your tolerance of it

TV The BBC's new web series, The Well, or that thing with new nu-Who companion Karen Gillan I nearly blundered into earlier in the year is now online. It's a teen horror thing supported by an online game and your tolerance of it will probably depend on whether you can stand dialogue which includes what look likes an unironic use of the phrase "No probs, dollface." and if you want to watch the cast of Why Don't You? recreating The Descent or The Hole (I'm not sure which yet).

All eyes on Karen Gillan. She's in it quite a lot but not given much to do but be a bit posh and offer scorn and exposition. This isn't a Billie Piper in Bella and the Boys style eurekacorblimeyshe'sgood moment. She does give the odd look which hints at something interesting, but sadly The Kevin Bishop Show was a better shop window for what we can expect from Amy Pond, especially since there she was allowed to use her own accent. Plus it doesn't help that the other actress looks a bit like a young Billie (if you squint).

The house they borrowed is Ullet Grange, a Victorian Chateau which as of last year was in the process of being turned into apartments through a co-housing scheme. There's a better view of it at Panoramio, and you can just about make out the roof on Google Maps:

View Larger Map

As you can see it's fairly well hidden by trees which is probably why it made an ideal shooting location.

Special treat for Doctor Who fans in the city.

Liverpool Life Special treat for Doctor Who fans in the city. Sadly I'm working but I know someone will be interested so ...
CBBC brings The Sarah Jane Adventures to Liverpool this half term!

Exclusive screening of a brand new episode, featuring David Tennant as The Doctor. Plus a chance to meet stars from the series!

Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 October, 10am-5pm, Liverpool ONE, FREE

Fans of CBBC's The Sarah Jane Adventures, made by the team behind Doctor Who, have the unique opportunity to see a free sneak preview of a special episode of the series at ODEON Liverpool ONE, starring David Tennant as the time-travelling Doctor.

Not only will children get to see an episode before anybody else in the country, they will see behind the scenes footage of the making of the series and take part in a question and answer session with stars Tommy Knight who plays Luke Smith and Daniel Anthony who plays Clyde Langer.

Alternatively children can drop in to Liverpool ONE shopping centre to take part in a range of free activities. Sarah Jane’s companions including a replica of the Xylok supercomputer Mr Smith, robot dog K-9 plus some of the monsters from the series will be making their debut in Liverpool.

A special green screen experience will allow children to bust monster moves in front of a Sarah Jane virtual screen.

Finally braver volunteers will be transformed into monsters in the alien face painting zone. There will be free giveaways for children taking part in the activities.

From Liverpool One, CBBC fans will defend Earth from extraterrestrial threats and alien invaders!

Booking Details:


Turn up between 10am-5pm to take part in the free activities on the day at Liverpool One shopping centre – no booking required for these. Places are limited and allocated on a first come, first served basis.



If you want to see the free screening and attend the Q&A at the ODEON you need to pre-book seats as places are limited.

Visit [not that there seems to be anything there yet -- ed] or drop into ODEON Liverpool ONE, 14 Paradise Street, Liverpool, L1 8JF to reserve your seat.

Screenings times are 10.30am, 12.00pm, 1.30pm and 3.30pm on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 October

Tickets per family are limited to a maximum of six and places are strictly limited

Children must be between six to twelve years and accompanied by an adult or guardian at all times.

Free giveaways are limited. The BBC reserves the right to change and cancel these events at any time

Visit for more information on the series
I'd be interested to know how busy this gets. With the mother series mostly off air for the duration, the publicity machine is ramped up behind SJA this year, especially with The Doctor's appearance. Please do report back if you manage to get there and let me know what happened.

beloved classic Doctor Who producer

TV Damn. Barry Letts, beloved classic Doctor Who producer, has died:
"Letts's legacy to the programme included the creation of the character Sarah Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen on the BBC to this day, and the decision to cast Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. The latter was a decision for which Tom Baker was always ready to express immense gratitude, as when Letts appeared on his episode of "This is Your Life" in the year 2000."
It's a massive legacy. Many of the creatives he hired or collaborated with would create the mythos of the show which is still being developed today.

are there any old school Doctor Who fans out there



Lisa-Marie who writes the brilliant Last Year's Girl is trying to get hold of a copy of Doctor Who's Key To Time season. Her mum has an autistic boy in her class who is obsessed with the show and who has seen every episode but this story arc.

The season was released on UK dvd a couple of years ago, notoriously in a very limited edition and now copies are only available for £200 which is a bit expensive (region one isn't an option in this case).

This is a long shot, but are there any old school Doctor Who fans out there who were lucky enough to find a copy of the dvd and has a duplicate VHS copy they don't know what to do with and would like to donate/freecycle? It would be going to a very good home.

Don't contact me about this. You should email Lisa-Marie directly at

Thank you.


and even earlier

Blog! I've been reading Shauna's blog since 2001 and now she's become one of us (well one of us north of the border but still closer to the same geographic region):
"I reluctantly moved across the water to Dunfermline in 2005, just before I married Doctor G. I thought it was a grotty hellhole - incomprehensible accents, crappy shops and pavements strewn with exploded kebabs. But now The Dunny feels like home. Even if we could afford to move back to Edinburgh I think I'd stay here. As much as I miss Edinburgh's cafes and concerts, I like my tiny commute, my kickboxing club, the countryside access and laughing at the stupid peacocks strutting down the high street."
Incidentally, I don't think it's a dragon. I think it's a harvester.

Competition: Win one of two £25 vouchers.

Quiz! Yes, indeed. To thank you (and you and you and particularly you) for your readership, I'm offering £25 Amazon vouchers to two lucky readers, in association with

" brings together the best voucher codes, 2-for-1 restaurant vouchers, printable vouchers, deals and sales for hundreds of leading online stores to help save you more money. You can pick up a Lovefilm Discount Code, an Amazon Promotional Code or even Sky Offer Codes from the site."

To win one of the vouchers just answer the following quiz question about me, which might seem difficult and random but the answer is in the archives of this blog and elsewhere:

I like Doctor Who. Who is my favourite Doctor?

Email your answer to with the words "voucher competition" in the subject line.

Entries to reach me by midnight on Thursday 15th October.

Terms and conditions can be found at this link, though it's important to say, since there are readers here there and everywhere and of all ages, that this competition is only open to UK residents aged 18 years or over. Sorry.

Good luck to the rest of you.

RSC 2010

Next year's plans at the Royal Shakespeare Company have been released. Looks like I'll be taking another trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon:
"Hamlet, directed by Tarell Alvin McCraney – this new production will join a revival of The Comedy of Errors, directed by Paul Hunter, in Stratford for a special week of Young People's Shakespeare performances devoted to young audiences.
No word on casting, though it's an interesting choice for director. McCraney has been a playwright and actor in his own right and was RSC/Warwick International Playwright in Residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company last year. It's a production designed primarily for schools and is set to première in front of the press in London on 26 January. I'm hoping it will end up at the RSC's own venue later in the year.

receiving a knock

Film With Hitchcock’s reputation receiving a knock when both Marnie and Torn Curtain were hit with indifference, the director returned home to a project which had the whiff of someone working for themselves. Frenzy is the rather nasty story of a strangler at work on the then contemporary streets of 60s London, with the usual narrative engine of the wrongly accused man. In the hands of someone like Michael Winner this could have been an atrocity. But Hitch knows that your job is to keep the audience interested and the methodology doesn’t have to be gratuitous.

He runs a food motif runs through the film. The murderer hides a body in a potato van. Some of the action occurs around a vegetable market. When the police detective chats to his wife about the case to aid the audience’s understanding of the plot, the rather staid expositionals over the dinner table that you usually find in thrillers become instead a series of hilarious sequences as she repeated tries her gourmet cooking out on him and we see after meal of being presented with increasingly inedible food which he can’t cut, can’t chew and give him the collywobbles.

There’s also a rather remarkable sequence in which the strangler is invited into a lady’s flat and having already seen his work we know what to expect, we anticipate it. Instead, Hitch cuts away to the corridor outside her door and as she screams, the camera dollies backwards, back down the stairs, and out of the front door into a street, the sound of her death throws submerged in the every day hustle and bustle. Which is fine. Except the flat was on a sound stage and he somehow manages to seamlessly shift (with the help of an cart passing by in both locations) into some location filming, something I’ve seen done in recent film with the aid of green screen and CGI and probably costing a whole lot more.


Elsewhere Tonight's entertainment can be found at The Hamlet Weblog, were I become very excited by a new book which blows the play wide open. Honestly, yesterday afternoon all you could hear from me was "Why didn't I know about this before?"

'Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country' by Steve Roth.

Someone asked me, not too long ago, how much literary criticism I’d read on the subject of Hamlet, then raised some wonderfully cartoony eyebrows when I told him that I hadn’t. “But” he must have thought “You write that blog…” The problem with much of the criticism that’s been published in the past couple of centuries (at least from what I’ve seen) is that orthodoxy has led to stagnation and too often writers tie themselves in knots quoting from and disproving what has gone before instead of contributing something truly innovative on the subject. Plus it’s usually impenetrable and oppressive to the point of becoming unreadable.

Which makes Steve Roth’s Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country (of which the author was good enough to send me a copy) a rare pleasure because it’s very readable and manages to illuminate at least two aspects of the play that hadn’t occurred, at least to me, to the point that it makes me wonder if theatre has been doing the play a disservice for the past four hundred years. Roth’s persuasive central thesis which for some reason isn’t mentioned on the cover (making the book seem from the outside like just a general survey of the play) is that Hamlet is a teenager, just sixteen years old and that the time scheme of the play spans the six month period from September 1601 and February 1602.

Roth was influenced by L.C. Knight’s 1933 essay, “How Many Children Had Lady Macbeth?”, the setting up of a literary mystery based upon a tiny inference then shaking the whole of the text to see the extent to which it might yield an answer. Using a forensically detailed linguistic analysis of the text and it has to be admitted some disapproval of previous critics, Roth presents a range of evidence from quotes to background material, and does so in narrative style as he talks us through the steps he took and the brainwaves he enjoyed in working towards his answer.

The opening chapter regarding Hamlet’s age is available at the book’s promotional website along with a wealth of background evidential material. It seems only proper to let you read the chapter yourself and enjoy the eureka moment (assuming that, like me, you’re not a textual scholar). Whilst it’s true that “sexton” does refer to “officer charged with the maintenance of its buildings and/or the surrounding graveyard” [wiki] sixteen does seem like a better fit – and indeed Shakespeare always substituted words to create double meaning – his intention could have been to imply both.

If you assume that Hamlet is indeed just sixteen as the text of the First Folio suggests, as Roth goes on to demonstrate in the remainder of the book, all kinds of curious elements of the play begin to fall into place. Hamlet’s somewhat petulant behaviour becomes perfectly natural when we realise that we’re watching the story of a teenager on the edge of adulthood, that it’s a good old fashioned coming of age tale, a tragic teen drama with the cast predominantly made up of youngsters playing Ophelia, Laertes, Horatio, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

I love this. I also love that the gravedigger, far from the being the pensioner that turns up in most productions could in fact be “just” thirty years old, and Gertrude too, which as Roth notes means that she’s still of child bearing age and able to produce an heir to the throne to cement Claudius’s rights, simultaneously removing Hamlet from the accession (and explaining why he wasn't given the crown to begin with). It shows that even when a director thinks they’re stripping away the political dimension by cutting Fortinbras, it’s all still there even if it's refocusing on Elsinore’s court rather than the whole of Europe. This is not just a domestic drama.

In the appendixes, Roth does address why Shakespeare seems to wait until so late in the play to address the characters age. I simply assume now that at time of production, those casting the play would simply have been aware of the playwright’s intentions or the audience would have been aware of the artifice through some other means, something which didn’t filter through in the printing of the text and have been lost since. There is evidence that mature actors like Burbage played the role at the time but like the casting of boys for girls it's simply something else that the audience has to suspend their belief for.

Of course that doesn’t mean that in more realistic times when boys are boys and girls are girls that the various productions of the play in which adults walk around saying these lines are wrong. They’re following the orthodox version of the play in which the gravedigger is talking about his length of service and the prince is thirty years old (even if it also means that he’s a mature student). It’s simply part of whatever overall interpretation they’ve constructed and it certainly has more legitimacy than when Romeo & Juliet are portrayed by thirtysomethings even though Shakespeare isn’t as vague about their age.

The chronological discovery is equally fascinating, though it be would be wrong of me here to give all of that away. Suffice to say that Roth once again shows Shakespeare’s words to be a multi-faceted, clever writer, potentially layering into the play biographical commemorations. There’s an interactive version of his findings on the website, and again when you realise that the play takes place over six months, that far from dithering, Hamlet is playing the long-con, which only fails because of his hot-headed accidental manslaughter of Polonius. If this book gains the large audience it deserves, perhaps we’ll sometime see a film, which, after the Ghost scene features the caption “Two Months Later. Tuesday 5th January 1602.”

Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country by Steve Roth is published by Open House Books. £9.95. ISBN: 978-0970470201.

[Update! 8/10/2009 Writer Steve Roth has been in touch with a corrective: "Knight's "How Many Children..." is actually rather a sendup and denunciation of the kind of extrapolation that I engage in to some (?) extent. "Twere to consider to curiously, to consider so..." I do like to think that Knights would have found a decent dose of value in the book, even so..."]

"The Blue Box. You dreamt of a blue box."

TV This is very much, in a very definite, very clear sense, the new Doctor Who logo, yes indeed, what looks like two in fact, and my brain is aching because I’m sure I’ve seen the acronym one with the lense flare before. To ask long term fans, and I mean those of us who were reading Doctor Who Monthly when it was called Doctor Who Monthly, wasn’t something like this used for an unmade spin-off videos like The Dark Dimension or by Doctor Who Appreciation Society back in the day? There’s something about the rather wonderful way the D and W creating a TARDIS shape that seems very familiar.

As you’d expect, I rather like it. It’s certainly closer to what I think Doctor Who is about than the weird taxicab logo, which as we discovered in this making-of video, was the result of designers incorrectly watching lots of science fiction shows and trying to create something similar. The full title version looks backwards to previous Who logos, essentially taking the version of the Pertwee logo that appeared in the TV movie and rendering it in Hartnellesque rectangular letters producing just the right kind of futuristic retro. In other words, the font from the side of the classic dvds with a few seriffs. In TARDIS blue.

Quiet how it’ll look when turned out into the world appearing on everything from umbrellas to underpants is another matter. The long thin taxicab logo readily lent itself to appearing on the spines of things; does the appearance of these two (assuming it is two) suggest that the one of the left will appear on the front of novels and the one of the right on the side, perhaps at the top like the old BBC Books paperbacks? Will it stay blue or change colour ala the London Olympics fiasco? Whatever. These new logos are another sign (along with these spoilery shots of Karen Gillan in her pants -- you'll go blind) that DW 2010 is going to have an identity all of its own.

UPDATE! Scrummy new configuration released with the insignia in the middle of the logo (or something) which gives some indication of how it might look on Doctor Who Magazine.

[Links and embeds broken in the original post, but the logo is here should you need a reminder.]

kid in cardboard box

News The FARK headline says it all:
"Mom who put kid in cardboard box on top of van speaks out. "It was just a bad decision". Bonus video of reporter reenacting what it's like to be a kid in a box on the side of the road."
Link to story and more entertainingly, the video. I'd be interested to know at what point you began thinking "This has to be an unused clip from The Day Today."


Film Ghostbusters then and now:
"Note the new glass-curtain building on the right. The building to the left, which was probably considered a dump in 1983, is now the Bubbles Lounge champagne bar. Times have changed. The alley next to the firehouse is used for firefighter parking."
"I don't have to take this abuse from you, I've got hundreds of people dying to abuse me. "

don't envy

Liverpool Life The Daily Post brings news of the refurbishment and restoration happening to Sefton Park, my park:
"Visitors to the park are able to see the emerging roof of the boathouse, which is currently being worked on at the southern end of the lake. The boathouse, which has been plagued by vandalism and arson attacks is to be given a new lease of life and will re-open next year. Visitors will be able to use the refreshment kiosk and it is hoped that boats will be available for hire on the lake.
Considering the weather today, if they're out working I don't envy them.


Elsewhere The new Doctor Who logo is out and I've written about it on Behind The Sofa.

a reference to Twitter

TV It’s a shame that after getting a reference to Twitter so correct early in tonight's uk episode of Flash Forward (the second), the writers blew their terminology mojo at the end by suggesting a posting to the Mosaic website is a ‘blog’. If it is indeed a blog, I’d hate to think what the RSS feed looks like with that many posts flying through in such a small time frame. Like Post Secret on ritalin. The episode did generally fall into the trap of generalising the internet and technology on the assumption that the great unwashed wouldn’t be able to cope with something that looked too technical, even though its core audience is the kind of group who would know exactly what a mouse would look like.

Hello. Don’t expect this to be a weekly post match meeting for Flash Forward. It’s rare that I’ll watch every episode of a television series “live” and the show hasn’t yet become must see television. But second episodes of any high concept series is always interesting because it sets the stall for whatever the formula will be for the rest of the series. Flash Forward looks like it’s going to fall into a similar pattern to the late lamented Odyssey 5, whose protagonists were also wrestling with their knowledge of the future, by having a “clue” of the week to be dealt with surrounded by the soapier elements caused by the predicament.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some series fail because they try desperately not to be formulaic leading to tone and character confusion, but on the other hand, keep too rigidly to a structure and your audience can become bored. To repeat what I said last week, Flash Forward will probably end up being a deeply mechanical programme masking a very wild premise and the devil will be in trying to make it interesting enough that the less trad audience won’t simply dismiss it as rubbish. In other more judgemental words, if this was about the supernatural, it’s trying to hook the kinds of people who liked Charmed and the rest of us who liked Buffy.

One of the elements is an odd skein of quirky humour. This is the second episode and already a vital clue is presented through a flash whose witness which looked she'd walked in from an episode of Pushing Daisies. The agents are merrily taking the piss out of their boss who in a nicely played scene gives all the appearance of haemorrhoidal problems, hours spent on the toilet, wishing, hoping and preying. Unlike the oh so serious 24, these agents take the piss out of one another; Torchwood did this all the time and like Torchwood it could become a problem when the show then has to do something properly dramatic.

The performances and direction continue to be good though the editing and pacing of the episode seemed a little off (though that could partly be the fault of Five and their laissez faire attitude to ad breaks). The episode just didn’t seem to know when to end. The perfect cut off point would have been the revelation about John Cho, but then there was yet another scene with yet another revelation. The writers need to sparing with their clues and secrets otherwise the audience will begin to spot when they’re coming up, particularly if all of the episodes have the same duration. If this keeps happening at about minute fifty-five (or thirty-five on dvd) it could get very tired.

Other random notes:

-- I still think John Cho’s character could be lying. At one point in this episode he says he hasn’t talked to his fianc√© about his lack of a flash forward – and he didn’t mention what his fiance’s flash might be and whether he was in it. That’s either odd writing or he’s deliberately keeping something back. Similarly when the lady rings him having magically spotted his “blog” amongst nearly a million and gives him his incept date, the reaction could mean “Oh shit, hold on, I thought I was alive…” (and yes, I know Cho has contradicted this theory in interviews, but he’s hardly going to throw about spoilers, is he?)

-- Jack Davenport’s good isn’t he? The scene in which his character breaks the news of his wife’s death to his autistic son could have been a saccharine mess but Davenport’s playing gave it a sheen of dignity. Note too that this was the first scene told from his point of view in which we weren’t seeing him through another character’s eyes, confirming that he’s a proper regular, rather than a guest star. Unless the writers are playing games with the language of television but I don’t think so.

-- In an interview in this month’s SFX magazine, creator David S Goyer says that the characters will catch up with their flash forward at the close of this season AND that for the scenario to play out he needs at least three seasons and that he has it all planned out.* In this episode there’s a hint that the agents believe it’s possible that the phenomena could be repeated which suggests (as I did last week) that indeed at the close of the series or the beginning of the next there will be another flash, that it is cyclical, whoever’s causing it (aliens? angels? The Dhama Collective?)

-- Where was the babysitter? She seemed very important in the pilot, but here she was referred to without a name. One of those occasions when a character doesn’t make it past the first episode?

-- The flashbacks are irritating. On the assumption that people have memory of a goldfish, the show includes moments from previous scenes (including flash forwards) to explain the context of a given conversation and sometimes from just minutes before. If it's not to careful it could become the first series in which every episode becomes a clip show. It reminds me of the second episode of Clerks: The Animated Series that parodied such things by flashing back to the first episode and then incidents far more random and interesting. Sound familiar?

(real Gwyneth Paltrow by the way. From when she was still going with Ben Affleck).

* Planning ahead is always dangerous. J Michael Strazinski went into Babylon 5 with a five year story mapped out then had to tell it in four years when it looked like the show was going to be cancelled. Then the ratings picked up in that forth year and he had to cast about for material for the fifth year which understandably ended up being a bit inferior since he'd already said what he wanted to say, just a bit quicker. Odyssey 5 similarly had such plans but was canned after about ten or so episodes.

Julia Styles

New York Magazine interviews Julia Stiles, Ophelia in the Michael Almereyda film with Ethan Hawke. I'd always assumed that her colonisation of the Shakespearean teen films was by design. Seems not:
"The actress has gotten flack for protesting too much, for seeming to imply she’s too good for her fans or her early roles. It’s true that her career-making films had loftier aspirations than your average teen romance, but Stiles claims it’s sheer coincidence that three of them were modern adaptations of Shakespeare: 10 Things, based on The Taming of the Shrew; a very arty Hamlet opposite Ethan Hawke; and O, with Mekhi Phifer as a basketball-star Othello. She also downplays the old profile chestnut that has her 11-year-old self sending an adorable letter to the avant-garde Ridge Theater Company, which promptly cast her in productions at La MaMa and the Kitchen. “I was this precocious little kid. It sounds so annoying to me right now.”"

Kitchen Hamlet

Daniel Elihu Kramer's new independent film Kitchen Hamlet sounds rather good. Stripped to the essential story of parental loss and just seventy-six minutes in duration, it's set not in a castle but a house and apparently has the duel play out in the back garden. The director's note points to an autobiographical interpretation:
"... when I was studying directing at Yale, I began directing my own Shakespeare productions. I felt at home in these worlds, at home with Shakespeare’s language and his ways of thinking and seeing. Immediately after Yale, I got married and went to New York. Now I was ready to do what I could not do seven years earlier, when my father died. I directed my first production of Hamlet, seeing in it the story of a son brought to a stop by the loss of his father. For me the question was not whether Hamlet was crazy; it was how he could continue in the face of such grief. I mourned the loss of my father."

a mysterious blue light

TV On the 10th February this year a mysterious blue light appeared amongst the trees in Sefton Park:

It hovered there for nearly an hour before I decided to go and investigate, stepping out into the park from the safety of my home. As I drew closer, my heart pumping because after watching seven seasons of The X-Files (before it became convoluted and rubbish) I knew a blue light could mean only one thing. My hands were shaking:

My eyes blurry (!):

By then (obviously) I could tell that the blue light was fixed to the top of a crane overlooking a garden. Further round I could see some catering vans, a make-up and costume truck and a pile of equipment. It was one of the film crews we regularly see around the park taking advantage of our fabulous period architecture. There was a lighting engineer. I asked him what they were filming. "Some kind of spooky adventure for kids" was all he would tell me. I didn't press him further -- wasn't really any of my business.

Turns out they were filming a new BBC Two series called The Well, the headline being that it features new Doctor Who girl Karen Gillan. I was within papping distance of the new companion and didn't even know it. Enquiries about the photographs featured here, the only three photographs I took, should be directed to the email address at the top of the blog. Etc.