“Should auld acquaintance be forgot?” -- Robbie Burns

Music And relax. After seventy-two Albert Hall concerts and a handful of chamber concerts I’ve finally reached the climax, the last night, of the Proms, Prom 72. Yes, I did sob through Jerusalem and sang both verses of the national anthem at the top of my voice. I clapped along with Pomp and Circumstance and busked through the regional opt-outs during Fantasia on British Sea-Songs (bless the school kids who sang Danny Boy for being so normal), BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra as electric as ever. It’s the only part of the Proms I’ve seen and heard in company, the usual conversation about where all the flags were from and unusually why some of the audience booed whilst conductor Jiri Belohlavek received his flowers. Odd kind of joke that, especially when he was so good during the speech. Although I missed the statistics.

Trust the last night to bring the final surprise of the season, as I quietly lost my heart to Anna Netrebko even before she sang as she bounded onto stage waving at the crowd which is exactly the kind of thing I’d like to think I would have done given the occasion. Many times in the past few weeks have soloists have been respectful and serious as they strolled in front of the audience and this was gleeful and unlike some of those soloists she gave a performance of acting as well as singing, walking away from the microphone, addressing audience members and the choir directly, not just producing an excerpt from the music of an opera, but a whole opera performance, her Bellini absolutely heartbreaking, the Lehar spellbinding. The flower dance (for want to a better description) was one of the most exciting moments of the televised Proms all year and I’ve immediately gone to LoveFilm and ordered all of her dvds. I’m desperate to at least appreciate opera and this might be just the way to do it.

Even I’ve heard of Joshua Bell -- if only because he was the violinist mimed to throughout one of my favourite films, The Red Violin. His rendition of Ravel’s Izigane here reminded me of the scene there in which the fiddle is passed through generations of gypsies, a montage sequences showing close ups of each of its owners playing with Bell’s unbroken solo underneath. His current instrument was manufactured in the early 1700s and I wonder of its had a similar journey in its life before turning up in these loving hands. In the slightly bewildered interview Bell gave to Alan Titchmarsh between movements he anthropomorphised it -- talking about its quirks like some might describe a child or pet. It’s a part of him and as he said, he’s still learning about what it’s capable of. Pity Andrew Kennedy sandwiched between these two, his expressive face bursting into action as he approached each line of the Elgar, especially since he was the only one not to reprise in the second half, or the bit that everyone in the country watches. Seems a bit unfair.

I commented on Facebook afterwards that I was ‘tired and emotional’ which I was and I still am. I always cry during Jerusalem but this year is simply meant more because with the exception of exalting the monarch and the improved Auld Lang Syne it was the last piece of the season and unlike previous years I feel like I’ve lived it. I wonder if anyone else has heard all of the Albert Hall proms, for the same reasons, and if they did, does that diminish my own achievement (particularly if they were within the Hall itself). I feel like Michael Palin (whose new show was previewed before and after the tv broadcast) at the end of Around The World In 80 Days sitting alone on the tube wanting to tell his fellow passengers that he’s been around the world in seventy-nine days, but not sure ifthey’d believe him. Palin was obviously making a documentary so all of his viewers knew about it, and of course here I am boring you senseless too.

I suppose in the end I’ve done this for me, it means something to me, and that is what is important, to me.

Thanks Henry.

"Within three months I had gone from being this black sheep of the town to suddenly becoming a pop star. " -- Alison Moyet

Film Whilst I remember, Lovefilm have sent me (and probably every other subscriber) two promotional gift vouchers which allow new subscribers their initial three months free. So if you've been thinking about signing up, please email me with your address (feelinglistless@btopenworld.com) and I'll post them out to you. They're valid until 31/03/2008 if you're not quite ready yet. UK only. Usual conditions apply. Etc.

The Ancestor Cell.

Books  And relax.  After forty odd novels and a handful of short stories, I finally reach the biggest spoiler I was going to encounter in this endeavour.  Rather like the Master’s return in Utopia, I’ve known what happens at the conclusion of The Ancestor Cell for seven years and not because of a tabloid (imagine if they’d given a toss in two-thousand) but from our own party newsletter.  Like Utopia though, the devil was going to be in the method, how it was going to happen and it seems only right and proper that a very big lever should be involved.  But, since I know there will still be a couple of people who aren’t totally aware of the magnificent conclusion of this particular story of the timelord Doctor that’s all I’ll say.  This review will be largely spoiler free. Heavy sigh.

But feel free to email if you have any questions.

What I can say though is that it’s the kind of work which is largely impossible to review.  I know Vanessa Bishop gave it a decent go in DWM way back when and noted that it mostly looks like the authors Peter Anghelides and Stephen Cole made a list of everything they thought needed to be sorted out in terms of the plot-arc and the characters and worked their way through from top to bottom.  That’s not an impression I can disagree with -- this does pack in a whole vast range of continuity references, so much so that at times they threaten to overwhelm the impetuous of what all of these books should be about -- the adventure.  In case it hasn’t become apparent much as I love continuity, it’s needs to be in the service of the romp, not the romp itself.

Despite that, the authors have still managed to produce a highly entertaining read, largely because they've taken the material and molded it into what's essentially a solidly traditional narrative, without the fractured time structures, interesting literary devices or experimentation of the likes of The Blue Angel or even Frontier Worlds.  Lawrence Miles isn't much of a fan of what Cole and Anghelides did to his ideas (he's said so in many an interview) to the point of disregarding whole sections of it in his own Faction Paradox work.  To be fair to Miles, the concepts are interesting and exciting but unfortunately within the format of these novels and the way they were published they weren't given the necessary space to breath.  He perhaps imagined that the novels resulting from Interference would be all about the Faction Paradox, the Celestis and the timelords making plans for the enemy.

Unfortunately, up to and including the new series, Doctor Who as a concept has never been comfortable with structured plot-arcs, b-stories that last across whole stretches.  Its stock in trade, and when it has been most successful has always been when adventures that are comprehensible to the newbe or fairweather or non-fan.  Otherwise an odd kind of fatigue sets in as the particular producer, editor or writer tries to circumvent the premises inherent randomness by setting the Doctor on an imutable course.  BBC Books, quite rightly, didn't want any of the books to be too obscure for the casual browser who remembers the show as a kid.

With the exception of The Taking of Planet 5, the books have tried their best to set the Interference issues aside and with The Shadows of Avalon try and defocus them, putting the burden of plotting in Compassion's hands.  Under these circumstances, Interference looks like the publishing equivalent of the tee-totaler going out and getting blissfully rat-arsed, sleeping with the wrong person and then regretting it for months afterwards, trying desperately to reaffirm their natural tendencies, with just a few lapses here and there.  The Ancestor Cell, then, may well be the novels turning up at an AA meeting, standing up and saying 'I'm a Doctor Who tie-in and I'm addicted to continuity.'

The novel is about as Doctor Who as one of these books can get.  The Faction Paradox in here then, become to all intents and purposes a fairly traditional antagonist bent on invasion, of Gallifrey instead of Earth, their overall plan no different -- if slightly more graphic -- than the Daleks hollowing out the Earth and turning it into a giant starship or using Satellite Five as a way of blocking an invasion fleet.  The timelords, in trying to capture Compassion aren't that much more different than Torchwood or some Terrabound scientists looking for a way to battle the Enemy (taking into account that the Enemy here is different to the Paradox).  The final battle between the Doctor and whoever is as old as the hills really, literally fighting his own future.

For a Gallifreyphile this offera an embarrassment of riches and it's worth noting that the planet and city described herein fits perfectly with the Doctor's description from series three.  Transduction barriers are mentioned and the whole place becomes far larger and the rather drab walls of the classic series, creating exactly the place I imagined from the Big Finish series.  Romana III is fleshed out some more, shades of grey introduced -- she's become the woman best suited apparently to defend her planet against the upcoming War -- regal and spoiled but not unsympathetic.  I'm not sure who the authors had in mind for this incarnation but I couldn't help but be reminded of Catherine Zeta Jones in Traffic, resorting to desperate, darker measures when her kin is threatened, and made hard by that.  The other timelords are all pleasingly fusty just as they should be, praiting naives all.  With the exception of Mali, who seems purposefully to be a reflection of the younger Romana conterpointing what the timelady has become.

Considering everything else that's happening, it's a surprise that the regulars are as well defined as they are and given as much focus.  The Doctor, who as the back of the book reveals, is being sought to join by the Faction Paradox is restricted and in the one place where he can't be the exciting legendary hero that we've come to expect.  He's a tragic figure only rarely able to exert his independence essentially leaning on his own faltering past to carry him through.  Fitz's story is just as complex, what with finally coming to terms with being a construct and meeting the real, older version of him, a bitter, twisted barely human soul.  But he's still irrepressible, wonderfully human despite his origins, unable to keep his fly zipped.  Pity about his conquest though.  And Compassion is as contrary as she usually is with her eye on a new timelord to carry about in her innards.  She's given a decent, heroic send off and I can't imagine this will be the last we (I?) see of her.

This then is the final end, for now.  Having reached what feels like a grandiose season ender and as was planned by new series editor Justin Richards a conscious break from the past to enter the new I'm taking a conscious decision to go on hiatus from the EDAs, a word I'm taking back just for this occasion, until at least next summer.  With three almost consecutive Who related series to come, the Key To Time season box set, the final two old school McGann Big Finish stories and the second series of the new school adventures, the storybook and other related new series novels coming soon (not to mention The Web of Fear, fingers crossed) there'll be a fair amount of Who floating about to enjoy anyway and I've other reading to do, there are worlds out there where a woman has become the time traveller's wife, a kid stays in the picture, and the men say yes. People made of celluloid and towns made of tinsel etc.

What a bizarre venture.

Thirty-odd authors collectively writing a series of adventures for a forty-odd year old character in a version that appeared but once on television, in a desperate and often successful attempt to continue a legacy which under normal circumstances would have died out years before.  As well as producing work in the style of the classic series, here they all were actively trying to continue the story, enveloping in their own mythology, alienating some, fascinating others, never once producing work which will simply do, always experimenting creating as many blistering successes as wopping failures, just like the television series they're ostensibly based on.  All so that somewhere, their hero in his rackety old police box was still fighting the monsters, in the hopes that one day he'd be a hero for their own children too.

And he is.

"Informal music making is a source of pleasure for both players and listeners." -- Roger Kamien

Music Tonight’s penultimate Prom, 71, and everything is almost over. The concert was suitably emotional with Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 an epic sweep of a work, referencing both Beethoven and Bach making it a kind of musical footnote to the whole of this years’ concert series, and to what I’ve accomplished. I’m planning a conclusion or review in the next couple of days in which I’ll talk about what the Proms experience has meant to me.

For now, I'm looking at Sunday when there won’t be a new concert to listen to from The Albert and wonder what I'll be doing with myself. I’ve been following this routine since the end of July and I wouldn’t say I’ve been institutionalized but Monday night is going to be very strange indeed as I don’t plug my headphones into my DAB radio, settle on the balcony waiting for the end of In Tune on Radio 3 and the opening description of the upcoming concert.

Not institutionalized, more hopelessly addicted.

Luckily, I have my methadone. A full decade or longer ago in the remaindered book shop in St. John’s Precinct in Liverpool, I bought Roger Kamien’s Music: An Appreciation: Brief Edition, a three hundred page text book tracing the history of music with an explanation of everything from harmony to sound, pitch, dynamics and tone colour. It’s accompanied by three cds of examples to be played here and there to illustrate a point -- Louis Armstrong’s Hotter Than That and Wagner’s Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin demonstrating eloquently the sonic effects of various instrumental sounds.

It’s all written relatively simply and although I’m not sure there’s enough to provide a grasp of musical notation -- at least not to an extent that I could describe it back to you -- it will be exciting to discover where all of the music I’ve been listening to for the past six weeks fits together and the periods in which each composer was working marrying that up with my fragmented knowledge of art history. Even now as I flick through the book I’m oohing and aaghing as I realise how some of these things intermingle. This will be my way of weaning myself out of the concert ritual and possibly, eventually replacing it with something potentially just as addictive, and then, perhaps next Prom season I‘ll have a better idea of what I‘m listening to.

It was published in 1990 and features this rather brilliant illustrative photo (the caption for which is the title of this post) that reminds me of some of the filmed inserts from the Sesame Street of my childhood:

"John Barrowman you are naughty! Of course, I was kind of expecting you to be. "

TV John Barrowman finally interviewed by After Elton, for the US debut of Torchwood this weekend. It's a peach as the interviewer can't quite believe what he's hearing. Here's one of the relatively clean moments: "Yeah, season two is going to be different; the humor will be back in Jack. The one thing that really struck people was his attitude — his carefree attitude, let's say — when he was on series one of Doctor Who. Russell T. Davies had to establish in series one of Torchwood the dark side of Jack because he had a lot of issues he had to resolve and questions that he wanted answered. In the course of series three of Doctor Who those questions are answered, so when he comes back to Torchwood he's a much lighter guy. Still determined at what he does, but more fun and likes to poke a little more fun. And, do a little more poking." [via]

"Children should be given the chance to play instruments, to sing." -- Luciano Pavarotti

Obituary Watching that moment of Luciano Pavarotti singing Nessum Dorma from the World Cup at the end of the BBCs looped obituary today, I could understand why people fell in love with the man and opera in those few minutes. As he reached the climax, he had a look of absolute concentration and conviction and as it ended his face, previously straining relaxed in surprise and wonder and presented and a sense of achievement that he had been able to sustain those notes and produce a sound of such quality. As he once said, he was always learning, just as we all should be.

"Fair and balanced." -- FOX News

TV Well, that's it. I can't stand this any longer. Could we leave the current BBC as it is please, at least for now? If John 'usually lucid' Humphreys isn't calling for the closure of BBC Four despite it being the one place on television which broadcasts something worth watching for up to ten hours a day, it's the ironically named BBC Vision wanting News 24 to shut up shop too because:
"There are many providers of 24-hour rolling news in the market place, why do we need the BBC to do it? Why are we doing something that Sky is doing already?"
Which sounds like the kind of bizarre comment only someone who doesn't watch much television could make -- both may be rolling news stations but they're certainly not doing the same thing. It's like saying that that BBC One should be shut down because it's also a general entertainment channel like ITV!

Apart from the two services being journalistically dissimilar -- Sky News will in general report anything that looks like a breaking news story whereas the BBC will get confirmation from sources first and if not will preface with something saying that they can't confirm anything yet -- News 24 also carries a range of news analysis programmes such as Dateline London and magazine shows such as Click which certainly aren't reproduced anywhere else simply because market forces wouldn't allow it.

In addition, there's the rumour that rules related to television channels impartiality being modified to allow them a left/centre/right wing bias which would certainly effect Sky who would almost certainly shift one way or another, Fox News-style, as a way of garnering new viewers. If BBC News 24 were to go that would mean there wouldn't be a rolling news channel available, based in the UK, and showing on Freeview for that matter, that didn't show some kind of political allegiance which would certainly be a disaster for choice.


TV If you're next to a television in the UK right now Donnie Osmand's tea time quiz Identity is currently featuring a 60s assistant as one of the 'strangers'. Sadly it's a not we, whose guessing which is a shame because I would have loved to have seen the contestant saying something like 'What Deborah Watling doing standing there?'

The Banquo Legacy.

Books  It’s 1898, at the cusp of a new century.  Compassion is dying and after dumping the Doctor and Fitz into a frosty landscape she materialises inside the body of a local, Susan Seymour.  The nearest civilization is Banqou Manor, a pile in the area of Three Sisters in South-West England, where a rather nasty experiment related to thought transference goes horribly wrong (or right from a certain point of view) and murder results.  Tapping into the hats and tales horror genre, The Banquo Legacy will also please Sherlock Holmes fans, Mark Gatiss’s The Unquiet Dead, the Hinchcliffe seasons and Christopher Priest’s The Prestige (book and film).

The story is related in the written accounts of a Detective Ian Stratford, one of Scotland Yard’s finest in the area following up an inquiry related to the apparent suicide of one scientist, and the colleague of his John Hopkinson.  Relating a story in the first person from two perspectives is always a tricky proposition, but authors Andy Lane and soon to be series editor Justin Richards have produced a masterpiece -- witty, atmospheric and genuinely creepy.  Both of the voices are distinctive and clear; Stratford is very much one for reporting the facts and nothing but even when they don’t put him in a good light -- Hopkinson’s writing is far more emotional and you’re often under the impression that he’s omitting something vital, presumably so that the reader's finger of suspicion isn’t ever deflected from him.

It would be an interesting exercise to read the novel again seeing if a coherent story is related through just one of these pairs of eyes.  On more than one occasion the same scene is played out through each of the reports and Roshoman-style with each participant remember differing details.  The also means that our appreciation of the other participants from the servants Simpson and Beryl, the Wallaces, the Harrieses and the Inspector’s sidekick Baker (who’s hardly mentioned by Hopkinson but held in high regard by Stratford).  For once in one of these novels, either despite, or because of the multiple perspectives, each of these characters is sympathetically and complexly drawn, the kind of figures that Robert Holmes would be proud of.

The only weak moments are when the writers have no choice but dump a range of exposition into the dialogue, talk of Artron energy and whatnot which is ostensibly then being related to us by either Stratford or Hopkinson despite obviously being well beyond their comprehension.  I don’t know about you, but when I hear high science being described and I’m then asked to repeat what I’d heard at best the result is garbled but here everything is echoed verbatim.  It’s a necessary result of the storytelling device, but just now and then it pulls the reader out of the action and it might not have been such a bad idea to have the correspondent remark ‘I have no idea what any of this means but I report it as best as I can remember’.

Even if it’s a generally excellent piece of writing, is it a good Doctor Who novel?  Lane and Richards apparently originally began the work as a piece of non-Who then offered it to the range.  If that’s the case, they’ve worked hard to make it seem of the ongoing plot arc and the way its written works in the arc’s favour.  In many ways, this is the literary equivalent of a new series double-banking episode with the regulars dropping from the story when they’re off doing something out of view of the storyteller.

When they are in view, they’re perhaps as vivid as they’ve been for a while, with Paul McGann being manifested perfectly in the Doctor.  It’s a surprise to see that this was produced pre-Big Finish since the authors (in and out of the fiction) capture his speech patterns perfectly.  The business of Fitz trying the affect a German accent is hilarious, as is the detail of the ring around the inside of his eye which gives away to the Inspector that Kreiner hasn’t ever worn a monocle before and therefore can’t be all he seems.

Because we’re reading about our heroes adventures from one remove, we’re possibly paying even closer attention to the minutae and a lot of trust is put in the reader to notice inferences and clues to what various happenings mean in the relation to the travels of The Doctor, Fitz and Compassion.  In terms of the latter, that means being able to notice when she’s in control of Susan’s body or being subsumed by her host.

Beyond that there’s a rather brilliant moment when one of the characters says something which is very important to us and the Doctor and puts a whole new complexion on what has gone before but is passed over by Stratford, who has other things on his mind, like why he keeps having weird dreams and seeing the house from odd angles and finding himself slipping into hallucinations of the past.  As it transpires everything is connected, though.  Just as it should be.

I imagine when The Banquo Legacy was published in the year 2000, there was a collective wince of horror from the fans who were expecting a continuity fest.  Just when you would expect the arc that began in Interference or earlier to be winding through to its denouement, series editor Stephen Cole drops in a late Victorian murder mystery with supernatural overtones told in the first person of two non-regulars.  In hindsight though, it's an example of why I love the franchise, its repetitions, hesitations and deviations and that it’s at its best when it isn’t feeding the fan gene.

Next:  The Ancestor Cell.  See what I mean?

What? Whaaat? 2

Continued from here. One of the reasons for the break is because David Tennant is due to give us his Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company next year which is a really interesting and exciting piece of casting especially in relation to this blog. The lead actor of my favourite television series appearing in what's probably my favourite Shakespeare play. I'll have to start saving now...

"What? Whaaaat?" -- The Doctor, 'The Last of the Timelords'

TV Behind The Sofa has been in meltdown this past couple of days (to the point of a thread being closed) over the news of a pause in The Doctor's proceedings. For the initiated, the series is going to be taking a break after next year, with three specials instead in 2009 and a full fifth season in 2010. Hold on -- 2010? But it wasn't the year 2000 that long ago. What? Nearly seven years!?! Where did the time go? Oh I know, I was blogging. Anyway, some have called disaster, the usual bizarre theories are flying about and the odd voice of reason noting that at least we know that there's be another series at least to enjoy on top of the next one and the three special will have budget bump and might have an epic scale unseen before at least in the new series.

Now, like Martha Jones doing time in Torchwood, this post continues here.

"Its origin and purpose still a total mystery." -- Dr. Floyd, '2001: A Space Odyssey"

Music Despite all of the dancing music, the highlight of tonight's Prom 68 was the exotic and strange Atmosphères by György Ligeti. Understandably used by Stanley Kubrick as part of the soundtrack for 2001: A Space Odyssey, as the Proms website describes it "eschewing melodic, harmonic and even rhythmic motifs for transformations of tone colour and dynamics. Yet it is anything but static in formal design, depending on the concept of ‘micropolyphony’ (densely interwoven textures) to direct both its shorter- and longer-term evolution."

There was nothing for it but to turn of the lights out in the room and think of monoliths and stargates and mad computers. I do wonder if I'd have found this as acceptable if I hadn't heard it so many times in a film first, but I have a sneaky suspicion I would. More and more I'm being drawn to modernist art forms, from architecture to design, to functionality rather than over design for the sake of elaboration. The clean sounds of these chords, primal, uncomplicated and yet also somehow endlessly complex. Overwhelming.

"This is the night mail crossing the border, bringing the cheque and the postal order...." -- W H Auden

Music I'm currently recording tonight's late Prom to listen to tomorrow which I once thought of as cheating but I'd much rather enjoy it with a clear head. It's the beginning of the final week and time has flown by.

Highlights of this past week have been Prom 60, with the Bavarian Radio Symohony Orchestra's rendition of Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra (or a chance to hear what happens after the bit that was in 2001); their repeat of Beethoven's 9th during Prom 62 in a different tempo from the first Prom of the year but with no less passion and the Saturday Prom from Cadogan Hall with Samuel West and the Nash Ensemble recreating Britten & Auden's Night Mail, during which I was able to recreate the effect seen in the hall by running up my own video copy; and last night's superb Prom 65 with the San Francisco Symphony's version of Mahler's Symphony No. 7.

If I was to say that I've missed not hearing any of the Proms in situ I'd be lying; I've added promming to my list of things I want to do before you know what happens. Before tonight's show, presenter Donald Mcloud seemed surprised that the tube strike hadn't stopped the hall from being full. But I suspect music fans will do their upmost to get to this kind of concert, always unique.

"In cooking, a consommé is a type of soup that is similar to a very rich clarified bouillon." -- Wikipedia

Food I tried Beef Consommé for the first time today. I’d gone to Formby for the morning because I’d wanted to see what Formby looked like (like a posh Allerton Road in Liverpool as it turns out) and sometimes it’s good to see how the other half lives. As it turns out the other half shops in Waitrose because that’s the main supermarket. Ever since watching Food & Drink on television as a child and hearing from Oz Clarke that every good wine out there comes from Waitrose, I’ve often wondered what the inside of one of their golden stores looks like. It looks like a large supermarket and if you replaced the stock with any of the big three no one would probably notice.

Except -- there is a range of products which you simply can’t get at the local Tesco, at least not in Liverpool and one of those, surprisingly, is Beef Consommé. It comes in a tin with a black label with a photograph of a silver spoon superimposed on it filled with a brown liquid which you can infer is the soup (?) and a wine glass filled with a red liquid which could possible be the Waitrose Amontillado Sherry, the drink (?) is made from. Again, since Chris Kelly talked about it on the half hour eighties food programme, Beef Consommé has seemed like the height of sophistication, the connoisseur signalling that having the actual meat it not as important as the taste.

The taste is … beefy with a hint of sherry, which isn’t much of a revelation I’m sure and wasn’t for me. It’s a honey brown colour, close to black tea, and has a subtle flavour which isn’t as overpowering as OXO. The ingredients on the label say its made from a beef extract so quite how far away from the original cow this has come isn’t clear. I thought it would be thicker, more oily perhaps like Onion Soup. At no point though did I feel as though I wasn’t just sipping a high end bit of stock, I missed having bits of meat and vegetables and all the things I look forward to find floating in soap. The bits of bread which flaked in whilst I was supping way weren’t really a substitute.

"Richard Wagner's music is better than it sounds." -- Mark Twain

Music Orchestral instrument jokes. High art humour: "How do you improve the aerodynamics of a trombonist's car? Take the Domino's Pizza sign off the roof."

"Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try." -- Homer Simpson

Film Empire Magazine's controversial two-star review of The Simpsons Movie: "How did something so light and confident become so lumbering and unsure of itself? Everyone is trying too hard and getting nowhere. Lamed, as the later episodes have been, by an overt political agenda, the film so bangs the drum for Al Gore’s eco-message it borders on polemic. Saving the planet may be vital, but not at the expense of Homer’s sublime buffoonery please. The series is at its best when satirising the intricacies of ordinary life — aim smaller, hit bigger."

"There are so many things I want to do, but I end up doing not much. " -- Celine, 'Before Sunset'

Film Julie Delpy talks about her week and politics: "I really don't like Sarko - he's short and angry and he's got big ears. More important perhaps, he's got some major personality problems. He's got some sort of inferiority complex that he's busy trying to change into a superiority complex. I sometimes get the impression that he's out of control. I didn't like Chirac's politics much, but I didn't think he was a stupid guy."

Ident heaven.

TV idents.tv is a blog dedicated to bringing television idents and promos from across the world. Oh how I miss the old BBC4 ones and look at those titles – “The Man Who Deciphered Linear B” is a favourite. [via]

"I've always concentrated more on the articles than the comic strip, but this was outstanding."

TV Tremendous find at Kasterborous -- a young(ish) Russell T Davies writes to Doctor Who Weekly: "The magazine has been excellent from the start, but at last, since issue 50 or so, it has truly found its own voice, with a perfect balance of articles. From now on, provided there are no massive alterations, you can take the superlatives for granted."

[link broken now sadly]

The Space Age.

Books  Science fiction has always had a slightly over accelerated expectation of the future.  Only recently have the kinds of issues Orwell talked about in 1984 come into being frightening the life out of all of us; the film Strange Days hedged its bets about what the millennium would look like and struck out somewhat in thinking that Skunk Anansie would still have a career let alone sing in the year 2000; 20o1 was a bust and the less said about Blade Runner which was the kiss of death to all of the brands it featured, the better.

It’s against this kind of landscape that The Space Age is established, this time with the expectation that the future would look like The Jetsons or those modernist cityscapes that graced the likes of Amazing Stories or Galaxy magazines in the 1950s and 60s and the cinema of the time, by the year 2000.  Within this, author Steve Lyons inexplicably drops the cast of the classic mods and rockers film Quadrophenia and has them and our regulars experience a plotline straight out of The Twilight Zone.  It’s exactly the kind of list approach to story lining that Russell T Davies says he never does in the new series even though he clearly does and on this occasion it really works - to a point.

Lyons has always been one of my favourite spin-off writers, with his chameleonic ability to recreate any of the shows eras in print, the likes of The Witch Hunters (which set Hartnell and friends in against the Salam witch trials) being so good that sometimes its easy to forget that there wasn’t some original lost story, so I was interesting to see how the author dealt with the kind of anti-era, the experimental Doctor without a continuous house style.  The answer is that like the best authors in the series, he’s followed his own nose, letting the scenario and the ideas dictate the mood of the writing.

The book opens then in the manner of a Rod Serling voice over speaking directly to the reader as the scenario begins, friends at the beach discovering the alien space craft that would be both their saviour and eventual downfall.  After this prologue, and as we discover that the kids have apparently been taken to the future to continue their turf war within a future city that fulfils their every limited desire.  The writing shifts into a kind of pulp style redolent of those sci-fi novels of the early 50s and 60s filled with descriptions of the world and reveling in the technology with slightly banal dialogue, then as the novel progresses, and the Doctor and pals intervene with the world, the text becomes more sophisticated, the concepts shifting towards Philip K Dick then eventually into something approaching a ‘real’ Doctor Who novel.

For once, this kind of intellectual game works because Lyons is pitch perfect in his portrayal of the regulars, convincingly keeping them in the tradition of the series.  It’s utilizes a very simply structured with the Doctor becoming involved with the rockers and Fitz with the mods each group trying to take advantage of these space men from the sky, their plight and progression through the story and the world forever being compared and contrasted, juxtaposing each others discoveries on top of one another.  Compassion meanwhile has seized up, the TARDIS section of her rapidly subsuming her original personality.

If the novel doesn’t quite convince its because it collapses under the perennial problem of the novels of providing a range of characters few of whom are clearly defined enough for us to care about their fate.  Obviously the heads of the two gangs Alec and Ricky are supposed to be largely the same, their preoccupation being to kill the other, and although that helps the reader to see them from the Doctor’s perspective and futility of taking sides it also means that they’re difficult to sympathise with them as well.  The female characters probably come off best, with Sandra (who I’m sure looks exactly like Grease’s Olivia Newton John) being caught between her brother and her boyfriend, Juliet-style, and technician Gillian, Doctor’s one off companion for much of the story who slowly begins to see his view of the conflict and eventually follows him into the dark heart of this neo-futuristic city.