Africa Oye Festival 2011 from the air.

Liverpool Life You can find out more about the festival here.

her-in-doors’ doors

TV With the television shifting to a more serialised format and shorter series, these spin-off stories have become the primary expression of the more traditional stand alone or monster of the week format with the TARDIS acting as a time travelling taxi whisking the Doctor and his friends between adventures that begin with them stumbling nervously from her-in-doors’ doors, confidently striding back in again having saved a planet from whatever nasty is afflicting them.

The opening scenes of Darren Jones's The Eye of the Jungle are redolent of sixties Who, as the TARDIS team plunge into the Amazon rainforest in 1827, though the wild animals they greet are far deadlier than the droopy elephant in The Ark. But there’s much fun to be had in the reactions of the Doctor’s companions as the Time Lord frightens the life from them, bursting in and out of the local fauna though eventually they become something's prey.

Luckily they're stumbled upon by a hunting party collecting specimens for the soon to be opened London Zoo, Oliver Bazington a big gamer, and Garrett, the naturalist accompanying him. Bazington is still smarting from the Napoleonic wars and the Doctor shares a mutual understanding of the horrors of war. But they’re not the only hunters in the jungle and as local villagers and wildlife begin to disappear, our heroes find themselves targeted by an assailant unknown.

As is usual with these stories, the action is so brief that to describe further – and I’ve reached the end of the synopsis on the back of the box – would ruin the few surprises that lay ahead. Spreading his story across two cds and two forty-five minute episodes, Jones takes the lead of the Moffat era and gives each part a distinctive tone, the later inevitable alien introduction echoing the concerns of their human counterparts to a horrific degree.

Obviously given the influence of his Dad on the Eleventh Doctor, there are moments, particularly when the Doctor's at his most desperate, when Troughton’s readings of Matt’s intended lines come eerily close to Patrick. For the most part, he simply gives Jones’s story the fireside treatment, only giving each character the hint of an accent, though he’s hampered by some slightly generic writing in relation to the companions, neither really registering proper Amy or proper Rory.

On the upside, his characterisation of Blazington really captures the spirit of the army man attempting find a workable substitute for fighting for his country. Troughton's reading of his words, brings to mind the clipped, forthright tone of Edward Woodward in Breaker Morant. None of the other characters are quite as vivid, Garrett in particular barely given enough time to register as a proper antagonist, despite his prominence in the inlay's synopsis.

Indeed this is pretty thin stuff overall, lacking the wit, depth or innovation of a James Goss text (for example). Long time fans may even groan when they realise which “classic” era story the central idea behind The Eye of the Jungle most resembles, hoping against hope its chief villain doesn’t also put in an appearance. At least that earlier story had unpredictability in its favour. Once the necessary exposition is gotten over with here, the story can only go in one, unsurprising, direction.

Perhaps us older listeners should keep in mind that the intended audience for this cd probably skews far younger than us, and there are might be enough elements in the second half to creep out an imaginative pre-teen. As a bedtime or car journey diversion it’s probably perfectly fine. It just lacks the same ambition as its televisual counterpart and if this kind of release is to become the stand-alone surrogate, it has to try that little bit harder than this to impress..

Doctor Who: The Eye of the Jungle is released by AudioGo on the 7th July 2011.  Review copy supplied.

utterly absent

TV Duke Nukem Forever reviewed by The New York Times:
"For the first hour or so, I honestly thought the whole thing was a big in-joke — that the curtain would finally part and the real game would begin. I kept hoping that the game would eventually say: “Ha ha, we know this was what you were expecting back in 1997. Now let us show you what we’ve really come up with.” And then the game would start over with panache, state-of-the-art graphics, creative design, finely honed pacing, exciting foes, witty writing and an overall sense of joy — in short, everything that is utterly absent now."
If only. That would require the wit of Laurence Olivier making his Henry V, beginning in a recreation of The Globe then expanding the landscape backwards, testing the audience's suspension of disbelief.

Imagine a game which began in the graphical playing style of a ZX81/Atari 2600 and with each level increased in sophistication allowing the player to fight their way through computer game history.  You could bring out a version for different genres from platformer to racer to first person adventure [via].


Music PopJustice thinks Lady Gaga's new video is boring. I think it's a nihilistic remake of Debbie Gibson's promo for Anything is Possible.

"pasta, cheeses and mini-dishes"

Commerce Starbucks puts alcohol on the menu in Portland and starts opening restaurants:
"Starbucks first began selling liquor last year at a few stores in Seattle, so that in itself is nothing new. But the new Portland store makes one wonder if Starbucks is looking to become something more than a coffee house; perhaps a full service eatery that can compete with a neighborhood Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG) and Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE: DRI) subsidiary Olive Garden?

"Although the Portland store features Starbucks trademark storefront, company executives say this store has been “localized” and decorated to fit the neighborhood. It also features a sit down menu, including pasta, cheeses and mini-dishes, while the wine and beer selections, such as Rouge, Widmer Brothers and Deschutes, were handpicked to fit in with the area’s culture."
Surely one of the reasons seek out Starbucks (or any coffee house) is as an alternative to pubs and restaurants, for coffee and perhaps horse statues. So why would they think this is a good idea? I appreciate this won't be every site, but when one sees a brand logo on the outside of a building, it creates an expectation for what we'll find inside.

Along with simplifying that logo and replacing the familiar heavy mugs with what amount to tall tea cups, we're seeing the slow erosion of what used to be for some of us quite a comforting brand (taking into account all of the globalisation concerns).

Even the BBC are getting in on the act and have opened a tavern and grill in Greenville, Delaware.

"consists of a piano, harpist, bass, oboe and drums"

TV Phil Norman considers the Crossroads theme:
"The opening sting [...] takes no prisoners – that nine-note phrase for doorbell guitar that always sounds like it's going out of tune. You want avant garde? The rest of the orchestra, instead of rising as one man and turfing the jangly Judas out on his ear, try to “play around” him as if nothing's amiss. Seeing as this “orchestra” consists of a piano, harpist, bass, oboe and drums, is probably just as well they don't kick up a fuss, as they're hardly in a position to talk. But it somehow, madly, works, the stately oboe carried along by the prissily brisk percussion like Amy Turtle holding her head nobly aloft in search of gossip as she pushes her rattling trolley down the corridors. Everything about this music is so unabashedly, defiantly wrong it's hard not to come away from it thinking that perhaps the real problem is with the rest of music as a whole."
Call me a heretic but I much prefer the one for Crossroads: King's Oak.  But I also used to sing along to the theme to Star Trek: Enterprise which was somehow rendered even more awful in later series by the introduction of an uptempo beat.

"on the brink of walking off"

Theatre Mark Lawson enunsiates why I so rarely attend live events. The fucking audiences:
"During the first scene of a preview of the new revival of Harold Pinter's Betrayal, Kristin Scott Thomas and Douglas Henshall were drowned out by a theatregoer taking calls on a mobile who was not only answering loudly but clomping noisily out on each occasion, while shouting the odds with their partner. The actors seemed on the brink of walking off. [...]  The Betrayal actors who had battled through the first scene then lost the beginning of the second because of the thunderingly disruptive admission of latecomers claiming seats."
They should have walked. No, in fact Kristin should have walked to the front of the stage, looked outward and told the multitude that if they didn't shut up and pay attention and make sure their fellow audience members did likewise they wouldn't carry on.

If people are going to behave like children, they should be treated as such.

Plus, indeed, what were the theatre doing let latecomers in that late?  If you're late, you're late.  Go home.


TV Watch the above and meet me after the link:


History BBC Radio 4’s landmark year long documentary series, A History of the World in 100 Objects utilises the collection of the British Museum to explain the development of humanity’s ingenuity from the most basic chopping tool to the solar powered lamp and charger. AudioGo have been good enough to send me a review copy of the twenty cd set, a collection so large the box has a spindle inside.

I want to savour the experience so haven’t rushed to finish all twenty-five hours before putting fingers to keyboard and also resisted the temptation to skip to the highlights like the Rosetta Stone. As ever with these blasts of knowledge (other notable examples of the format include Heather Cooper’s Cosmic Quest and James Naughtie’s The Making of Music), they’re best enjoyed in small doses, perfect for a breakfast listening alternative to Today or the fifteen minute bus ride to work.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the first ten episodes. Presenter Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, enjoys saying the word “things”. He tends to enjoy stressing most words, but “things” in particular stands out and you could imagine a production meeting in which he pondered whether this epic could instead have been A History of the World in a Hundred ‘Things’. If ‘things’ didn’t have a myriad definitions including the derogatory it would have worked perfectly well.

I’ve also learned that humans a million and a half years ago weren’t that much different to us. Like us they were pre-occupied with survival, then with slaughtering things to eat, now with earning money to buy food that someone else has done the necessary with, but the principle is the same. They were still as concerned as most of us are won’t know where their next meal will come from, through of course, in their case it’s because their next meal has migrated or been eaten by another predator.

As David Attenborough suggests evocatively in the second episode when handing a Tanzanian chopping tool and considering how much consideration went into selecting and making the notches in the side “Did he really need to do one, two, three, four, five chips on one side and four on the other? Could he have got away with two?” those early human were also already adapting to their environment, discovering new ways to improve their quality of life.

Perhaps Attenborough would also recognise in this series a late iteration of the kinds of programmes which according to his autobiography he was involved in at the beginning of his career, at the dawn of television in which an expert from a museum would bring an object into the studio and give a long piece to camera intoning its chronology and uses. More editing involved perhaps, and more voices, but the methodology is the same.

The key difference is that MacGregor's livelier series is presented from his workplace, which is an important part of the atmospheric resonance of the series. "I'm standing on the steps of the museum" we're told as the chattering crowds gather around him. Having visited the museum and found myself jostled by tourists wanting to have their picture taken standing in front flash reflecting display cases, I wonder if, even without pictures, this series actually brings us closer to these objects than if we'd actually been standing in front of them.

Each episode doesn’t simply concentrate on the object at hand for its aesthetic qualities. They’ve been carefully selected for their metaphoric qualities, as a way of elucidating each milestone in human development. The Ain Sakhri lovers figurine in episode seven, whose indistinct form MacGregor compares favourably to similar work by the sculptors Brancusi and Rodin becomes very moving a way of explaining the development of human sexuality and the eroticism thereof.

An image of the figurine, as well as the episode and a transcript of the episode are still available on the BBC website, so what’s to gain from buying the box set? Apart from the loss of the BBC’s podcast bumpers which could prove repetitious across the episodes and .pdf images of all the objects, each week’s worth of episodes inhabit a cd and there’s a genuine sense of achievement to be had on reaching the close of each epoch, of having shifted into the period after the ice age.

But the set is also symbolically interesting within the context of the series. At one point in the not too distant past, next to the book, the cd seemed like a pinnacle of human achievement, a way of storing music in crystal clarity.  Now like the book, it's increasingly being replaced.  Plus working through this pile of discs feels like a kind of reverse audio archaeology, each new layer revealing another part of our history. Whether that adventure is worth the £34.99 recommended retail price is up to you.

nothing to do with Steven needing more time

TV It's nothing to do with Steven needing more time. I've updated my earlier post on Doctor Who's shorter series with today's developments and will continue to do so as the "story" rolls on.  It'll be like a live blogging thing. Only very slow on the uptake and barely live.

it omits the more obvious Scarlet Johannson

A Retrospective of Woody Allen Surrogates from FilmDrunkDotCom on Vimeo.

Film When I was watching all of the Woody Allen's films in order (although I still am technically, I suppose) one of the casting elements I always looked out for was which of the characters was the surrogate for Woody himself. What's brilliant about this retrospective is that it realises Rebecca Hall was one of them, perhaps having noticed the expression her face in the plane sequence from Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which just is eerie. Though as a comment person on the Gothamist post where I found this notes, it omits the more obvious Scarlett Johansson in Scoop. And also Sarah Jessica Parker in Miami Rhapsody, but since that was a surrogate for a whole Woody Allen film, that's probably understandable.


Groundlings, originally uploaded by Seaboe Muffinchucker.

If you've ever wondered what it must be like inside Shakespeare's Globe when the heavens open, here's a marvellous shot from the ground.  Those umbrella tents with holes in the top make the audience look like extras in a Peter Greenaway film.

there must be a couple

Commerce Subway have sponsored special issues of Justice League to insert into the middle of DC Comics, a kind of extended version of the Twinkie adverts that appeared in the 1980s (frustrating British kids because they didn't exist here). Needless to say, it's awful, as Bleeding Cool enunciates:
"Look at that, written by B Clay Moore as well. Okay, I have no idea who these sports people are, but I presume Sergio Sandoval got a good likeness. So how cloying are the references to Subway going to be? Well, as long as they don’t have chracters spouting words that actually sound like they come from a marketing strategy document, we should be okay…"
The Aquaman section is amazing. In our darkness moments, we Who fans might have to entertain the notion that Dimensions in Time is canon, but how are fans of Aquaman (there must be a couple) have to deal with this indignity?

"Not you too, Boba Fett."

TV Den of Geek have put two and two together and decided (after speaking to him) that Matthew Graham, of Life on Mars, and of course one middling and two excellent episodes of Doctor Who has been working on the Star Wars television series. Key quote:
"We got in touch with Matthew Graham and asked him whether the news was true. All he would say to us was that he had done some work out at LucasFilm during 2008 and 2009 "on something unbelievably cool", and that his contract "had come to an end". "I hope one day I'll be able to talk about it," he told us."
Like I said in the title, "Not you too, Boba Fett."

if Steven needs more time, that's ok

TV BBC Merseyside's Religious Editor Wayne Clarke dropped this bombshell in his twitter feed four hours ago and no one seems to have noticed. That is until @TVSatelliteWeek just retweeted it so I'm also posting it here in an attempt to look current. There's nothing on Google News yet:
"Danny Cohen says there won't be a full series of Doctor Who in 2012, but a special run for the anniversary in 2013. #cmn11"
First of all, oh for fucks sake.

Next of all Pete Philips, Researcher @ CODEC, Durham Uni, added (I'm paraphrasing) that Cohen explained that it's because Moffat needs more time to work on Sherlock and that there are scheduling issues to do with the Olympics and that they can't fit everything in.

That Cohen's chosen to announce all of this at the Church and Media Network conference is bizarre; the BBC Press Office is there for a reason and this has all the gaffiness of Catherine Tate announcing Tennant was quitting Doctor Who on the Jonathan Ross show months before we were supposed to find out.

Calming down, if Steven needs more time, that's ok.  It's understandable actually having lately been rereading in The Writer's Tale, the hell RTD went through in his final years.  Dealing with all of that and a family really must be difficult, especially in relation to producing scripts on top of everything else. (see below)

It also explains why he and the BBC were being cagey last week about when the next fourteen were being broadcast.  Some have suggested that they might wait until the Autumn, run six, then the rest the following year.  The special run, apparently.

But I can't help my sinking feeling.  When Cohen took over and went about cancelling perfectly good series whilst simultaneously renewing abject rubbish I said that we'd best clutch the franchise to our chests while we still had it.  I'm getting that vibe again.

Fans will suggest this is cash related too.  Luthor's back tonight with just four episodes and there are other shows which would have previously had longer runs making do with just six.  If Doctor Who has become too expensive to produce in this climate, I wish they'd be honest about it.

There was a time that Doctor Who began at Easter and ran for thirteen episodes and that happened for four years on the trot.  That time feels quite distant now.  We're just going to have to make do with what we have now.  Let's just hope no one uses words like "rest" and "hiatus" shall we?

Still, there's always this to contemplate.  I'm sorry, I don't have a provenance for it, but damn ...

... proper story point or has the prop department in Cardiff only got one brooch?

Either way, all of this has nicely derailed the evening.

Update! The Danny Cohen interview was mentioned in this Media Guardian report, but they did't seem to think the Doctor Who thing was important enough to enunciate on.

Meanwhile, Sam Hodges, the BBC's Head of Comms has said in his twitter feed (after a question from John): "Situation stays the same - 14 episodes commissioned, starting in 2012. How they will play out will be revealed at a later date."

My assumption now? Two Christmas specials, six in Autumn 2012, six in 2013 = 14. Eeek. Perhaps they're all an hour long. Yes, that'll be it. (shrugs)

Update! 9:52pm   BBC Entertainment Correspondent Lizo Mzimba's finally writing about it on his twitter feed.  Says the comment about Steven Moffat needed to time to work on Sherlock wasn't to be taken seriously.  Which makes this all the more bizarre / infuriating / amateurish.

Mzimba also sort of confirms mine and Ian's assumption (see comments) that it'll be half in Autumn 2012, the rest in 2013.  Hopefully it just means that they're changing the production/commissioning schedule and we will in fact know about another fourteen which'll start playing out come Autumn 2013. 

Plus as Nat points out, this whole thing could just be so that a special episode runs on Saturday November 23rd 2013, which I agree would indeed be awesome.  Idea: total homage to An Unearthly Child.  Two school teachers follow a young girl home.  Find junkyard.  But instead of Hartnell, it's Matt Smith.

Update! 23:27pm The Doctor Who News Page has round up the story. It means the Private Eye story may well have been somewhat accurate, but we don't know what not a "full series" really means, in other words, how many of those thirteen plus Christmas special will be shown. Could be ten for all we know.  We await the inevitable BBC press release with great interest.  Night night.

Update! 15/6/2011 Steven's posted:
"Dr Who: misquotes and misunderstandings. But I'm not being bounced into announcing the cool stuff before we're ready. Hush, and patience."
Quite right too. As it should be and should have been all along.

Update!  16/6/2011  BBC News have posted a story on this with the full quotes, internal corporation politics laid bare.  They've gone with "Sherlock's success means less Doctor Who in 2012" headline even though their own entertainment correspondent has said those comments were meant to be a joke.

Although you can't blame them because, they don't look like he's joking.  They're not the throwaway comment most of us assumed them to be the other night. They're in depth and with a genuine belief behind them. Cohen specifically says "He [Moffat] needs enough time to get that done and then start work on the next series of Doctor Who". Familes are mentioned.

The Moff's not happy:
"The scheduling of Dr Who has got NOTHING to with Sherlock. On the plus side THE BBC SPELLED MY NAME RIGHT!!!!"
What if Cohen assumed that was the reason and Moffat's just as frustrated by what he's said (the misunderstandings of the earlier tweet) as the BBC News story for going with that angle.  But text can't capture tone of voice (unless the writer includes some indication) so for all we know this was some lengthy routine and the audience were giggling throughout.

If you think this looks like an over analysis, you should have seen Twitter over the past couple of days (although lets face it most of you did).  Not since AC Bradley writing about Hamlet have so few lines been analysed in such depth, lines which it turns out might not even have been accurate.  The Zapruder film looks all but ignored in comparison.

Meanwhile, The Guardian has also posted about this, and oddly as though they didn't have a reporter at the same conference, relying on the BBC story instead. I've asked in the comments why they didn't think to mention it in the earlier story since they would have had the same transcript.

Update!  17/6/2011 The following exchange took place on Twitter today which I'll post without commentary because now I don't know what to think. Darren Waters is Social Media Producer in the BBC Wales newsroom and ex-tech editor at BBC News site.  I've removed twitter names for clarity.

Neil Gaiman:
Er... is it my imagination or are you being shafted by BBC online news?

Steven Moffat:
It's not your imagination. Unbelievable, unacceptable.

Darren Waters:
What's unbelievable? That BBC News quoted the BBC One controller?

Steven Moffat:
Out of context and not being clear that he was joking.

Darren Waters:
Then that's poor. The editor there is v receptive, I'll pass on your comments.

Steven Moffat:

Update! 18/6/2011 Someone has uploaded the audio of Danny Cohen's comments to YouTube [via].

Best bit? The lady who begins with the serious voice as though she's going to finally ask a serious question about something serious and then ... "Gillian McKinnon from the Church of Scotland ... I just wanted to confirm does that mean no Doctor Who in 2012?"

Not that this isn't serious, of course.

The giggling seems related to the number of people asking Doctor Who questions, seeking clarifications as to what he means -- fans all turn into journalists when a programme head in the room -- or they think the future of the programme is in doubt.

Is Cohen joking? He sounds like a man answering a question with the situation as he believes it to be. The key phrase, which hasn't been included anywhere else is "That's the genuine reason" (admittedly said after the whole eating and sleeping thing).

But as I discovered in the many, many training sessions that are given in call centres, verbal communication is a tiny proportion of the overall impression that someone might want to be giving. I think we're going to need video.

Which is joke by the way. This has probably gone on long enough. We probably really won't know what's gone on here until the Ed Stradling documentary in twenty years in which the whole thing is described through the half remembered anecdotes of the participants.

19/06/2011 Yesterday's Two-minute Time Lord rounded up all of this and mentioned my comments below in the comments section about the show's influence. Always strange hearing a near stranger saying your name out loud. But thank you! 

It also makes the very good point about the knock on effects these shorter seasons may have in terms of international sales, especially in the US where viewers are used to massive runs of episodes.  Six or seven seems insubstantial in comparison to a BSG tranche of twenty-two.

In The Writer's Tale, RTD notes that one of this issues they had to deal with for the 2009 specials was giving BBC Worldwide less content to release that year which made them less able to provide funding backwards to make the shows which led to The Waters of Mars almost being dropped at one point. Hmm...

05/07/2011 This couldn't be from a more vaguer source but Doctor Who TV is reporting that a convention attendee at Comic Con France asked Steven about the number of episodes next year and he's reported to have said:
“Contrary to some rumours you may have heard, there will be the same number of episodes.”
DWtv then say: "Later adding that there will be a change in transmission. But not on the number of episodes."

As with everything else, we await confirmation on this, but if true it does seem most likely to be the transmission has simply been shifted to the Autumn leading to a gap somewhere for Christmas.

29/8/2011 In an interview for The Daily Beast, Steven clarifies this comment even more:
"Absolute nonsense. First of all, we are airing in 2012. The only thing that’s happening is that we’re moving a bit later...There’s lots of reasons for that that will become clear quite soon...It is certainly not a reduced episode count. Do you think the BBC would really let that happen? With an average audience of 10 million?…Doctor Who’s international profile is huge. It’s never been more successful. You’re not going to reduce a show like this. The opposite is going to happen, in fact."
So there we have it. On later in the year, usual number of episodes, reasons soon.

23/09/2011 Doctor Who Magazine editor Tom Spilsbury has confirmed when the next series of Doctor Who will be broadcast in his editorial for Doctor Who Magazine:
"I can tell you now there are huge plans for when the show returns next autumn, not to mention the programme's 50th anniversary just around the corner."
So there we have it, the show is moving completely from an Easter start. I know a couple of people who'll be very pleased with that. Still no official announcement of course ...

10/10/2011 Den of Geek reports that the new Doctor Who: The Brilliant Book 2012 has an interview with Steven Moffat in which he also (just about) confirms an Autumn start:
“The truth behind the delay next year is: why are we killing ourselves and risking compromising the show, in order to go out in the middle of summer? I’m sick of it. I’m sick of standing in the blazing sunshine, with a barebecue fork in my hand, knowing that Doctor Who is coming on any minute.”
It is possible they'll run thirteen episodes in one chunk in the lead up to Christmas starting at the beginning of September and ending the first week in December.  Everyone (including Gen of Deek) are assuming a split because of Danny Cohen's comments but with more time, they won't need to.  The Christmas special wrapped this weekend.

17/11/2011 As an aside, today the BBC advertised for a "Commercial Director" to work on the Doctor Who brand, presumably because with the upcoming 50th anniversary it's going to become bigger than the combined efforts of the BBC's own press office and Cardiff will have time for.  One of the paragraphs contains something curious in terms of role:
"As a Commercial Director you'll create and execute a five year plan for the Doctor Who brand and manage the overall brand P&L. As well as approving products and communications relating to the brand, your role will be to oversee all aspects of brand management and protection. In addition, you'll identify and develop new business opportunities for the brand and ensure that they are executed."
Which seems to suggest despite all of the tooing and frowing with the scheduling and all that implies, the BBC are planning for some form of the show to be around right through 2015.  Which is amazing.

18/11/2011  Moffat has finally addressed the gap in his Production Notes column in Doctor Who Magazine this month.  He repeats what he says above about noting liking to see Who in the Spring/Summer and how the afternoons getting darker used to signal the return of the series.   He also implies it's so that the show is on during the anniversary in 2013 and that the show "is going to enter production for the longest sustained period we've ever attempted, and the biggest and best and maddest time ever to be a fan of this wonderful old show is rumbling towards us."

Then:  "And yes, you got me.  We needed a little more time to prepare for everything we've got planned.  That, above all, is why we needed this little gap. Just be a tiny bit patient, and trust me, we'll make it up to you."  (my italics).  Which perhaps implies there was a grain of truth in what Danny Cohen said earlier.  There just wasn't the time to start production properly for Easter and the happy coincidence means the kids will finally be able to understand the sense of anticipation which used to be part and parcel of being a fan in the olden days when we were young.

21/11/2011  Matt Smith was on BBC Breakfast this morning.  The interview was trailed earlier in the morning as "And we'll speak to Matt Smith on why he's not ready to leave the Doctor just yet" and well, as seems to be forever the case, as SFX reports, not everything went to plan:
"Matt Smith told BBC Breakfast this morning that filming starts in February for 14 new episodes of Doctor Who, including a full series, a Christmas special and a 50th anniversary special, which will be a one-off."
Yes, well, hum.  SFX try and get their head around that and decided that either Matt's got his maths wrong or we're entering an even more fallow period than previously discussed.  When Steven says it'll be "the longest sustained period we've ever attempted" he's not wrong, though the 2008 season (documented in The Writer's Tale) was pretty long with a whole series and a Christmas special at either end.

My own guess is that there'll be all of this production, then a gap then production on the next season after that and for accounting reasons it's cheaper for them to make the 50th Anniversary as part of this production block.  Or the 50th anniversary story is so massive that it's consuming the budget of an entire series.  Or a series in and of itself.  Not really helping this, is it?

Later ... We have video:

Matt says he's about to start filming the fourteen episodes. He's then asked if that's two series (clearly the whole s6.1 and s6.2 thing is still confusing Bio-Turnbull) and Matthew says it's a series then a Christmas special, then he mentions the 50th but it seems to me like a different unattached thing, a "we're doing this as well" thing. So nothing to worry about there then.

18/01/2012  Happy New Year!  Moffat etc collected an award at the Radio Times cover party and was asked a few pertinent questions.  They have video, but the thrust of it is to confirm that there will be "at least" fourteen episodes, which will begin broadcast in the Autumn and that the Christmas special will be "part of the run".  Moffat also says that knowing "some" of the plans for the 50th anniversary he can tell us "there'll be no better time to be a Doctor Who fan".

Never mind the Olympics, it sounds as though (from these comments and other bits and pieces in the party newsletter and elsewhere) the anniversary is going to be something of a media blitz.  As well as the actual drama itself, whatever that's going to be like, we already we're going to have a ton of new past Doctor novels, and my guess, and this is just a guess, Gatiss will finally get to fulfil his long-standing wish to produce a "Road to Coronation Street" style drama about the origins of the series.  Hope so.

21/03/2012   Amid the companion announcements this morning, the BBC's official Who twitter feed finally revealed the information this whole post has been about:

As expected the Christmas special is sort of embedded in the season, though inconveniently the 25th is on a Wednesday, so this won't be The Feast of Steven for a new generation.

My guess is we'll have a late November start, five weeks in December, the special, then the next chunk running through January and February.

Expect the BBC and ITV shouting at each other again over scheduling as Who and The X-Factor chasing each other around the Saturday night schedule.  This doesn't end yet.

16/07/2012  Well, that was wrong.  Much as it was last year, the s7's being broken up again.  There's a preview screening of the opening episode at the BFI Southbank on August 14, followed by another at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, which takes place from August 23 to August 25 which indicates the premiere will be imminent and Matt's suggested at ComicCon it'll be "some time in August" so presumably within days of the EITF.

Checking the calender, that would put the broadcast on Saturday August 25th as treat before all the kids go back to school which seems really odd consider its high summer.  The more obvious option would be to leave it until the 1st or 8th September, but given the proximity of those preview screenings and not wanting the episodes to feel old before broadcast, I'm going to still my neck out and say s7 of DW will screen 25th August.

Finally.  Of course none of this is over.  We'll have five episodes across September then a gap, which is nice because it gives Amy & Rory a decent send off and gives Jenna a proper opening, with all the pre-advertising, hype and interviews in time for Christmas (plus a handy chronological gap for future spin-offs to fit in) then presumably another gap before the broadcast of the bottom eight of s7.

Here's something to keep us busy in the meantime:

21/08/2012  I was wrong.  It's the 8th September.  Maybe.

22/08/2012  No it isn't.  It's the 1st September.  So I was only a week out and at 7:20 which is nice and late and in a fifty minute long timeslot.  We're opposite Red & Black and the first twenty minutes of The X Factor.  Makes a change from Family Fortunes I suppose.

28/08/2012  New controversy.  The BBC's Who programme pages for Series Seven is only listing twelve episodes.  That's obviously thirteen if you add the Christmas special.  But does it?  It's probably a misprint given all the tweets and confirmations above and directly contradicts this tweet from the official account, but if right it means one of two scenarios.

(1)  Eleven ordinary episodes and a special.  Which means 5 now + Christmas special + 6 next year.
(2)  Twelve ordinary episode and a special.  Which means 5 now + Christmas special + 7 next year (instead of the expected 8).

Does this mean the 50th anniversary is being counted as part of Series 7 somehow?  They're sacrificing an episode to add some extra budget to the anniversary specials?  It is at the end of the this filming block, so it's possible and that wouldn't contradict the Official tweet even if its not entirely what we had in mind especially because it would infer a 2014 start for Series 8.  I knew there was a reason I was keeping this post open.

29/08/2012  Now its been changed to the far more cagey 5 episodes (perhaps after I tweeted the official accounted and pointed it out to them.  It's still not technically accurate really but does at least observe the known knowns rather than the known unknowns.  So either we found out something we weren't supposed to or it was indeed just a typo.  What fun.  Though less so if we consider the idea that these five episodes are Series 7 and the seven or eight after Christmas are Series 8.  That'd be messy.

29/08/2012  Later  Having posted all this predictably to GallifreyBase I was reminded that Moffat included a status update for 14 episodes in his Production Notes column in Doctor Who Magazine, with the Christmas special listed as episode 6.  This does not frankly suggest that 14 is an ordinary episode.  It could be the 50th Anniversary special.  I suppose.  Well, hum.  Again.

12/12/2012  I've been a bit remiss in not including the successful broadcast of five episodes of this series.  The Christmas special is out on the 25th.  News comes now that the back eight will begin in April 2012, presumably with an Easter launch, which puts he finale back in the June area.

New controversy.  By then the 50th anniversary episodes are going to be produced for broadcast in November, which is as expected.  Except there's little news of Series Eight which suggests that's not turning up until 2014 at the earliest and may enjoy the split season pattern of 2011.  Which is speculation, but I really can't see the 50th leading off into another series or being part of one.  Unless all of this is one of the reasons Merlin isn't returning.

23/01/2013  Someone snapped this at the London Toy Fair:

Much wringing of digital hands, "Is that all?", they ask, "Is that all that's going to be on?"

The key bit is of course, "will include", in other words, more to be announced.

Oh and the bottom eight have been confirmed to begin at Easter, 31st March.

But it is a "concern" that series Eight hasn't even had a glimmer of a suggestion of even being filmed.  Remember the old days (all of 2005-2008) when we'd have thirteen episodes in a row once a year like clockwork?

One other thing.  Remember that quote from Danny Cohen which began this whole thing:

"Danny Cohen says there won't be a full series of Doctor Who in 2012, but a special run for the anniversary in 2013. #cmn11"

He wasn't wrong, was he?

11/02/2013  There's still life in this old post yet.

The BBC head of drama Ben Stephenson gave one his speeches today about upcoming commissions bringing with it the unfortunate news that the 30th anniversary special will be in 3D which'll look crap for most of the viewing audience because it'll have lots of things shooting forwards into a flat space and the brilliant news that it'll be broadcast on the 23rd November which happens to be a Saturday thanks to the way calendars work.  Here's the key quote from The Guardian:

"There will be lots of aliens and daleks and things like that – or maybe there won't. There are many different things to take into account and we will also have a Christmas special after that and it all connects. Or maybe it doesn't. There's lots to work out."

Which confirms that there isn't going to be more than the bottom end of seasons seven, the 50th and then the Christmas special, which is still ten episode but also means we've only had one full (modern) series over two years and no idea what's happening with series eight, which I still think is either going to be split in two again in 2014 or might not bother to arrive until the old Merlin slot in the Winter.

Of course the whole thing's rather messed up thanks to the also newly announced Atlantis series, or Clash of the Teen Titans.  If that's filling thirteen presumably concurrent Saturday night slots, how likely is it that Who'll ever get another thirteen concurrent slots for itself.

Again we ask.  What is the BBC's strategy for Doctor Who?

the Kaycee Nicole thing

Blog! Watching the fake lesbian blogger scandal play out across the internet, I've been reminded of the somewhat similar "Kaycee Nicole thing" (it always seemed to be called the "Kaycee Nicole thing") in which a grown woman turned up on numerous websites as a teenager suffering from terminal leukemia. Presents were sent, money too, until eventually as seems to have happened here, the lies began to fold in on themselves, inconsistencies began to emerge just as the real Kaycee Nicole couldn't appear.

Metafilter turned detective and exposed the hoax in a similar way to Andy Carvin's Twitter led investigation here and there was a certain adrenalin rush in turning detective to try and gather scraps of evidence as to how this person had lied and who they were.  On reflection, what we did (and I should note my part was tiny probably on reflection) wasn't unlike the work done by certain other websites when looking for people doing cruelty to domestic pets, but we had righteous indignation on our side.

But the effect the Kaycee Nicole thing had, at least for a little while, just as this will, hopefully for as short a time, is to make us weary of who we're communicating with on-line.  When people are just user names and when, as was the case here, photos are not necessarily much proof as to someone's real identity, such things as "friendship" can become sinister, dark things, in which you're second guessing everything that's said, something which some outsiders might consider healthy, but can only stultify channels of communication.

There has been one entertaining twist, if entertaining is the word considering the fallout  that might yet lead to violence against people in the LGBT community in Syria, some of whom may have exposed themselves to danger in an attempt to track down what had happened to the girl who didn't exist, is that the two blokes involved did exactly the sort of thing which usually happens in sitcoms:
"He said he felt sure that no one would discover his true identity until the story of Amina began to unravel. He said his connection to Amina was purely coincidental and started when Amina commented on a post on the Lez Get Real site in February. It “was a major sock-puppet hoax crash into a major sock-puppet hoax,” he said.

"In the guise of Paula Brooks, Graber corresponded online with Tom MacMaster, thinking he was writing to Amina Arraf. Amina often flirted with Brooks, neither of the men realizing the other was pretending to be a lesbian."
I also can't help thinking of this scene from Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know (which is a massive spoiler if you haven't seen the film yet).

"Elaine's to me was Elaine"

Elaine's 86'ed

Film Oh my goodness, how did this pass me by?
"MANHATTAN institution Elaine's recently closed after decades. New York magazine asked Woody Allen if he had been to the restaurant after its namesake Elaine Kaufman died in December last year. "I didn't go after she passed away because Elaine's to me was Elaine and, uh, despite the unrelenting bad food I went there every night for decades, and it was such a fabulous experience that, um, my theory was that if the food had been better, people would have gone only to eat. But keeping the food at a certain low level, everybody went for conversation and meeting people and chatting, and that was the success of the place."
RIP Elaine. I might have to watch Manhattan again as a mark of respect. Or Morning Glory which also filmed there. Here are photos of the closing night (on flickr).

RSC Open Day Costumes and Props

" disturbingly bland"

Food Retro Recipe Attempts makes Thor's Cabbage Rolls:
"The short ingredient list is disturbingly bland. Onion flakes and tomato soup aren’t very strong spices."
Also worth visiting for the comment below in which someone with a photo of Sacaroth as their avatar has a philosophical discussion with themselves about whether anyone actually reads Thor.

"a Victorian lesbian crimefighter"

TV Remember the dozen jokes in as many reviews of Doctor Who's A Good Man Goes To War that Vastra the Silurian and Jenny seem designed for fan fiction? Just one week later ...
"Grimlight was born when the sixth season mid-season finale "A Good Man Goes To War" aired on television. Not only was the episode brilliant in its revelations of ongoing plots, it also took the time to introduce some amazing characters, in such a short space of time.

"Two of those characters were Madame Vastra, a Victorian lesbian crimefighter, and Jenny, her sword-wielding Maid. Not only were they funny, interesting, and basically compelling - it felt like I had been watching them for years. I didn't need to be told every single detail about them, because it was like I already knew their lives."
The writer has already posted a teaser and it's genuinely funny, both characters sounding just right. They're developing it into something in the style of Conan Doyle but with an alien threat.  It's also being properly researched and steeped in Victoriana.  This isn't simple-minded slash.  Features David Mitchell as Parker, which is just perfect [via].

Friday Night is Music Night at the RSC on Radio 2.

Last week's Friday Night is Music Night on Radio 2 was a celebration of music and words to mark the 50th anniversary of the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Presented by Samantha Bond, the ...
"... concert features members of the RSC performing some of Shakespeare's most famous soliloquies. The BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Roderick Dunk, plays music ranging from Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream, Verdi's Macbeth, William Walton's Henry V and Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.

There's also music from Patrick Doyle's score for the Kenneth Branagh film versions of Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet, Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate, Rodgers and Hart's Boys from Syracuse, West Side Story and the film Shakespeare in Love."
Still available on the iPlayer for the next few days, it features Rupert Evans (previously Romeo) reading/acting To Be Or Not To Be and as well as the Doyle scores mentioned above (the track "My thoughts be bloody" to be exact).

Miranda July has jetlag.

Let The Right One In (Jetlag Video #3) from Miranda July on Vimeo.

Film She's been charting her restlessness on her blog over the past few days.

this first series of The Prime Ministers

Politics There’s no better illustration of what seems to be Nick Robinson’s central simple thesis in this series of Prime ministerial profiles, that time is a great dealer, than the moment in the first episode when he introduces the “current Prime Minister” and Gordon Brown’s Renfrewshire accent describes the influence the portrait in his study of Sir Robert Walpole had on his decision making processes.

Broadcast just two years ago, this first series of The Prime Ministers as well as recording history, has become a historical record in and of itself as Nick Clegg (paraphrased by Robinson) suggests the attempt by Lloyd George to a continue a war time coalition into peacetime was undemocratic and David Cameron speaks in glowing terms about Disraili’s electoral reforms. How times change.

The image of Brown hunched over his desk with his predecessor in the job keeping a watchful eye over his every movement explains rather a lot about his premiership and that of his successor’s “big society” idea, that they’re paradoxically less interested in dealing with the matters of the time than second guessing how a future BBC chief political correspondent will consider their period in office, if they’ll make the cut.

True, they’re unlikely to want Lord North’s reputation, the man “who lost America” and almost tipped the power of the country into terminal decline. Robert Peel’s a more likely model, the man who successfully worked against his party’s agenda to produce the Factories Act which hurt industrialists in their heartland and championed a workforce which at that point didn’t even have an electoral voice.

Yet what Blair, Brown and now Cameron seem to be in the grip of is a drive to continue or cope with an agenda of reform for reforms sake begun in Thatcher’s time.  They’re desperate to be seen to be pro-active in a role which, thanks to many of the men profiled here, should be reactive. Each of the latest government’s u-turns look like realisations that change isn't always necessary, that stability is more important than flux.

Which shouldn't be too much of a surprise as over and over again in these densely factual mini-documentaries we’re reminded that even “great men” are only human. Attlee was surprised to find himself in the job having beaten Churchill, who seemed like a dead cert having dragged the country to victory in war and was subsequently barely able to speak on visiting King George VI to accept the position.

That’s one of the strengths of the series, that Robinson focuses on some of the less obvious figures. Churchill would be the obvious choice for inclusion, yet he’s been nudged out to make space for Lord Palmerston, who few outside of fans of political history may have heard of despite having introduced Offences against the Person Act 1861 which still defines the difference between murder and manslaughter.

It'll be interesting to know if Robinson's successor, making this series in the future, would give Gordon Brown his own episode. Perhaps he’d be mentioned in relation to the feud in a Tony Blair episode or as one of the many complex reasons that we have a coalition government now, should David Cameron do anything that will be of historical significance centuries down the line.  Three years just wasn't long enough.

Nick Robinson's Prime Ministers: Complete Series 1 is published by AudioGo. RRP: £13.25 ISBN: 978-1408469668. Review copy supplied.