Christmas moment.

Every year I have a Christmas moment. It usually happens some time late in October, or early in November. I’ll walking down the street, watching television, listening to music or traveling somewhere and realise that, well, Christmas is coming. Each year, though, I think my Christmas moment is coming later and later (unlike the tat in shops which is on sale earlier and earlier – give it a decade and the plastic Christmas trees and tinsel will be on the shelves on the Bank Holiday after Easter).

Perhaps it’s just my age, perhaps I’m becoming more jaded, perhaps or perhaps. I even thought that this year it wouldn’t happen, that I’d be sitting on Christmas Eve wrapping presents, eating mince pies and watching The Muppet Christmas Carol and trying to work out what I’ll be doing the next day. It’s happened before.

Then, the other day, well alright, Mon-day, it finally happened. I’d just left Zack and Miri, thinking about visit Lakeland Plastics, looked up and saw these:

Xmas decorations, originally uploaded by saralparker.

Giant plastic 'paper' chains, some might say strewn, others dangling across the Liverpool One Shopping Centre. One of those visions you know subconsciously must be appearing at a hundred similar retail opportunities across the world, but even so look impossible. I had a Christmas moment and an overwhelming feeling of goodwill shot through me from my head to toe and I've been smiling ever since.

If books can be brought to mobile phones etc, why not interactive text adventures?

I'm listening to Miles Davies's Kind of Blue album, which is the only kind of thing you can do on a day like today, as the rain hammers the windows.

Sachsgate emails: 'I would say take it out but it ... is VERY funny'
"Andrew Sachs is aware and is happy with the results which were recorded his end for him to hear." No he isn't.

Anatomy of a Flop
Which isn't just worth reading to find out how hit records aren't made but also because of the kicking the thing gets in the comments: "the problem with the song, though, is that it takes too long to get to the hook. i had lost hope before the hook actually arrived because there was so much “throat-clearing” in anticipation of the hook."

Ben Nevis
I think this might be one of Pete's best ever photographs.

Water ice glaciers spotted on Mars
Answer to David Bowie's incessant questioning presumably forthcoming.

A "Cullumder".
Which is now my second favourite music related stupid made up word. The first of course being...

Super Powers
This is what Heroes should be like.

What does this mean?
Seek and ye shall find?

Waiter Rant inadvertently captures the essence of most of Frank Capra's films in a visit to the launderette. Timely.

DVD Times on Black Emanuelle
This isn't safe for work or in other letters NSFW, the section reviewing the transfer tickled me: "this is pornography and most of the dialogue is either redubbed or looped, which doesn't help the presentation of the audio track".

Madeleine Peyroux - Bare Bones - 10 Mar 2009
Grins. An import (if you're in the UK). Though a UK edition should be forthcoming, presumably.

The etiquette of leaving the theatre mid-play
I always wait for the interval though I have been at productions were people have thundered out sooner. Unlike films, it's unfortunate how theatre productions which don't begin well rarely get better. I also think that it's about time that there was a mechanism whereby you can claim for a full or partial refund if you're leaving because you're not enjoying yourself. It seems to me there's a contract between you and the performers for them to entertain you and if that isn't happening they've failed.

So Home Secretary Jacqui Smith wants to 'tackle' prostitution.
Belle tackles the issue. It's not bad legislation idea -- it's just too vague and ill-designed for practice.

On Death Comes to Time and the new starship Enterprise
Allyn discusses one of Doctor Who's many false dawns. "It still doesn’t fit. If you accept anything that Doctor Who has done, past or future, then Death Comes to Time doesn’t fit. On its own terms, it’s an interesting story of the passing of gods. As part of the larger symphony, it’s a dischordant note sounded on a tuba where the score calls for strings."

Gradation of emphasis, starring Glenn Ford
DB talks about how subliminal information within a film frame can make all the difference, the viewer receiving information before the protagonist. It's precisely the kind of subliminal textuality which is increasingly missing from films these days as filmmakers are forced to make every beat of the story obvious, even during stories where this is counterproductive.

A First Draft of Gore Vidal's Illustrated Memoir
... appeared on the BBC and spoke to some man I didn't know who asked me questions he knew I had an answer for, but I wasn't going to tell him.

Dear Don Draper, I'm haunted by the memory of a girl who left me. How do I get this girl off my mind?
This might be longest answer fake-DD has ever given and his most lyrical. Give that blogger a job on the series someone.

BLDBLOG: Code 46
Discusses the architecture in Michael Winterbottom's underrated film. I think in about ten years this is one of those works which is going to be rediscovered and seen for the clever piece of futurology it is.

Wil Wheaton's Geek in Review: When the MCP Was Just a Chess Program
Whenever I see a cinema trailer for some new game at the cinema, with its near realistic landscapes and half realistic characters I compare that experience to spending hours trying to get around Hampstead or being lost in this forest, simple text providing all of the atmosphere required. We seem to be in an age of the collective loss of imagination. Just a thought: instead of some arcade game or point and click adventure, why doesn't someone release a text adventure based on Harry Potter with JK Rowling supplying the text? If books can be brought to mobile phones etc, why not interactive text adventures?

I wasn't going to do this.

TV I wasn't going to do this. It's Thursday night, I should have better things to do. But after sitting through yet another interminable episode of Heroes last night on BBC Three (so potential spoilers ahead for anyone else who isn't with me) I simply can't let this panel with creator Tim Kring pass-by without more comment than a simple link.

I liked the first series of Heroes very much. From the intriguing first episode wit the exhuberant moment of excitement from Heroes through to the admittedly slightly lumpy conclusion it seemed to be oen of the few television does superheroes series that tapped into what I used to like about comic books before they became a continuity quagmire filled with pointless huge events and little substance.

It tapped into the geek vibe perfectly, with enough nods to other sources to suggest that the writers had seen the same things as the rest of us and from the off were making a series directly for us. It didn't patronise, didn't seem to be pretending in the way the likes of Charmed always seemed. Above it was a worth replacement for the likes of Buffy and Angel with the potential to be as great.

Then the second series broke it. And the third has stamped all over the bits.

In this panel at the, in this case ironically named, Creative Screenwriting Expo, creator Kring answered question from fans in regards to the writing of the show. Here's what he said and what I think of what he said. Now I should preface these comments by saying that I understand that creating, writing and producing a show of this scale must be extremely difficult. What I'm questioning is if he's the right man for the job. Let's begin with apologies for any grammar and spelling in advance -- I'm typing quickly and I've not much time...

Going back to the origins of the show, Kring explained how he had recognized that NBC did not have any sort of ensemble, serialized drama, in the wake of the success of shows like 24 and Lost. Having come from procedural series, including his own Crossing Jordan, Kring said he saw an opportunity there when he conceived of Heroes, which was "a completely different animal" from his previous work.

Joss Whedon came to Buffy having written for sitcom. A writer isn't their material.

He joked that quickly he wondered, "What was I thinking?" noting that a serialized show is "an absolute bear to do." Kring said he's also finding, "It's a very flawed way of telling stories on network television right now, because of the advent of the DVR and online streaming. The engine that drove [serialized TV] was you had to be in front of the TV [when it aired]. Now you can watch it when you want, where you want, how you want to watch it, and almost all of those ways are superior to watching it on air. So [watching it] on air is related to the saps and the dips**s who can't figure out how to watch it in a superior way."

... then he basically calls people who like appointment television, to look forward to seeing a show broadcast on a weekly basis, who like serials and the gap between episodes to cogitate on what they've seen dipshits. Well fuck you very much for your honesty. He's wrong of course. Though there's room for stand alones and serials, the latter has a built in audience, who like to see characters grow. The trick is to do a bit of both, to have stand alone stories and running storylines across episodes, something Heroes did a bit in its opening series and which The West Wing, Buffy and Doctor Who these days have done well.

Kring said no final ending for Heroes has been conceived, noting, "We didn't have an island to get off of." On top of that, Kring noted that "My original idea was more of an anthological vibe to it, where you regenerate the characters."

Veiled Lost reference there. Actually, you did have a goal, a very good one, but you pissed it away at the close of season one. A surprising number of shows don't, but with a piece like Heroes you'd at least need to have a notion, simply because of all the characters involved. Audiences can smell when you don't know what your end game is. Look at The X-Files which began to look stale by the sixth season because we'd all worked out that Chris Carter had less of an idea of what his mythology meant than we did.

Kring explained he had thought they could almost completely replace the characters each season, remarking, "I was primarily fascinated by the origin story. Once the original story is over, and the character has no more questions about what's happening or existential drama, then the questions become just about plot, and then it becomes harder for me personally to connect to."

So you create new ones. Imagine if proper comic book creators had this approach. "Well, y'know Spider-man has realised he needs to be a hero to salve his consience about the Uncle Ben. Better get another hero." Oh come on! Buffy took five years to realise that the reason she was the chosen one was because she was prepared to die for what she believed in. Most of the origin stories at Marvel were ten page lead ins to better adventures -- they've been embelished a bit over the years, but what's really funky is what happens afterwards which counts. It's your own fault if the characters you've created aren't rich enough and don't have enough traits to withstand a bit of plot over character or don't have anywhere else to go.

However, Kring continued that, "The problem is you run into a whole series of issues, where show and business run into each other. The network falls in love with characters, the audience falls in love with characters, the press falls in love with characters. And it's contractually hard to get people onboard for a brief period." As a result, Kring said, "You find yourself writing for characters you thought would be gone."

Well, duh. Television is seduction, it's enticing your audience in with good writing and also characters they can believe in or love and want to see again week in and out. But if your plan is to refresh the cast every now and then, you have to build that in from the off, you need to let them know that they can't expect to be watching this crowd in four season's time should all go to plan. Most shows have a casting attrition rate -- none of the original cast are still regulars on E.R. -- so its also possible to do it gradually.

Asked if the audience reaction ever influences the stories, Kring replied, "It's never directly, because we're so far ahead of them. We were shooting episode 13 [the final chapter of the current volume, "Villains"] when we launched [Season 3]. Any feedback by the audience is irrelevant in terms of that. But bigger trends you want to follow."

Never, ever listen to fans. We know shit all about how to make drama and if your vision is so flimsy that it lets their ideas in, you're on a hiding to nothing. That said, this fan thinks that you do have a habit of killing off the great characters which would have stood you in great stead in story terms -- Adam for example was a waste.

Kring feels that gauging the reaction to a story "us generally not very calculable. It's the old adage, 'That's why god made chocolate and vanilla.' What one person loves, somebody else hates. It's really hard to discern 'Is that a trend or one guy's opinion?' Reading chat boards can be a study in futility, as far as that's concerned."

Well alright, now we're getting somewhere.

Kring said that he felt the shorter "Volumes" Heroes does now, as opposed to season-long arcs, allows them to tell new or more casual viewers "every couple of months, 'come on in, the water's fine.' You can hop on the train and you won't have missed too much."

There are no casual viewers for a series like this and it's a false premise to say that they'll think about waiting a few months to tune in if a storyline has already started. If you're writing a series well enough, there should be enough exposition to explain anything they've missed, which is why you space out the story a bit more than the series is at the moment. [spoiler] The two scenes of Sylar and Elle and Parkman in Angela Petrelli's head could have been extended to a whole episode with the Hiro stuff as a C-plot all of that was compelling enough. The West Wing did this kind of thing all the time -- whole episodes set in the oval office. Plus Star Trek: The Next Generation's Chain of Command "There are four lights!"

Heroes is written in an unusual manner, with each writer assigned to a different storyline (usually sticking with one character or pairing of characters). Kring explained how that worked when it came to the credited writer for an episode. [...] That being said, Kring revealed that, "This season I've written five episodes so far, all by myself."

Words fail me. I'm betting the coherent and best episodes are the ones Kring wrote. No wonder some of them seem so uneven and random. Yup. The usual process is to break the story then hand it off to a single writer or writing team and then often a polish is done by the series creator. In the above process the writing is done on the scripts which are then stitched together which is to be fair how DC's 52 was done, but it still sounds like a mad way to script a television programme. No wonder it's often obstusely complicated and you're not sure what the motivations are half the time. Is Sylar
supposed to be good or bad now? This next bits fun ...

An audience member asked about Caitlin, Peter Petrelli's love interest from Season 2, who was last seen left behind in a plague-stricken future – a future that thanks to the re-shot end of "Generations," doesn't exist. Kring revealed that if the strike hadn't cut Season 2 short, the plan was, "to get to [Caitlin] around episode 14 or 15, during 'Exodus'. She was a casualty of that storyline never being told." After the long hiatus during which Heroes was off the air, Kring said, "We realized that going back to [Caitlin] nine and a half months later would have been insanity." He felt that while there would "be some people asking about it, but for most people it would have been a hard left [in the story]." When the fan asked if Peter would ever acknowledge Caitlin or express any grief over what seems to be her dire fate, Kring replied, "No, we passed it. We leapfrogged it."He added that when the idea of returning to Caitlin was brought up, they asked, "Really? Are we going to risk that? We have enough stuff to [deal with]."

Apart from taking the piss out of people who care about the damn storyline your spinning and want to know what happened to a character you spent episodes creating and making us like, as with Adam it's an example Kring not keeping some gold in his back pocket. Some of the best episodes in television and stories in comics can come from tying up a loose end like this one. Imagine an episode told half from Caitlin's POV in which she experiences changes in the timeline around her demonstrating to the audience how the choices Peter's making in the past are directly effecting the future. At present it weaken's Peter's character that he's not even mentioned or thought about his old girlfriend in this context. At this point, she's simply gone to Mandyland.

That being said, Kring said he was "very interested in a more standalone version of Heroes. I think the show needs to move towards that in order to survive. I think the serialized format is very challenging on network television."

No I think your version of it is challenged. As I've said, it can work. You can have mythology and stand alone at the same time, not one or the other. But in that case you need to be more about 'villain/disaster of the week' or decide exactly what kind of the story you want to tell.

Another fan asked about Claire Bennet and her ability to heal others with her blood. Kring said a plot point like that, "Gives us freedom and then it screws us up. What often happens on a show like this is you often get boxed in – you set a fuse of something that's just too easy to use. A weapon that's just too sharp. Then you have to blunt it again. You have to figure out ways to take it away, once you've put it out there." Kring said another example of that is Peter Petrelli, who got to the point where "he's so powerful that there's no challenge for the character. So now we've found ways to wipe that out and bring him back to normal again."

That's about the only thing I do agree with. Making Peter human again gives him a challenge -- that storyline worked very well in the Spiderman comics -- he was treated like a pinata by the supervillain community. He's had the power and now he's having to deal with not having it again. But paradoxes abound. How did future Peter come back in time if he never existed in the first place (as far as we know).

Asked what he would do differently, looking back, Kring said, "It's very hard to be peoples' friends and colleague at the same time you're the boss. It's a constant struggle. I was a very reluctant boss." Kring referenced all of the various places his attention has been pulled in with Heroes, including all its various cross promotions and multimedia tie-ins and said that if he could do it all again, "I would probably delegate more responsibilities earlier, so it doesn't take so long [for others] learn it."

Megalomania much? But it's true that the series went to far into merchandising too quickly, even before its core values had been established. Over mechandise something and it can become less special if you're not careful. Not related, but why isn't Parkman funny anymore?

When it comes to time travel as a plot point, Kring said, "I'd encourage everyone to avoid it. It's a minefield that will make your mind explode. It will just drive you crazy. That's been something we've tried to use with a certain amount of rules - Not being able to change the future unless you go back. That device has been one of those that's just been so complicated for us." He added that when it comes to time travel, "We are taking a little hiatus from that for the next 12 episodes," referring to the next volume, "Fugitives."

Thank god. One of the problems with the series is that we've seen so many different versions of the future, we've no clue which is supposed to be the right one. The answer's obviously, none of them, but we've seen so many of these now its impacted on our understanding of who the 'contemporary' characters are and what their motivations are supposed to be.

Kring said he saw "Fugitives" as a chance "for us to wipe the table [clean]." Kring revealed that the big question that storyline centers on is, "What happens when our people have to go underground and go back to being normal after two and a half years of being superheroes?"

Oh fuck no. So we're back to the opening of seasons two and three again. That said, wasn't the show more fun when the heroes had proper secret identities and actually acted like heroes now and then instead of just throwing each other around? This could work!

Asked what super power he'd like himself, Kring drew laughs, answering, "Time travel, so you can go back and correct all the mistakes you've made!" Kring went on to say, "I cannot stress enough the imperfect science that making a show is." He noted that on Heroes, "We often have three different directors working on any given day," and scenes from certain episodes shot months apart, because " Actors are not available, so you drop them in later. I have crazy stories on how this big giant mess is made every week. Once you get on the assembly line and you're cranking it out at the pace that we're doing, it's kind of a miracle that more stuff doesn't go wrong."

He's talking about Zaach Quinto last year who was off making Star Trek.

There's nothing about Heroes that isn't fixable. It just needs to slow down, try and do so much so quickly, focus on one or two characters each episode or failing that make it the Hiro/Ando hour. They're still the best, most entertaining thing about it and what's keeping me watching. Well that and Haydn.

Maybe nothing. Possibly something.

TV  I've just had the following conversation on Twitter which I thought was worth posting here for reasons that will become apparent:

kariebookish Has the new Doctor been revealed by actor's slip-up on BBC24's entertainment show? Actor said "P. Joseph .. y'know the new .. *potential ...

feelinglistless Which actor? Although they could just have been working from speculation. C. Tate did that once.

kariebookish He's in Survivors with Mr Joseph - Phillip Rhys was talking about his fellow cast members in the new series and looked mortified afterwards

kariebookish Oh fuck. You're right. PJ probably found out during the Survivors production and told people. Happened to DT during Quatermass.

kariebookish Can't believe nobody else caught the interview. Where are the fanboys I want to know.

feelinglistless I'm off to Outpost Gallifrey to see if its a thing there yet.

kariebookish Tragically I'm heading to LJ and a knitting forum. Need to broaden my fangirl horizons. Have also blogged just to say told-you-so ..nor not.

feelinglistless Current OG discussion: "What if the Doctor regenerates into a Dalek? " Typical. Would you mind me posting this conversation on Behind The Sofa?

kariebookish Nope. Go ahead.

I didn't see it myself (obviously) but this sounds exactly like the way we'd get a confirmation in this day and age, a slip of the tongue by Reza from the second season of 24, doing fluff ironically for the remake of a series created by Terry Nation. So then. Paterson Joseph off of Neverwhere (and a few things since). I was hoping for Callum Blue myself.


[The interview's now dropped off YouTube.]

it's very watchable again

Elsewhere My review of last night's Sarah Jane Adventures which was the best of the series so far despite the general lack of its title character. Can anyone work out this week's lyric reference? Now, back to The West Wing. I've begun watching Season Six and though it's a different show to the Sorkin era -- more plot than character based -- it's very watchable again. I'm liking Deborah Cahn's writing in particular.

I almost cried again.

Politics Watch this:

It's like a four minute synopsis of The Inconvenient Truth. I almost cried again.

Lipnicki! He's old!

Enter the School of Life
Some bright spark has decided to turn this into a real bricks and mortar place offering courses and texts, a self helper's paradise, though there also seems to be the aroma of Lifehacker too.

Timeline of US Presidential Elections
... or the bullet points of North American history in one easy to digest page. Loads to take in, but I hadn't realised Nixon had won his second term on such a huge mandate -- McGovern only won 17 electoral college votes. No wonder the American people felt so betrayed by Watergate. See also these wikipedia pages dedicated to The West Wing elections in 1998, 2002 and 2006, which are almost as detailed as the one for the real thing.

Can a Soccer Star Block Google Searches?
"A spokesperson for Google Argentina labeled the lawsuit "completely illogical. It would be like suing the newsstand for what appears in the newspapers it sells. Or demanding the newsstand vendor to tear out offending pages from the newspapers. The lawsuits should be against the websites carrying the information, not us." - classic Commodore 64 games online!
A gaming nostalgia trip in one handy webpage, no downloads necessary. Includes Spindizzy!

Ah, sweet nostalgia!
I have a copy of Crush Groove for much the same reason. It's impossible to watch a film like that on dvd.

OCLC Claims Ownership of Data In OPACs
Which is a bit like the Wikipedia turning around and asserting copyright. Oh come on!

AE#10: Porous Masonry Walls

Stephen Fry once said that nothing man made is beautiful. Sometimes he can be wrong. Even with something as grey as concrete.

QMx announces the official Map of the ‘Verse
I have a fantasy that when the world does end, and someone else is excavating the remains they'll find these and think this is how we viewed the universe. See also Ptolemy.

'Jerry Maguire' Kid is All Grown Up
Lipnicki! He's old!

Sugar Water: Print, Profits, and “The Paper”
Highly underrated film that I don't think even had a theatrical release in the UK. It was old fashioned at the time of its release and in this web intensive decade probably seems arcane. The rest of the piece has some useful things to say about how newspapers will survive in the online era. They'll never completely die out I don't think. Like books, people like to hold them in hand, smell the paper and print and they're far easier to navigate than anything which might appear on a screen.

The Mark of the Berserker.

TV I tend to be the kind of person who fixates on unusual details. I saw Kevin Smith’s new film Zack and Miri Make A Porno Monday lunchtime and I was disappointed, despite being a big fan of the director's other films. And comics. And one man shows. For professional reasons I spent hours afterwards agonising as to what went wrong not really coming up with an answer but late in evening I began to wonder if it had to one of his casting choices in about the third scene, when we’re introduced to the coffee shop were Zack works and his boss, an angry so-and-so, with rude tongue. He’s played by Gerry Bednob who offers some of the most bizarre line readings this side of Matthew Waterhouse, and his verbal gesticulation stayed with me through some of the next few minutes of the film and kept returning now and for the other hour and a half. I was distracted.

Much the same thing happened in The Mark of the Berserker, but for different reasons. We can argue the character logic of Clyde taking his errant father up to the attic all we want but after Paul compared this alien tech to the Daleks, I stopped listening as suddenly this direct link to Journey’s End crashed in and more than that a proper, specific acknowledgement that mankind does indeed know of the existence of aliens on-mass. I know we’ve seen conversations about the Christmas goings on and whatnot in the main series, but this is the first time I think it’s been done so casually, as though it's accepted that yeah, there are aliens, fact of life, but y’know the government and army deal with it in general so I’ll just get on with my life as it stands, until the Earth drops out of its orbit again. Or whatever. I was distracted for the next hour, thinking about the fictional implications of that, but thankfully on this occasion not enough to ruin what might be the best story of this season so far.

Having been generally annoyed with the two-part format this season, I decided as an experiment to watch Joseph Lister’s story all in one go. Of course, I would pick the Sarah Jane lite story which contrary to rumour I think probably has more to do with a bit of double banking rather than simply giving Liz a week off. As a single fifty minutes it certainly held up and writer Joseph Lister paced the story well across both episodes, with its early spooky school based scenes, holding some of his story over to the second episode, compared to most first episodes this season where most of the revelations are already plotted out leaving everything to unspool in the second. Here the simplistic structure seemed deliberately chosen to allow room for a more character based tale, unlike most stories where it tends to be an excuse for more running around. It's a credit to director Joss Agnew that this shift into emotions over exploits didn't jar.

Even with Sarah Jane on sabbatical, Berserker was a PTA meeting full of parental guidance. Firstly, we’ve Clyde’s parents, yet another dysfunctional couple in the Whoniverse, and as ever it’s difficult to see how these two got together, let alone long enough to get married and have a child, specially since Carla seems like such an intelligent woman. Cleverly written as though she’s always naturally been in the mix, the key to Carla’s success as a character was Jocelyn Jee Esien whose subtlely strong portrayal of a wronged wife might well be another candidate for this series’s Bernard Cribbins, the comedy actor breaking our heart. I can’t believe this is the same woman who’s irritated me so in her comedy series and if Cardiff have any sense they’ll make her a regular next series.

Auf Wiedersehen Pet extra Paul is precisely the kind of washed up figure who usually turns up in fantasy shows when the writer needs someone to blunder into a situation, the kind of deadbeat who can’t do right for wrong, can’t understand why he can’t just waltz in and out of their child’s life, and hopes that they can change things just by being there. Gary Beadle painted him broad strokes initially, but was much better towards the end as he lost control finding himself unable to stop changing Clyde to the point of making him lose all of those things which made him different on really coming into his own when the Berserker finally took hold, offering some old school menace.

Maria’s Dad Tom made a welcome return and reminded us what an empty suit in writing terms (the) Rani’s father Haresh is. Perhaps I’m mentally retconning my memory of what Maria’s parents were like in the first series, but I do remember them being more compelling than this man whose whole contribution to the story was deciding on what to have for tea before barking like a dog and doing push-ups for half an hour, which you really can’t compare with someone clever enough to hack into UNIT files undetected. Obviously the production team wanted to contrast the two so as to make this new family distinctly different, and it’s no slight against actor Ace Bhatti who is doing his best, and I know that kids probably loved seeing Rani have that kind of control over her Dad, but it just seemed a bit – undignified (see what listening to Radio’s 3 & 4 all the time can do to you?).

As ever the kids were reliably good, especially Daniel Anthony who excelled when given more than wise cracks to work with, the first time this series where Clyde is a proper character rather than a walking punchline. It must not be easy when shooting a piece like to keep track of what you’re supposed to know when and how to react when a slice of your memory has been nullified, Daniel pitched it brilliantly, especially the moment when everything but his father had drifted away and when he had to look his friends and mother in the eye without a glimmer of recognition. Then, in the middle of it all we there’s the inevitable meeting between Rani and Maria and like the moment in Journey’s End were Rose and Martha finally looked each other in the eye, albeit over a video link, there was no bitchiness, flying in the face of perceived wisdom in kids dramas these days that all teenage girls want to do is scrape each other’s eyes out.

This was ultimately a very small story about parents and children in which, like the best early episodes of Buffy, the fantasy intrusion highlighted the thematic element of the story – that from a certain point parents can no longer control their kids and that similarly your mum and dad will end up disappointing you. Oh, and that an alien pendent isn’t really going to help the situation. It’s precisely the kind of tale I’d expected SJA to tell from the off, before like the parent series, every threat became global, and though there’s a suggestion of that in the Beserker’s commotion at the climax, this was ultimately the story of parental kidnapping, which is pleasingly dark stuff considering the timeslot.

Next Week (or the week after I’m not sure yet): The tempter, or the tempted, who sins most, huh?

mawkish sentimentality

Elsewhere I've written about Kevin Smith's new film Zack and Miri Make A Porno for Liverpool Confidential. It's not awful, just not his best and I think I enjoyed Jersey Girl more despite that film's mawkish sentimentality. Plus I missed Jay and Silent Bob -- it doesn't seem like a proper Smith film without them.

though who does these days?

Elsewhere A review of last night's ripping Doctor Who radio show which was the best of this series so far. If you have a spare hour (though who does these days?) it's worth giving it a go at listen again.

Grand Theft Cosmos.

Audio Michael Maloney has always been a favourite actor of mine. A board walker from the same tradition as Ken Branagh, you probably remember him as the bloke who isn’t Alan Rickman in Truly Madly Deeply. Maloney’s never out of work, on stage, screen, radio and television, but like the best character actors he’s never become a household name or even been ‘that guy’ despite turning up in everything. Look at his CV. Everything. Even Robin Hood. And Rosemary & Thyme. I think he even audition for the TV movie and he would have been equally as good as Paul. Watch In The Bleak Midwinter as he works the one liners and pathos, with his long hair and jacket and you’ll see what a tragedy it is that we’ll never see him stepping out of the TARDIS.

It’s worth speculating whether, if he’d been ten years younger, he’d be on the ever growing list of successor to the television part. Surprisingly, having been in everything, he hadn’t been in Doctor Who until Grand Theft Cosmos and as ever he’s reliably good in pretty thankless role of Simonsson, a one man Jago and Litefoot, full of pride and bluster. Lately he’s been stuck playing creeps but here we got to hear the lighter side of his abilities and he was clearly enjoying himself, bouncing off McGann, his accent dripping with the period. At least if he isn’t offered a supporting role in the television series at some time in the future, we can knock him off the list of timelord potentials who’s at least turned up in the franchise somewhere.

My enthusiasm at this bit of casting transfers to the whole of the episode. It was a riot and probably the best of this series so far. Both of Eddie Robson’s plays last year were a bit lopsided, entertaining without being completely satisfying. None of that here. Splicing Doctor Who with the heist and hustle genres with the Doctor expending his powers to grand larceny is a great idea and then injecting the Headhunter into the mix completes the package, contrasting the timelord’s utilitarianism with good old fashioned profit. I’ve thrown the word ‘romp’ around a bit lately but again there’s no other way to describe this but unlike Dead London which I grouched about being an essentially empty experience thematically, this has something to say about the responsibility of creation and what you do having consequences.

With its quasi-historical eurosoup setting a lazy comparison would be City of Death with its reliance on the affairs of artists, potential fun with temporal anomalies, breaking in and out of chateaus and people hitting each other over the head. It’s not quite as good or timeless as that (obviously) but Robson does have fun with etiquette and people’s inability to focus on anything that doesn’t specifically affect them. Never mind the great living statue knocking holes in the roof of the dining car, what about the bits of masonry falling in my soup? That’s actually a very clever piece of audio writing because it gives the necessary exposition to the ‘background’ characters leaving the stars to deal with the problem at hand.

It’s basically the first episode I wouldn’t mind listening to again. Like the Gilmore Girls or The West Wing during the Sorkin era, this burns through dialogue and most of it very amusing and at times laugh out loud funny. There’s a wink in Robson’s writing as he underscores the ludicrousness of the re-appearance of Karen, understand that our reaction to her reappearance would be general bewilderment and putting our words into the Doctor’s mouth so that Lucie can offer a none too stealthy explanation. It’s pacey without ever feeling rushed, rarely committing the crime of many of these audios of belabouring incidents which are essentially visual – the sword fight between the Doctor and a guardsman quickly dispensed with as Lucie heads off after the black item that isn’t a proper diamond (which brought to mind the jewel from Men in Black -- I do like my pocket universes).

But the biggest surprise arrived in Beyond The Vortex which revealed that Paul and Sheridan recorded their parts on different days (a frequent situation at Big Finish apparently). I’d all planned to write about how good their chemistry was in this bouncing off one another, but turns out they were bouncing off Katerina Olsson and Nick Briggs respectively, which actually makes their performances even more impressive, especially on hearing that Smith did hers within forty-five minutes, the hilariously hoity-toity guise of Palmer-Tompkinson included. It’s a pity we’ll never hear Olsson’s version of the character though – did she attempt the accent or play it straight? Either way, she’s just perfect in her signature role of the Headhunter, not particularly evil, just the kind of person who, like the nerks in the train car, can’t understand why the universe doesn’t realise that she’s the most important thing in it.

Though aren’t we all like that sometimes?

Next week: Goodie, goodie, yum, yum.