TV Terry Wogan sounded particularly disillusioned at the close of tonight's Eurovision Song Contest and who outside of the Easten Bloc could blame him? For a while I thought the Greek Britney (as my mate Fani described her via text) was in with a chance. But the Russians crept in largely by stealth, receiving votes of some sort from almost everyone with the few douzes tossed in by neighbours. It was a rubbish, dated song sang with a kind of flat charisma and certainly inferior to at least fifteen of the others. Andy Abrahams wasn't *that bad* actually in the end and certainly didn't deserve the ignominy of being bottom of the table because of an alphabet malfunction.
Law Whose committing the crime here? Some things are simply more important than a few rent payments you philistines.
Computers I'm not sure Tiswas would have achieved this quite so artistically.
People Clair's date:
"Soo, then I go to the pub and this R chappy turns up 20 minutes late, I am looking hawt over a vodka and pomegranate and we converse for, ooh, 40 mins about this band he's managing, music, stuff etc.And then I realise his profile pic is about a decade old"
Was it Paul Reynolds from Flock of Seagulls? Steve Strange?
TV I've seen this posted in about five places now and it is hilarious and subversive in just the right ways. Spoilers if you haven't seen series two of Torchwood though. Intrigued?

"Between the end of Final Score and the start of Basil Brush."

Communications Mitch Benn reveals a rather startling fact about Swiss telephone boxes.
Life I received some amazing customer service, and by amazing I mean in the sense of being rubbish. The envelope my latest dvd from LoveFilm came in also included a voucher offering what looked like forty pound's worth of merchandise from Virgin Wines. There was a website and telephone number and since I wasn't near a computer I decided to call them to find out what the catch was.

Suspiciously I got straight through and found myself talking to a salesman who seemed to be auditioning for a slot on BidUpTV. He was bright and cheerful in a way that human being really shouldn't be at that time of the morning. He explained that it was a wine club, that you have to pay about eighty pounds up front and then you pay in so much as you wanted to a month.

I was quite happy to let the fella talk and feel like he's doing well, simply because having worked in call centres I know that you yearn for the easy customers and for all I knew his last caller had rung up to complain about the quality of the last bottle of Pinot they'd been sent. It was all going fine in fact until he directed me to the website and said:

"Well you can go to our website - now look it's a bit technical but in layman's terms...."

Am I wrong to find that deeply offensive, particularly in this day and age? I wanted to say -- "I've got two degrees and have been using the web for fifteen years you patronising cock." But then it occurred to me that it didn't seem like something which he'd improvised too, it sounded like part of the script he'd been given to work from -- the patter which is supposed to seem natural but is written on a screen or laminate near his computer.

He explained that you give them thirty pounds and then they add an extra tenner to your account. Which is fine -- expensive and not something I'd necessarily be interested in -- but sounds like a fair deal for someone who wants to stay at home and pretend they're in the film Sideways. But I was certainly less disposed after the representative from the company I was calling assumed I must be an idiot and they had to spell everything out to me.

Me? sensitive?

From Shrieker To Softy

TV A bit random, but while I was waiting for Eurovision earlier I happened upon Spendaholics the BBC Three series in which two experts help someone bring down their debt and give them a personality transplant in the process.

In this episode, Rebecca must lose £13,000 but apart from that is it just me or is she basically um, Donna Noble? It's really disconcerting. And doesn't she go through much the same trajectory as Catherine Tate's character from shrieker to softy? The episode's on iPlayer now if you can be bothered. It's not just me, is it? Is it!?!
Music New Carla Bruni album imminent: "She has written 14 tracks herself but her agent has said that 95% of the songs were written before she met Sarkozy. This leaves critics looking for the bits inspired by the president. The album includes a cover of the song You Belong to Me, once covered by Bob Dylan, which will bring back memories of the couple's highly controversial public cavorting on Middle Eastern mini-breaks: "See the Pyramids/Along the Nile/Watch the sun rise/On a tropic isle/Just remember darling/All the while/You belong to me.""

“We don’t get many visitors like yourself…”

Art Visiting Accrington’s Haworth Art Gallery was an example of just how barmy my quest to visiting all of the venues listed in Edward Morris’s Public Art Collections in North-West England actually is. Haworth boasts Europe’s largest collection of Tiffany glass on public display, some hundred and forty pieces. It fills the whole of the top floor of an old Edwardian house and is promoted on their leaflets and prominently on their website. So imagine the look of surprise on the receptionist's face when I said that I’d gone there from Liverpool to see their fine art collection, the dozen or so examples of which appear on a corridor just off the entrance hall and a stairwell. “We don’t get many visitors like yourself…” She said.

Set in its own gardens, this was home to the Haworths, a family of cotton manufacturers until 1910 when it was gifted to the people of Accrington and its been a museum ever since. The collection is gathered from purchases made by the family to be originally displayed in the local library and items bequeathed from their own collection. Presumably these filled the house until the early thirties when local lad Joseph Briggs who’d moved to New York and worked for Tiffany sent his collection back home and were then given display space. The fine art collection that now isn't on display is still available for viewing by appointment. I didn’t have an appointment so I simply enjoyed what can be seen now.

The best is undoubtedly The Laundress (1858) by Edward Frere. John Ruskin apparently said that he found Frere's work to have the depth of William Wordsworth, the grace of Joshua Reynolds, and the holiness of Fra Angelico. I don’t know if I’d agree with that, but there’s definitely something about this dusky study of a woman ironing linen. It’s actually a fairly melancholic image as Vermeerian light dips through a window across a straw summer hat (admirably painted using a twirly brush stroke) suggesting the life of leisure this woman may never have. Next to that is a portrait by Lord Leighton, Faith, a study of a Dorothy Dene clasping her hands in prayer. Dene was an actress who posed often for Leighton and can be seen in this really famous full length image of her sleeping.

One of the most famous paintings in the collection according to Edward is Storm off the French Coast by C.J. Vernet in which a peach-coloured sky lets little light onto a ship wrecked in a tempest on rocks just metres away from harbour. Apparently the artist usually painted directly from nature and would often take himself out, mid storm, to see how the elements reacted to one another so that he could capture them realistically on the canvas. It shows. This is not the kind of weather you’d want to be caught out in and you do sympathise with the sailors he shows desperately trying to get shore in the lifeboats. That’s in the stairwell at the bottom of the banister of which is a rather curious carving of a child playing bag pipes. Since Howarth did not leave many papers no one at the galleries has any idea how it got there, although they do know that he had some friends in Scotland and that its of a different type of wood, so it could have been a present.

As for the Tiffany glass. Bizarrely considering my interest in painting and sculpture I’ve never really taken to decorative arts. Looking at a glass vase or plate I can see the obvious skill and work which has gone into its creation, how in some cases as much creativity as is needed to write a piece of music, paint a picture or write a poem is required. But simply can’t enthuse about the result. So you’ll be sorry to hear, especially if you’re a fan yourself, that as I whisked myself through the Tiffany galleries it didn’t do anything for me and I don’t see any point in pretending otherwise. I did try though, and that’s the main thing I suppose.

I paradoxically very much like a two dimensional collage of Sulphar-crested Cockatoos probably made by Briggs himself, presumably because um, it looks a bit like a painting. Thin slivers of glass were cut and layered one on top of the other to mix colours together and create the right lighting effects to give the impression of precious stones, jades and opals and it’s a stunning construct the blues of the flowers contrasting well with the creams and whites of the birds. I even bought a postcard and though the photograph dulls the image a little bit it’s a permanent implication that as with anything else, that it might be just that don’t appreciate glass and pottery and particularly Tiffany, yet.
Politics Nick Clegg, current leader of the Liberal Democrats writes what might be the most coherent article about the general state of modern politics I've ever read:
"A place where MPs vote on their own pay and expenses. Where backbenchers can wait on the green benches for up to six hours, just to make a three-minute speech. Woe betide anyone who ventures to the loo: they're liable to lose the chance of speaking at all. There are different coloured carpets to tell you what part of the building you're in. Different people with different coloured badges are allowed on different parts of the river terrace according to what time of year it is. A place, in short, from another age."
Of course, as a Lib Dem I'm biased, but this is a fluid piece of text I'd urge anyone to read. The actual business of government these days seems to be done by civil servants whilst people in the chamber spend their days point scoring and trying (and usually failing) not to look like an idiot. [via]
TV Trust Damon to come up with something this pithy and funny about the Doctor Who change over...
"Oh lordy! I've just had a thought. Is this going to be like the change over between Blair and Brown? Are we going to find out in some hastily published memoirs that Moffat's been jangling the TARDIS keys over Davies' head for the past few years? Will we find out that Davies' wife fell pregnant during a stop over at the annual Balmoral Who Convention because they forgot the sonic contraception equipment? Will we find out that Chibnall was bulimic all through his tenure in charge of Torchwood..."
I actually choked on my toast this morning when I read that. Genius.

"Ten and a five please."

Life Anyone else of a certain age from Liverpool looking at this little slip of paper and feeling the weight of years? I found this bus ticket pretending to be a book mark in an old encyclopaedia earlier today and was immediately taken back to the early eighties when bus drivers, pre-deregulation, used to issue them from a small metal machine near their cab. 25p would be enough to travel all the way from Speke, on the outskirts of Liverpool where I lived, into the city centre (it now costs £1.50). It would be ten pence for an adult to go one or two stops (it now also costs £1.50 – which is clearly wrong) and five pence for a child.

I remember this so well because on leaving primary school I’d want to rush home in time for The Family Ness or Jimbo & the Jet Set and even though it was only a couple of stops the bus was the quickest route. I’ve shown this to a couple of people today and on both occasions I could see them having similar memories, marveling that such a small piece of ephemera, forgotten in favour of the computerised tickets which came along not long afterwards, could survive across the years. It’s just a flimsy little thing, easily lost in a pocket or bag.

These days, bus companies are rightly or wrongly interested in how many people are traveling on routes and when so that they can adjust their service and also make sure their getting the right amount of money back from their workers, which means printed tickets, large by comparison. In those days, it was simply enough for the council to get you from A to B and make sure there were enough buses to do that sort of thing (even if most of them were falling apart). As with most things in this future of ours, I don’t know that things have actually got better and if you don’t mind me being political in this final sentence, that the companies are more interested in profits rather than actually helping the general public get around town.
TV You might have heard the news today and oh boy it’s good. We (meaning us Doctor Who fans) knew Russell T Davies wouldn’t be around in perpetuity and although Steven Moffat taking his place as show runner and head writer was a possibility, no one was confirming anything and there was always the chance that a bean counter or someone with only a passing interest in the franchise could take over (I even feared it might be Chris Chibnell, the Fred Freiberger of this franchise until he sodded off to run Law & Order: London). That’s exactly the kind of thing that has hurt the show in the past but now we have someone who’s genuinely one of us, someone who even posts regularly to the main Doctor Who discussion board, and more importantly can write (with Bafta and Hugo awards to prove it).

There’s not one thing that Moffat’s written that I haven’t loved. Both of his main sitcoms Joking Apart and Coupling took great pleasure in subverting the format showing that even if you’re studio bound it’s no reason not to deconstruct your storytelling style and editing. In the UK at least I don’t think there’s been anything more innovative than the episode of Coupling in which the same chat up conversation was played from two different language perspectives and funny both ways around. Joking Apart managed to be tragic fantastic mixing elements of farce with a genuinely touching portrayal of a break up. But Jekyll’s recently proved he has the drama chops too but again he turned would could have been a run of the mill, murder of the week premise into something far crazier and intriguing.

His writing of Doctor Who for television also pre-dates Davies in that he scripted the Comic Relief spoof, The Curse of the Fatal Death in the late nineties. For some that was the final nail in the coffin of the franchise, at least on television but for me it was a genuinely affectionate love letter to the series that included plenty of references only us fans would get and in Hugh Grant the best Doctor we never had (and in Richard E Grant the worst Doctor we ended up with during another false dawn). But even if that didn't prove even then that he would be a worthy man to carry the torch, he also managed to name one of the characters in Coupling, Steven Taylor after an early companion from 60s during the Hartnell era.

Every episode he's written for Doctor Who has won or been nominated for the prestigious Nebula award, for a Bafta Craft or Welsh Bafta Award. That's no mean feat, and neither is the fact that Blink has been adjudged the best episode of the last series, even though it's the one that hardly features the main character who's main contribution was via a tv screen, the actor reading his part from an autocue. All of his episodes have been special, from the uplifting ending to the The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances in which the Doctor, still experiencing guilt from the destruction of his guilt finally managed to save the day ("Just this once, Rose, everybody lives!") or The Girl In The Fireplace in which he convincingly showed the Doctor falling in love with a courtesan over forty-five minutes. And all have been properly scary turning gas masks, the tick of a clock and statues into points of fear for children and adults everywhere.

None of which should draw away from what Russell’s achieved with the show. Naysayers with fandom always forget that the series wouldn’t be back and as successful as it is without his interest in it. The oft told story is that the BBC were desperate to have him working for them and when asked what would make him move to the corporation, he said ‘Doctor Who’ and that got the ball rolling. The series might have returned without him, but there can’t have been many others who would be brave enough to see how you could do it as both a re-imagining and a continuation of what’s gone before rather than a simple remake, who would notice that the best fantasy dramas often have a rich pre-existing mythological background. He's also been clever enough to know that you don't mess about with Moffat's scripts and the new showrunner's words are the only ones which Russell doesn't do a final polish on.

It might have seemed left of field for some that the writer of Queer as Folk and The Second Coming would want to try his hand at this, but on reflection he was the perfect man for the job. Without him it's doubtful that we would have had such a solid base in the first season’s lead as Chris Eccleston and the multi-tonal David Tennant following on both showing that the timelord is best portrayed in three dimensions and not the reputed one note character of the past. He somehow also noticed that it is possible to write the series with an eye to both the child and adult audiences, for the most part not alienating either demographics, and also mostly treating them as an intelligent species able to cope with quite complex storytelling imported from film.

He’s been criticised mostly for his writing and although even I can’t deny that just sometimes he lets the excessive parts of his imagination get the better of him, his love for the character and the franchise is always apparent and that he always has their best interests at heart. There’s genuine glee from Russell during some of those dvd and podcast commentaries at the ideas he’s had and the thoughts of the reaction from both the hardcore fanbase and the casuals. Last year’s return of The Master (in the episode Utopia) which managed to draw together seemingly disparate elements from throughout the series, was an amazing piece of structuring which even if you had already had the re-emergence spoiled by a tabloid was still gripping for it's sheer audacity.

So I do hope that Davies stays on-board the Tardis to pen at least one episode a year under Moffat in much the same way that Terrance Dicks kept his toe in when Robert Holmes followed him his job as script editor in the 70s. For my money, his best episodes have been the near stand alones, such as Boomtown which featured a battle between the Doctor and an alien at a dinner table and Tooth & Claw which had Queen Victoria fighting a werewolf. Both of those were apparently written in a hurry but perhaps without the mechanics of a whole season to worry about he’d be happy just to have to keep an eye on successive drafts of the one story rather than trying to deliver two or three interconnected episodes in time for the close of seasons. There’s more Doctor Who as well as other things in that imagination of his and I for one can’t wait to see if and what he writes next.
Music Glutton for punishment I’m ‘enjoying’ the full Eurovision experience this year, tuning in for both semi-finals ahead of Saturday. Tonight’s show was about as disappointing as I expected with retina splitting production values, a steady stream of average ballads and novelty records but with the odd moment of genuine goodness. The Belgium entry, decked in a dress borrowed from Strawberry Switchblade, took the Sigur Ros approach of making up her own language and I think if she hadn’t been called Ishtar with all the jinxiness that name attracts she might have gone through.

Finland’s Teräsbetoni scored because they’re from a genre totally unlike anything else there and Kalomira from Greece was essentially British weather girl Laura Tobin pretending to be Britney Spears. But my favourite and the only genuinely good song came from Norway’s Maria Haukaas Storeng, a Jewel Kilcher lookalike sounding like Christina Aguilera when she’s not doing interesting things with oils. She once played Ophelia at the theatre with adds a few points, but the song was about something and had a beginning middle and end and at least she's not a turkey (Dustin’s only admirable quality was actually mentioning Terry Wogan in a Eurovision song, not that it did it much good. That’s comedy in Ireland? Yeah, err, grand).
Journalism The Telegraph post Guardian interview about their My Telegraph service before The Guardian does. Hilarity ensues:
"Q. For example, we've found instances of BNP campaign literature being published on the site. What is your policy towards this? Will it be any different after the relaunch?
A. There is also content from Conservative councillors and party members as well as from Labour activists, Ukip supporters and independents. We don't endorse content posted by BNP supporters but we accept that they are a legal political party and they have the same right to free speech as anyone else. However, readers can report content that concerns them and we will examine it and take action based on our assessment.
The comments which follow are about what you'd expect, somewhat underscoring all of the prejudices highlighted in The Guardian's questions. I'm quite happy being a liberal, thanks, if that means I think racism, bigotry and sexism are bad things.

Three days later, The Guardian's posted the article in question, referring to that Telegraph post mid-stream (though oddly not linking to it) and offering a very balanced discussion of the responsibility websites must have over the content they host, especially if it is user generated. Here's my slightly less balanced view, from when My Telegraph launched.

Lost in Travelodge

TV Yesterday's freebie Observer Books of Books listed the top 10 books left behind in hotel rooms. Here's the complete list:

1 The Blair Years by Alastair Campbell
2 Don't You Know who I Am? by Piers Morgan
3 A Whole New World by Jordan
4 Wicked by Jilly Cooper
5 Dr Who: Creatures and Demons by Justin Richards
6 The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown
7 I Can Make You Thin by Paul McKenna
8 Humble Pie by Gordon Ramsay
9 The Story of A Man and His Mouth by Chris Moyles
10 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
Note: From a 2007 survey compiled by the hotel chain Travelodge. More than 6,500 books are left behind in Travelodge rooms each year

Isn't that extraordinary? Bet it never happened to Peter Haining. Not that Justin's in the most illustrious of company...

“I’d best go and tell the curator what I’ve done.”

Art Marshall Claxton’s painting The Lifeboat offers an exciting image of a group of people clinging desperately to the mast of a ship which has sunk. Their anguished eyes wonder if they’ll ever be saved. A woman prays. Another is attempting to save her child as he sinks below the waves. A man hands an infant up to the waiting arms of its mother. In the distance (as you might expect from the title) hope is at hand in the form of a lifeboat, paddling through the rain in a desperate fight to get the group before they’re taken by the sea forever. It’s exciting and action packed and startling and then you discover that the artist is reputed to have been witness to the scene as he travelled back from Australia having set up an art school there. This is from life.

Rossendale Museum in Rawtenstall is rightly very proud of this painting (which has recently spent a couple of years on loan to a gallery in Oz) – it’s the highlight of a small but rather wonderful assortment which deserves more attention that it probably receives. Edward Morris’s Public Art Collections in North-West England devotes a single page to the place but that’s understandable given the paintings are but one aspect of a general museum collection which also includes a natural history display and thorough exhibition about the area. Opened in 1902 in Oak Hill, the former residence of mill owner George Hardman, it’s how Sudley House might have turned out if they’d also had to find room for the collection of World Museum Liverpool too.

As I strolled up the hill towards the museum from Rawtenstall I was slowly gaining the impression that it might not be open. It wasn’t. Although two locals sat in a bench in the grounds looking out towards the Lancashire countryside which is beautiful and visible from up there, all of the lights were off and oddly some construction tape had been wound around the fence posts on either side of the front door. I walked to the side of the house anyway and tried pushing the disabled entrance door open but it didn’t budge. I thought for a moment, sighed and knocked on the door.

No answer. I noticed a bell. I rang it. Still nothing. Deciding that at least I could say I’d been, I began to walk away, but then heard noises from inside and moments the later the door opened. A man stood looking at me. I asked him if they were closed and he told me they were closed all of Monday and Friday for maintenance. I tried my luck and told him I’d travelled all the way from Liverpool to see the museum. “Well,” he said, “You’d better come in then.” And basically opened up the venue just for me, switching on all the lights and explaining to me where everything was kept. I felt very honoured by that and grateful and tried not to take up too much of his time.

“I’d best go and tell the curator what I’ve done.” He said.

The fine art settles in two rooms on the ground floor and the hallway. The drawing room recreates the style and furnishings of the 1880s like a concentrated Dunham Massey, though its not an accurate representation of what would have been their originally – there’s no surviving photographic evidence of that. It’s a lush, opulent space where the labeling highlights the furniture but doesn’t mention the rather nice portrait on the wall opposite the fireplace. This woman with silky smooth skin in crimson drapery reclining with a sword is something of a mystery – the attendant says their not sure of its origins but there must be some story behind those eyes. You’d like to think that she’s had some previous connection to the house, perhaps an obscured clue to one of its secrets.

The Lifeboat is in the fine and decorative arts room next door. Presumably because the display apparently changes periodically the guidebook is more interested in the wall paper, but you’re more likely to find yourself standing opposite Pamela, a girl depicted in a full length portrait. The sub-heading for John Collier’s painting is Stepping Stones and my impression is that the stones she stands upon symbolically representing those tentative steps into adulthood. She looks like a younger version of actress Heather Graham, a not yet society deb dressed in nothing but a white dress within a wood. It’s probably as unproblematic as Collier gets and has a far more innocent atmosphere in comparison to the likes of Lilith which scorches up the main gallery space at the Atkinson Gallery in Southport. I’d be intrigued to know who this Pamela is – none of the biographies I can find online mention her or this painting for that matter, even though it was donated by the artist’s wife.

I ended my look at the fine art collection at the Devil’s Bridge on the St Gothard Pass, Thomas Creswick’s untypical landscape in which a wooden bridge is mercilessly wrecked by a violent torrent of water gushing down a mountain. Dark satanic hills overlook a scene in which what remains of humanity’s stamp on the landscape is washed away, wooden logs strewn and broken against rocks. As Edward notes: ‘There’s no room for man’ and you genuinely hope that someone wasn’t crossing the bridge just before Atlantic rocked. As global tragedies in recent weeks in China and Burma demonstrate we might think that were in control of our own destiny, but nature has other ideas.
Elsewhere Ripping. Toppo. Supar.

The Unicorn and the Wasp.

Hastings had an open face. Poirot uncharacteristically rubbed the back of his neck.
“This is certainly not the kind of mystery I am most comfortable with.” he said. “When I was improbably ushered into the BBC by Scotland Yard to investigate the disappearances I thought this was as you say, an open and shut case. However our adventure has grown far larger than my usual environs to encompass the entirety of London. My provinces are not giant robots or the Loch Ness Monster, but they are yours Mr. Dicks. You must think, think which heavenly species may be conducting this silent invasion!”
Terrance tapped his finger on his chin thoughtfully. Then his eyes brightened with the pleasure of a realisation.
“It’s the Autons!” He said.

TV Doctor Who continues its cultural tourism with Agatha Christie. As Voyage of the Damned, the other recent cross genre experiment demonstrated, you do have to be careful how you deploy the various tropes of each format otherwise one ends up canceling out the other. In this case though, the two aren’t as unlike as they might at first appear. Murder mysteries have been an aspect of the franchise for decades, stories pinioned on an opening moment in which the Doctor steps out of the Tardis and within seconds tripping over a dead body, moments later tasking himself with discovering who the culprit is (often finding himself accused). Isn’t that how Planet of the Ood began?

More often than not that’s usually a precursor to some much larger story, but there have also been a fair share of proper whodunits, not least Horror of Fang Rock in which the bodies start piling up and the timelord doesn’t really work out what’s going on until the climax. It would be improper not to mention The Chimes of Midnight too, in which the Doctor and Charley are very much the visiting detective and sidekick and although that spins off into murkier territory, again there’s the final revelatory twist and all of the archetypes of a Christie mystery, albeit downstairs, are present. There’s also The Banquo Legacy told from the point of view of the would be investigator and cultpit with the Eighth Doctor and friends and the then current arc plot buzzing around.

As ever it’s the setting which changed in The Unicorn and the Wasp, the mode. The production team succeeded in producing an episode with an atmosphere unlike most other Doctor Who and probably authentic enough that if you slapped it out on ITV3 on a Sunday afternoon with adverts for AXA Sun Alliance and the RSPCA every five minutes it would fit right in (with the exception of the ruddy great Wasp). Which is more than can be said for Black Orchid. The casting helped enormously here, with a assemblage which have already got, if not a Christie adaptation some kind of costume drama, on their CV. Christopher Benjamin, the not so wheelchair bound Colonel Hugh, has seen the most action having dodged knives and bullets Campion, Maigret, Morse, Foyle’s War, Midsomer Murders and even Rosemary & Thyme. Speaking of which, this was only Felicity Kendall’s second television acting job this century. We’re honoured.

Undoubtedly and rightly the best element of the episode was Fenella Woolgar, an actress I’ve been following since Bright Young Things and who is criminally undervalued at a time when television and film set amongst the upper classes are out of favour, unless Kiera Knightley’s in the cast. As we saw in that film and Jekyll, she has the capacity to go quite broad and cartoonesque, but here she offered a naturalistic characterisation counter pointing the near parody of the cat-in-headlights sheen of Kendall, sensitive and with the writer’s real life recent tragedy just simmering under the surface -- you could believe she had the capacity to write those books. Woolgar’s chemistry with Tennant was delectable too – the pacing scene in particular showing the kind of trust and history which isn’t always apparent in television when two actors have only recently met at the read through.

David was on top form here, bursting with energy and ideas and not at all looking tired which best will in the world he did a bit last week. That’s possibly because oddly, despite being broadcast seventh it was the first episode the be shot of the series (in a block with the Ood) and I do think that reflected in Catherine’s performance, still exceptional but just now and then betraying moments in which she’d not quite decided how to pitch the episodic Donna who we’ve previously seen mellow quite a bit. But her playing of the poison scene was priceless as were the reactions during the exposition scene. Very clever idea from Gareth to have Donna treat the whole thing like she’s watching a movie.

The problem was that unlike those television Poirots and Marples it lacked the running time to really explore the premise and although you couldn’t justify making this story a two-parter in present circumstances, it’s the first in a long while which really suffered from not having the four episode structure of the original series. To be a proper whodunit, the audience needed time to get to know the potential suspects. Choosing archetypes helped, as did those hilarious flashbacks, but the final reveals in that long exposition scene (the likes of which we haven’t enjoyed since the Hartnell era) would have been more effective if we’d known more about the guests, foibles and red herrings included. The Unicorn in particular was a missed opportunity, Felicity Jones’s bright performance suggesting a potentially far richer figure than the screen time allowed.

How delighted you were with the episode probably depended on how much you love Agatha Christie. Roberts is clearly as much of the author’s work as Shakespeare, but unlike him and Frank it seems I’m almost totally unfamiliar with the canon, my only previous experience being snatched moments of Poirot and that episode of the new version of Marple with Sophia Myles and Paul McGann in an eye patch. Not even the well rendered giant wasp meant that I didn’t help spending some of the time not quite getting the joke, realising that something really interesting was happening but that unless I go out and purposefully work my way through the author’s back catalogue I’m never really going to enjoy everything as much as I’d like. Which is fine. I’d be worried if Doctor Who appealed to me all of the time.

Perhaps I’ll dig out that tv adaptation of Sad Cyprus, at least. Paul McGann’s in that too.

Next Week: Another former Eastern Bloc country wins Eurovision.