here.  Whereas DNA holds a person’s biological make up, bio data is everything including someone personal timeline.  And as the novel explains and demonstrates, this bio data can be bent and edited which is how the Faction Paradox get their jollies -- as they do in here stealing one of the Doctor’s childhood memories.  I’d read about this elsewhere but the upshot is that it’s wonderful device for explaining away inconsistencies in the grand narrative -- it’s not just the ebb and flow of time, it’s the Faction Paradox re-editing the Doctor’s personal timeline for their own ends.  How can the Doctor be at the fall of Atlantis/sinking of the Marie Celeste/fall of the Roman Empire on multiple occasions?  It’s the Faction Paradox!  I suspect there’ll be more on this in future novels.

Primarily the book is also about returning the Doctor to another situation of being replete with mystery without totally reconfiguring the incarnation.  The story embraces the complexities of the character and the potential for multiple origins (something which the unnaturalist tries to straighten out) but also, inadvertently provides a justification for his sometimes wildly differing personalities in some of these novels -- he is in flux as well as the universe and as he suggests at one point (I’m paraphrasing) sometimes a fallen god, sometimes a human professor who thinks he’s an alien.  There is some ambiguity though as to how much of the disaster in the book is the Doctor’s fault, whether he’s simply clearing up after himself for the usual 279 pages.

Plus another character is introduced a Scottish professor who through the magic of text isn’t really explained but seems to know a hell of a lot about the Doctor -- he’s all powerful too but not a time lord and although he’s pivotal we don’t find out that much about him.  It’s great that such a figure can appear from nowhere and make sense but also have you wondering who he is.  Unless he’s a carry over from some New Adventure I haven’t read and everyone else was ‘pointing’ and shouting ‘oh it’s him!’.  The general point is that even after all these years, there’s a hell of a lot we don’t know about the Doctor and that this is going to be a long haul journey into discovering lots of new things.

Incidentally, I’ve finally managed to retrospectively cast Fitz.  Who better to play him (at least in the theatre of my imagination) than Dead Like Me’s Mason, Callum Blue?  Obviously I’m overlaying some of the quirks of that character onto Mr. Kreiner but the fit works for me, especially here in the scenes when it becomes apparent that Fitz prefers the alternative Sam (for, ahem, various reason) because she’s more like him than the Doctor and not because smokes and drinks and cusses.  They both have that kind of broken background but it’s also becoming apparent that like blonde Sam, his loyalty to the Doctor is leading to a modifying of his behaviour as he understands his role in the companion/time lord dynamic -- to keep the Doctor thinking and acting in a straight line.

Inevitably I’ve only managed to impact on the surface of a novel that’s both clinically simple and unhygenically complex.  This is not a book for the faint-hearted and certainly not something for anyone looking for a fairly traditional Doctor vs. the Aliens read.  I’ve said it before and I’m going to be boring by saying it again, this is the ultimate in flexible formats and as dvd documentary producer Keith Barnfather says in this month’s DWM, Doctor Who is a ‘concept’ not just a television series and can be bent around multiple format and also writing styles.  There’s a country mile between this and Dominion just as that was different to Revolution Man and they’ve all got nothing to do with Timelash (thank god).

One book to go before Interference then and given that these past three have dealt with time rifts of various types, I’m guessing that Autumn Mist is going to throw in another one.  There really are definite patterns developing here…