“Sickness, like sex, demands a private room, or at the very least, a discreet curtain around the ward bed” - Violet Weingarten

Life One the rare occasions when I do get a cold, it's never a bang, fuck you, and out. It's a slow process in which I can feel every symptom creeping in and taking up home. It probably accounts for why I've been so out of sorts this week leading to a rather lame showing on the blog. You'll forgive me, then, hopefully for presenting a few odd comments and links huddling together pretending to be something better. Back to full strength soon I hope.

Review 2007: Update: eight contributors so far and as with the last couple of years I'm trying to get one for every day in December. Details available here. Don't worry if you don't think you can write. I've been writing this for six and half years and it's never stopped me. Also if you're one of the eight, do please reply by the end of this month so that I can start posting thing from the first of the month.

Martha Rosler’s Library: "The library consists of nearly 7800 volumes all from Rosler’s collection, mostly in English, and includes catalogues, essays, documentation in subjects ranging from art, theory, women’s studies, science, politics, revolution, poetry and fiction."

Found in the referrer logs: The difference between Mozart and Shakira. Well, there's their ages for a start.

Ancient Marvels Abound at Vintage Computer Festival
: "Topics at the Vintage Computer Festival ranged from a discussion of the RAMAC -- the first spinning disk drive -- to a brief history of "phone phreaking" to the role of the TRS-80 in the PC revolution."

I've updated the filmlog.

Are you malcoordinated or uncoordinated?

I've also attempted a review of last night's rather wonderful Doctor Who Team-Up. Warning, the sofa seems to be lost in a vortex at the moment so the link might not work.

Teen Accused of Stealing Virtual Goods: "The youth in the Netherlands was on one of those Web sites where you create virtual people to wander around virtual buildings spending what amounts to real money. You pay cash for credits to spend online. The 17-year-old allegedly stole $5,800 worth of imaginary furniture. Real police arrested him. They suspect other teens of receiving the stolen goods."

The BBC consolidates its disparate blogs onto one page with a single mega RSS feed.

Odds and Bodkins: Isabella Rossellini Awkwardness, Much More: "So there I am with Isabella and David. Me: HowdoyoudogoshImsohonoredtomeetyou. Isabella: What did you think of the movie? Me: You must be very proud. Isabella: That depends on what you thought of the movie."

Time Crash.

TV As soon as it started I felt privileged to be a Doctor Who fan. Sir Guy of Gisbourne was stalking menacingly around Nottingham Castle again and it was all to do with whomever Maid Marion has been spending her time with. Strangely the appearance of Pudsey Bear was less anachronistic than it might have been considering everyone else in that version of the twelfth century seems to have been to the John Lewis sale for their make-up and costumes. You do have to feel sorry for the Robin Hood fans who have to content themselves with a non-canonical skit, albeit with a cute wink from the lovely Lucy Griffiths and the sight of Guy almost hanging a stuffed bear.

Not for them a musical lead in from Myleene ‘full of’ Klass and John ‘full of’ Barrowman (far preferable to the Jordan and Andre suck fest from last time which some of us still have to endure if we want to hear the proper cloister bell). Not for them a Radio Times cover and mention in the listings, a canonical story which brings back a well loved incarnation from the past, written by the man who brought us the best episode of the last series. Not for them a whole five minutes dropped in to the mayhem, instead their mini-episode wrapped around some shambling on some stairs with Wogan menacing a school boy for some cash. Kind of makes you feel like tv fan royalty.

The script for Time Crash was vintage Steven Moffat; funny, exciting and touching and enveloped around a time travel related conceit. In fact, it was the same kind of paradoxical causality loop we saw in Blink, in which the Doctor could only follow the plan that Sally had already passed on to him in the folder. And so Tenth knew how to fix the Tardis because he’d already seen it as Fifth, even though neither of them had experienced the brainwave. Of course it does beg the question how he then forgot about telling himself about the return of the Master (and his wife) but that information was probably lost in one of the Eighth Doctor’s several spells of amnesia so we’ll forgive him. That should sort out problems with The Five Doctors too. Oh how we wish that the series had been this well written back then.

I think Time Crash was about as good as we could have hoped it would be, ultimately ignoring many of our expectations and doing something better. Whereas I’d expected some veiled reference to Dimensions in Time and the emotional journey being the fact that Tenth couldn’t tell Fifth about the time war (which I do hope they’re saving for the extravaganza with the Eighth Doctor which my fan gene expects this was a precursor to) this was about what is to be a fan, in an even more direct way than Love and Monsters (Fifth’s heard of LINDA! Yay, LINDA!), and more specifically a fan of David Tennant’s generation for whom Peter Davison was their Doctor and who we (because he was really – I just say Paul McGann because I like looking at raised eyebrows). Even the title must be a riff on a certain story recently released on dvd featuring a supersonic aircraft and the Master in a rubbish, sorry, rubber mask).

All of the continuity references! As well as affectionately ripping the piss out of the Peter Davison era, with its synthesiser music (nice one Murray 'err um' Gold), spectacles, the hands free, rubbish beards, funny hats and decorative vegetables, David got to say things like Nyssa and Tegan and the Mara (but not Adric or Turlough) as though remembering when he was pulled out of history and we remembered with him (even if it suggested a placement for Fifth as just after Snakedance which means we’re remember Martin Clunes in make-up (boxset with Kinda due next year then).

And wasn’t Peter Davison good? When the new show was being cast, way before we were waiting for Christopher, I suggested that Pete should be given another go at it. I can see why that didn’t happen (see Russell's comments on older actors from Project Who), but he’s really grown into the role. Often maligned because his television era only really brought us about four unequivocally good stories, he himself has admitted it wasn’t until Caves of Andronzani that he really understood how to play the Doctor and that certainly shows in his Big Finish stories from which I think you can see some continuity here – the grumpiness is definitely a carry over as well as the gruff.

Davison's was a very gracious performance, essentially providing something for the current incumbent to bounce off. Tennant was certainly at the apogee of his Tennantness, but that just heightened the differences between them even as he listed the similarities. For all Russell’s bluff about taking Terry Dick’s opinion that the Doctor stays the same and it’s whatever the actor brings to the role, he does spend a lot of time making observations, making fun, turning on a dime in a crisis and shouting which are things that Davison’s Doctor rarely did. Not that he had much time with all the bickering.

It’s a shame that Graham Harper didn’t receive an on-screen credit here since his work here was superb, never once letting the camera rest too long anywhere – loads of energy and whatnot, always keeping the two Doctors in the same frame underlining their connection. Tucking the story into the end of The Last of the Timelords worked well too and unlike the Pudsey Cutaway, you really couldn’t see the join, well not with these old eyes. Except the colours in the Tardis seemed much richer to me, the lighting emphasizing the yellows and greens highlighting the two costumes.

Were they really Peter’s old cricket whites? That stick of celery looked far too healthy …

“Popular in our time, unpopular in his. So runs the stereotype of rejected genius.” -- Robert Hughes

TV There's a rather irritating advert for Radio 5 Live knocking around the BBC at the moment. Actually the idea is quite good. In order to demonstrate that the station does analysis as well as just news and sport it features a couple of situations in which news worthy and erm, sport worthy events are broken into as the protagonists then talk about what they're doing and how it could be done better. The first is a police chase in which a copper manages to pin a criminal to the ground who then gives him a discourse on his technique. What I'd like to know is -- why is the criminal a scouser? Haven't we gotten over this stuff? Why have different accents anyway (the copper is a cockney)? It just seems wrong to me that the BBC are reinforcing an age old stereotype in an advert for a radio station.

"He was my Henry Higgins." -- Nick Frost

TV Clips from a really informative and funny Q&A about Spaced. Wish I'd been there.

"Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure only death can stop it." -- Ernest Hemingway

TV Douglas McGrath offers a really useful explanation for why the writer's strike in the US is happening: "When video came into being, a new accommodation was made, allowing a small residual for tapes and then DVDs. I am not being hyperbolic when I say "small." For a DVD sold for $19.99, we are paid 4 cents. To put that in perspective, that means that to pay for one tank of gas, a writer needs to sell 1,500 DVDs. To put it another way, it's a penny less than if we returned an empty can of Coke."

"There are some things a man just can't walk away from." -- Stagecoach

Film O.A. Scott uncovers the Western genre and quotes from a few of the sources I used within my dissertation: "That description has been challenged by some recent scholarship. The film theorist Rick Altman, in “Film/Genre,” sees Porter’s film not as a western but as “a combination of travel and crime genres.” It was only over the course of the next decade, he argues, that the word “western” went from “a geographical adjective, designating a favored location for films of various types” to “a loosely defined film genre capitalizing on public interest in the American West.” In the earliest days of commercial cinema, exhibitors and advertisers described their wares as “cowboy pictures,” “Wild West films” or “westerns melodramas” (or comedies of romances). The West represented a setting and a style rather than a theme or a set of narrative conventions. The selling point, frequently, was a vicarious journey to an actual place. Altman reproduces a 1911 ad in Moving Picture News, purchased by a Chicago-based company, promising “real western pictures made in the land of the cowpuncher.”

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” -- Orson Welles

Radio Orson Welles meets HG Wells. Broadcast during the production of Citizen Kane which is mentioned. Just wonderful.

“If there was a trick, there must be a trickster.” -- Dorothy Miller Richardson

Elsewhere Now that I've wigged you out a bit -- seriously I'm alright, I probably just need to get out more -- here is something you may have missed.

“How could drops of water know themselves to be a river? Yet the river flows on." -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Life How are we feeling? As the autumn turns to winter I'm feeling it more than usual, as the nights drop by earlier each day and each morning is greeted by a very gray looking sky I can feel myself getting ever more unimpressed, not necessarily short tempered as slightly lost. This of course happens every year, but even with work and keeping myself busy around that, I just feel as though I'm missing something. Of course, there are all of things that many people my age do have, a relationship, a family, a mortgage, a car, a cat or a dog, responsibilities in general, but it's really not that. I'm missing something that's not related to any of that. It's like I'm a block of wood floating on a stream, with a world below that it only touches along the edges and surfaces, which is about to head into a river, rushing ever faster with the tide into a lake, with a heavy rainfall pushing it downwards into the deep just now and then.

Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane? (Part Two)

TV Perhaps the most illuminating discovery to be made watching the deleted scenes section of the new dvd release of the third series of nu-Who, other than the fact that the opening speech from Torchwood does indeed mean sod all just as we suspected, is how much everything in this untreated footage looks rather cheap and indeed like an old fan video before the final grading of the footage, the music and the ADR are added. It’s a sobering lesson in how the programme making process doesn’t end when the initial shoot is over and it isn’t simply a case, as some misguided fans I’m sure believe, of The Mill dropping in a few effects and Murray drowning everything in his music.

It’s also interesting to note though how much is lost – I don’t think the Daleks have quite as much presence in the final version of Evolution of the Daleks as they do in the theatre scene featured from there, the sound of Nick Briggs’s ring modulator ominously filling the space. To a certain extent too there’s a different the immediacy of the performances; Miranda Raison’s accent seems far less strained here and her best scene as Tallulah, trying to get across that field in her shoes was lost on the cutting room floor. David Tennant too still commands the camera even when it looks like something shot by Bill Baggs in the early 90s.

Goodness knows then what …

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?: Episode Two

… looked like before grading and whatnot, especially as it cut between the past, the alternate present and the void, all different and requiring their own special shooting conditions. Was the void shot against a green screen or in a studio not unlike the one in which the opening episode of The Mind Robber played out? Since the backing to the blog this fortnight seems have been shot on location in there, did Maria bump into Romana while she was waiting for Sarah to return? Was the sepia look of the scenes in the past achieved through a camera filter or in the computer? Just how did Sarah-Jane only appear in the mirror, Quantum Leap-style during the central show down with Andrea and The Trickster in her old attic?

But to be honest I’ve only thought of these questions after the fact – I was too rapt up in the episode to care, which is quite a compliment. This was a far talkier wrap up than in previous stories, dodging the typical run around in favour of big dialogue scenes covering weighty topics such as what a life is worth and whether the existence of one human being can be justified as being more important than another. Certainly this shares thematic similarities with The Family of Blood, but whereas John Smith was a fictional construct, Andrea Yates was a real person who’d simply not wanted to die at the age of thirteen.

Despite causing the abduction of Maria and nearly her father, Andrea somehow came across as a much more sympathetic character than last time, not genuinely evil just misguided and this had a lot to do with Jane Asher’s performance, as layered a characterisation as this series has seen, from her hostess duties at what had the potential to tip into Abigail not Andrea’s party to her sexually charged flirting with Maria’s Dad (which certainly turned this viewer’s head in more ways that one) to perfectly presenting a rapidly broken woman coming to terms with memories of a childhood decision and the implications of it.

This, then, was the first time in the series that the adults, including Sarah Jane, were at their most prominent. Joseph Millson was finally given something to and took advantage of the chance to shift Alan from being rather a one-note Dad figure into someone able to cope with the new alien discoveries as much as his daughter. It’s a shame that the secret from across the road has been revealed to Alan so early although it’s to the good that the potential paradox machine, sorry, reset switch that could have simply put everyone back to where they were with the same level of knowledge before the adventure began wasn’t flicked, the events of the story still having consequences.

Liz Sladen wasn’t a slouch either, dependably facing down the trickster whilst fretting about Luke whom she’s by now bonded with as though he were her real son. I’ve read a criticism somewhere in the past week that this iteration of the character has little to do with the figure who travelled with the Doctor which isn’t true at all, and indeed she’s a more logical progression that the rather strict woman who strode through K9 & Company. People change when they’re provided with differing perspective and responsibilities and like Captain Jack before her, she’s essentially carrying on the Doctor’s work the slow way. As Sarah admitted herself in the first part of the story, she has become a bit mumsy, but there are still the flashes of humour tempered with a new found authority when required.

My consternation last week of the result of Sarah Jane being taken from the time-mix were sort of addressed in the void, at least from a spin-off perspective as Ms. Smith listed her conquests and the Trickster said that he’d deflected them from Earth. It’s a pity the script didn’t go further though, talking about how the effect of pulling the character from history would have touched other eras of history. It would have odd though not to have mentioned the Doctor but then that led to my fan genes trying to work out exactly when he’d be pulled from time and how different the universe would be without him. Perhaps we’ve already seen that during the second series of new Doctor Who, the alternative world that gained a Rose still being devoid of her time lord friend.

Frankly, I could go one for many more thousands of words about how much I enjoyed this episode but at some point you do fear that you could head off into a territory of layering in superlatives that the actual programme can’t withstand. It can’t be that good can it? That meteor wasn’t the best we’ve ever seen, for example. Why did it seem to be targeted directly at Sarah Jane's house conveniently in the path of her laser beam? The alternative Clyde seemed a bit inconsistent – would cake really be enough of a reason to stick around at a birthday party with those people having not yet been softened by his association with Luke? I’m still not sure about Chrissie Jackson, who was given some pretty funny lines in here but seems to be a mismatch with the other Jacksons – you can’t plausibly see them as ever having been a family unit in the past and she hardly seems like Alan’s type.

The Graske, though a wonderful creation, could never sustain a full adventure (I'm hankering after a 3D Beep The Meep), but it would be a waste if this was the last we see of his master the Trickster, who was still bone chillingly scary. The quality of the ‘flashback’ was brilliantly realised considering the budget (great mini-Sarah), even if the accident at the pier might be another blow to the economy of seaside towns. Graham Harper’s direction, particular in those scenes, was superb and it seems bizarre that he’s not working on feature films, so able is he to cover action and actors, selecting the angles at which to shoot the pier hanger for maximum effect. The music was probably the best of the series, even if the Mr. Smith fanfare is becoming a bit repetitive. As with the rest of the series, at no point did it seem as though Gareth Robert’s script was oversimplifying everything for the kids, granting them with some intelligence, expecting them and us to keep up with the rapid scene and story changes, presenting a global apocalypse from a localized perspective.

This might well have been the best story of the series (so far).

Next week: The mystery of UNIT dating is finally solved. Possibly.