the Doctor shouldn't die when he's supposed to die.

TV I should probably be saving this for next Thursday but well, hum. Updating the ever popular contemporary Who chronology with Night Terrors (reviewed here and below), I realised I needed to work out if it went before or after Torchwood's Miracle Day. Finally bothering to look in the TARDIS Index File at the dates when these fictional events in a fictional universe occur I stumbled on this:

Torchwood's Miracle Day is set in and around 22nd March 2011 and knocks on for a good few months.

The astronaut parts of The Impossible Astronaut are set in Utah, USA, 22nd April 2011.

WTF?  FFS!  etc etc etc

Davies and Moffat apparently have chatted about how the two shows effect one another in which case how could something like this occur? From a suspension of disbelief point of view, it would mean the Doctor wilfully ignored the world going to the wall and neither Amy or Rory bothered to tell him.  Or River.  Or Canton Delaware.

But, as a few people noted on Twitter when I posted this information there, it would also logically mean the Doctor shouldn't die when he's supposed to die.  Ish.  Arguably he does become a category one, and they did burn the body. 

But we don't know how Miracle Day's going to end.  For all we know all the category ones could miraculously be re-constituted from the ashes, in which case so could the Doctor.

I suppose it's one thing for the many decades of spin-off media to be contradicted by the television series, it's the mechanism under which Doctor Who has always worked.  It's something else for the two television shows to contradict each other quite this much, especially after all the hoopla in Torchwood's first couple of series enmeshing itself with the parent series.

Assuming it is a contradiction and Miracle Day isn't indeed going to be used to resolve all of this. Either way, we can probably now add, "ruining Doctor Who" to the list of its crimes.

Updated! As has been pointed out, the headline to this post is potentially misleading since the Doctor isn't human and its been established that Miracle Day only effects humans. Unless, I suppose he wasn't joking in the TV movie. But the point still stands. This means the Doctor et al are on Earth during Miracle Day when everything is going to pot and do nothing about it ...

Updated! Showing the kind of determination only a fan would have, I've sat through the thing again and found the on-screen proof. It's Rex's text message towards the end:

The only potential contradictory bit of info is that the text was sent at 6:13pm, but the on-screen caption just before says they landed at 5pm:

Though that can be explained away through the complexity of international time zones. Obviously.
Update! 06/09/2011 Another possibility. Perhaps this part of the episode was being shot this March and no one bothered to change the date and time when they sent the text message to the prop assuming no one would be paying attention this or bother to freeze frame.

They obviously don't know us very well.

Assuming that is the screen from the prop and not a CGI replacement. If it is a CGI replacement, that makes it deliberate. In which case we're back where we started. More along, move along ...

Update!  11/09/2011  This post has been featured at SFX Magazine's blog.  Here's a new blog post about that.

the distorted Modigliani faces of the dolls

TV As you may have gathered if you’ve been reading this blog for long enough I live in a high rise. Not the kind of monolithic Soviet edifice which the Doctor investigates in Mark Gatiss’s Night Terrors, just four corner flats per floor, but similar enough to be able to relate to the experiences of this family and little George. At night, when everyone has gone to bed and the only sound which should be heard is the gentle hum of the freezers, there’ll always be odd, unreal noises in the distance. They’re probably perfectly domestic, the closing of a door, an argument, a television. But in the dark, especially if you’re a fair-weather insomniac like me with a wandering imagination, in my mind’s eye they can become all manner of phantasmorica.

Fear Her done properly, Night Terrors taps into these qualms and returns to one of the pre-occupations of Moffat, those things which scare children. Perhaps he has them scrawled on a list taped to his writing desk and even if he can’t write it himself, he puts them in the season plan so that he can cross them off like a narrative chasing Earl Hickey. Before broadcast he apologised to parents for turning one of the child’s few refuges against them and in truth however us adults might have been unnerved by the distorted Modigliani faces of the dolls, this is an episode designed especially to give children nightmares. In their own bedroom. There’ll be a lot of parents doing the thingy with the lights tonight.

Everything Matthew Graham’s rushed second season script failed at, Gatiss’s manages with style. Whereas, as was the vogue back then, the situation was needlessly escalated to put the 2012 Olympics, the world and Huw Edwards’ career in jeopardy, the only jeopardy here was a few residents in the block, the Doctor and his friends. Having the monster in the cupboard Chloe Webber’s abusive father made it too specific, whereas the general bric-a-brac of a wardrobe can contain all kinds of dark secrets. When the Doctor was zapped into the drawing he disappeared from the episode, whereas trapping Amy and Rory in the doll’s house kept them very much in the adventure and a guide to the mystery in the first half.

Plus as I said the other day, the Eleventh Doctor is even more of a children’s storybook magician that his earlier incarnation who as we’ve seen time and again is able to relate to children which we saw here in his efforts to cheer George up, playing with a Rubik’s Cube, making his toys come to life. Tenth was most often seen in teaching roles, an authority figure, whereas Eleventh is much more adolescent (presumably because he’s played by an actor who’s closer to the child’s age himself by a few years). He’s closer in that sense to Fourth, and like we’ve seen in some of the dvd outtakes, you could imagine Matt keeping little Jamie Oram amused between takes just as Tom did.

Which means that to an extent in order to communicate with the parent, as we saw with Alex, he tends to have to return to their innocence by describing the universe to them, bigger and more fantastical that they can comprehend so that they will understand and won’t try and throw him out of the house before he can make the tea. Daniel Mays gives a very brave performance here. Usually seen in cocky roles, leaders, he’s called upon to pull all of that back and just be an ordinary bloke thrown into extraordinary circumstances and like James Corden in The Lodger, his scenes with Matt were a highlight. Such behaviour doesn’t come out of the blue, as we see with the landlord he has a natural fear of authority. The Doctor just tweaks that a bit.

Such analytical talk usually indicates when I’ve enjoyed an episode and I did not least because it also risked making the real world seem sinister from the moment the TARDIS landed. Director Richard Clark and photographer Owen McPolin perfectly recreated the eerie artificiality of a near deserted housing estate bathed in yellow street light, and the sense that anyone could be living behind these anonymous doors (not least the girls from The Shining). Notice that for all the accents which point in the direction of the south east and imagery towards the south-west (the episode was shot in Bristol), no location was given rendering the story fairly locationless as though it could have been happening in your city.

The ensuing exploration is of the kind which is always my favourite bits of the longer spin-off stories, allowing the characters to interact more than they’re usually allowed to in the plot-based format of the Moffat era. We’ve had few scenes like the one in The Impossible Planet in which Rose and the Doctor mulled over the implications of the lost TARDIS and although this wasn’t quite the same, it was refreshing to see Amy and Rory just together, existing, albeit whilst searching for a frightened small child or making their way through a darkened house armed only with a wooden pan. Like I’ve said before, I could quite happily just have forty-five minutes of these three chatting in the TARDIS console room or some such.

But for all of that, Amy and Rory’s drift through the doll’s house wasn’t as chilling as it might be. At a certain point I became very pre-occupied with the windows which throughout had light streaming through them. I wondered why neither of the companions thought to open the slats especially in the kitchen once used for The Unicorn and the Wasp. To do so would have given the game away too soon of course, but it's an example of wilful obliviousness of the kind we usually see in the T-word. Later, when Amy became the doll, it was treated in a strangely offhand manner, not the end of the world scenario that similar transformations wrought on Peri, Rose, Donna or even the Doctor were.

Perhaps this is partially a side effect of the episode’s change in series position. Night Terrors was filmed earlier then later exchanged for The Curse of the Black Spot. Perhaps it was switched because an element of the resolution was so close to The Rebel Flesh, albeit with a human father coming to terms with a non-human child rather than the other way around. But the episode ran short (only about forty-minutes) and ended somewhat abruptly suggesting that all the team did was to reshoot the closing scene. When originally shot this was supposed to be the Ganger-Amy, who would have become a doll. As Arthur might say, "Not sure how that'd work. Um. Err."

As the previous thousand odd words probably illustrated this was an episode better watched than written about, unless you're Kim Newman or indeed Gatiss and can draw upon the history of horror as your reference point. That's unusual in this continuity heavy future with its plots and arcs. It's also an episode which unlike Let’s Kill Hitler doesn't demand an immediate rewatch so that every angle can be dissected and chewed over. Like Black Spot, this is old school Who but unlike Black Spot, there was a confidence to the storytelling, a clear understanding of the pacing and none of the characters disappeared mid-episode without an explanation. Perhaps next year, Moffat will surprise us and produce a season with a few more of these. As it stands this was just the thing for a rainy night in a high rise, as winter closes in.

Liverpool Food and Drink Festival 2011

"Amidala discovering her own dark side"

Dance Watching the excellent Tournée not too long ago, the low budget comedy about a French impresario managing an American Neo-Burlesque troupe, it didn't take too long for me to wonder whether burlesque dancers ever themed their show, most specifically with sci-fi reference, injecting one of the more obvious sub-cultures. Well, some of them do:
"And what better narrative to bring than the rabidly beloved interstellar adventures of Star Trek and Star Wars? While they do play up the rivalry between the two, there’s plenty of room in the show’s dozen or more acts for both franchises to bare all—so for every Amidala discovering her own dark side (performer Keela Watts) there’s an aerial Borg dancer navigating her way around a suspended cube (Miranda Tempest). And taking the award for “Best Ever Use of William Shatner’s cover of ‘Common People’” is BoylesqueTO’s Patastrophic Sexapeel, whose cheeky turn as Captain Kirk brings the show to a triumphant close."
The pictures are here and well worth a look, if not safe for work.  Of course, Doctor Who was already pioneering the effort on television in the 1980s ...

the pseudonymous Robin Bland would do

TV It’s the fucking resurrection gauntlet isn’t it? Eight whole episodes and I’ve finally cottoned on to the idea that Torchwood’s Miracle Day is the Owen arc from series two spread across the world like a rash. These families (which at this point might as well be the Slitheen with better compression technology) have the gauntlet, rescued from the wreckage of hub one, connected up to one of Russell T Davies’s patented pieces of made-up magical technology to create the global morphic field Jack keeps knocking on about. Either that or they got the Immortality Gate from The End of Time to work properly. Or a mixture of the two.

But let’s face it, who cares? At this point I’m tapped out. As expected in the week when its parent series gave us one of its most confident episodes ever, Torchwood hasn’t looked more like an illegitimate child so that the most exciting moment is when two actors from a completely different franchise say a few words to one another making the whole thing look like the boringly titled Official Star Trek Convention has staged an invasion of Gallifrey One. About the only thing which made Jane Espenson & Ryan Scott fittingly titled End of the Road watchable was the sight of John De Lancie swaggering around frantically waving his Q-schtick.

At least with Star Trek, because the episodes came at you on mass, even if there was the odd duff episode, an admittedly liquid ratio depending on the particular series, there was at least the knowledge that there were another twenty-odd which might be ok. We’re at episode eight of this and every single revelation across the weeks has proved to be worth as much as the in-universe economy with Colonel Kira’s at the close of the last one a prime example, and we’ve even reached a stage were the characters themselves (Gwen) are throwing their hands in the air wordlessly frustrated at the implacable engineered plotting running on a filler-based fuel.

I imagine the professional reviewers (I tend not to look before giving my "opinion") are digging around repetitious looking from something interesting to say, about how touching individual scenes like Jack’s remembrance of Ianto or Esther speaking to her sister are touchingly well played. Just touching. Gwen’s teary flight home. Again.   They’ll be addressing the scene in which Oswald Danes tries to cosy up to a prostitute and show a capacity for change only for it to be spit back in his face, the hitherto unknown category ‘0’ for those people who were supposed to be executed already anyway suggesting the whole Danes strand has been a waste of screen time just like so many other dead ends this series has thrown up along with the expected bits of carrot.

But they’re wasting their time. We all are. RTD and the gang have somehow conspired to produce a piece of drama that inspires nothing but grim determination from its viewers or at least those viewers with high enough standards than the commenter at The Guardian who says “TV is not supposed to be high art, nor life lived, it's just some escapist thing to relax to. So chill out, haters.” The rest of that thread, under an column in which blogger Dan Martin hitherto generally quite balanced in his reviews shows signs of fatigue, has next to no other positive comments and that’s from a fairly general public. Gallifrey Base is reaching for the category one volunteer papers.

Even the revelation that anonymous blonde at the CIA is one of them didn’t illicit so much as a gurgle. Jack’s been shot? Yeah, he’ll be fixed next week. The null-field revelation which should have been cool was rendered with all the style of a sub-Sarah Jane Adventures attic scene, Mekhi Phifer suddenly turning into Clyde Langer rather than a professional member of the security services. About the most surprising moment was that Jilly Kitzinger wasn’t already part of the family, something which her behaviour in the first few episodes might indicate and betrays an element of late rewrite to make her viewpoint character when something else fell through.

When the episode ended, I decided this was going to be a six paragraph review. Here we are in paragraph seven but there’s not going to be another one. Like I said, I’m tapped out. There’s only so many times one can say the same things in different ways about a series which itself doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing. And to make matters worse episode nine looks like its going to be about Gwen defending her father from a man from the local council and knocking over the local chemist, and Frances Fisher quoting from The Eleventh Hour which only goes to remind us that what this series need is a Doctor, though a writer like the pseudonymous Robin Bland would do.  Same time next week then?

I still have some reading to do.

Comics Way back in the distant past (2007) when IDW Comics launched their canonical line based on Joss Whedon's Angel, I gave it a cautious welcome, applauding the ideas and Bryan Lynch's scripting but losing my temper over Franco Urru’s artwork which was frankly a mess. Though I bought each and everyone of the ensuing issues (though none of the spin-off), the messy plotting and blury artwork eventually tried my patience and my last actual read issue will have been somewhere in the low twenties.

That being the case, my reaction to the character suddenly reappearing in the Buffy line at Dark Horse was slightly less unhappy than some fans who thought IDW had been shafted. They had been shafted of course, not least because the person scripting the series learnt about the character being revealed as the big bad Twilight at the same time as the fans and then found himself filling in a gap rather than writing an ongoing series.  I see now from the Wikipedia that he left before the final IDW story arc.

Now all that's been settled, IDW have ceased their publication and Angel's been teamed with Faith in Dark Horses's Angel & Faith which will run in a fortnightly waltz with the new Buffy series, assuming that the publication schedule is followed for a change. It's also handily designed as a jumping on point for people who only read the "season eight" comics but with respectful references back the IDW range which retains its canonicity and suggests I still have some reading to do.

It's good. Opening unexpectedly in a way that few writers would have the confidence to before making precisely no grand gestures towards any kind of weekly format, Whedon (who's listed as executive producer which seems like a unique job title in regards to comics) and scripter Christos Gage offer a natural continuation from the end of Buffy: Season Eight with Angel trying to atone for the sins he wrought as Twiglet, sorry Twilight, with Faith as his babysitter.

Cleverly the issue's told from her point of view which helps to emphasise that this is an equal partnership and this isn't just another Angel spin-off comic with the once rogue slayer as a hanger-on. Gage gauges Faith well; since she gave up the evil life, she's been particularly difficult to pattern out for some writers unable to square her original antonyming for Buffy's righteousness when she's also essentially good. There's been a certain element of merging over the years, and it's to Gage's credit that he keeps her distinctive.

That said, it is odd seeing Angel back within an ensemble (albeit an ensemble of two) rather than leading it for the first time in years. Even in the television series it was always clear who's boss but the vampire with a soul here is more akin the version who strode through the shadows of the first three seasons of Buffy and that's underscored by some surprising and thoughtful back references. He's not out of character, just out of sorts but the closing few pages do suggest that he'll become more active in the coming months.

Rebekah Isaacs's artwork is lucid and action packed. She captures the likenesses of the regulars well but continuing the approach of the Buffy comics of making the purely comic based creatures entirely unlike anything that might have occured on screen. Even the frames are well thought through too, showing the kind of narrative and thematic attention to detail inherent in the direction and editing of the television series especially in a Whedon directed episode. An exiting, confident opening.

"On a flat one?"

Commerce Here is a cautionary tale on how not everything happens for a reason and you can be easily led.

Shortcutting through George Henry Lee's today (or John Lewis for those of you haven't lived in Liverpool all your life) I decided to see what FreeSat receivers on sale. Our high rise apartment building has a signal running through its many orifices and only recently thanks to the Twitter brains trust has it been explained to me that it can be used in conjunction with the free service - well free apart from the price of the box.

Said boxes are out of my price range but I glance left and see a Sharp Freeview HD box for £35 which still seems like a lot of money, or does on my salary. I wait for a partner to be free (for the uninitiated all of John Lewis's staff are shareholders) (it's complicated) and then fire at him the battery of questions:

"Will it work on a portable ariel?"
"On a flat one?"
"Just the four channels? Three I already have and BBC HD?"
"Does it effect the picture quality?"
"Can I return it?"

That's the gist. He answers them patiently and is even open enough to tell me that he himself has a Humix PVR with an HD receiver which is "quite good". I thank him, he thanks me, I thank him and he thanks me again and then I continue standing looking at this little black box.

Having only marginal self control when it comes to consumer goods at the bottom end of the price range and offering the same rationalisation I'm employing to justify buying the Star Wars blu-ray boxset, that I don't imbibe any noxious substances for pleasure or addiction, I pick up the little slip of stock control paper and take it to the check out.

The lady partner checks for stock. They're sold out. My vision of leaving the shop with the box in a bag evaporates. She tells me she can order me one and that I'd be able to collect it on Friday, maybe? I think again.

"Tell you what", I tell the teller, "Leave it. If there isn't one in stock, it's the world telling me I shouldn't have one."

"We could deliver one to you."  She blurts out quickly.

"To my house?" I live in a flat, but I always say house because the flat's in a House and I like saying the 's' sound in house more than the 't' sound in flat, which sounds a bit flat.

"To your house."

"Go on then."

She had me. So now I'm waiting for my new Freeview HD box to be delivered. Which goes to show that the internal stock ordering and distribution systems of department stores have nothing to do with fate and philosophy and everything to do with sales and marketing.

the paradigm of children’s storybook magicians

Books If you’ve ever wondered what Rex Harrison would sound like playing the Doctor then listen no further than Stuart Milligan’s translation of the Time Lord in Oli Smith’s new audio book Blackout. In hiring the actor who played Richard Nixon in this year’s season opener The Impossible Astronaut and his natural American accent, producer Alec Reid (or whoever’s in charge of these things) obviously hoped that simply that voice would do half the job in bringing some of the requisite atmosphere to this New York based story. But that also means Milligan has to wrap his voice box around the British regulars and the result is peculiar.

But please understand this isn’t a criticism. It works brilliantly. Steven Moffat’s conception puts the character as close as he’s ever been to the paradigm of children’s storybook magicians from Hugh Lofting’s Dr. Dolittle to Roald Dahl’s Willie Wonka anyway, with Matt’s own interpretation somewhere in the midst of Rex Harrison and Gene Wilder. So in the absence of M. Smith, to, however inadvertently, have Milligan heading in that direction reading O. Smith’s words makes the story fit, even more closer than usual, into the style of the television series something which these audio exclusives don’t always manage in their rush to increase their scope.

Some of the most charming moments are in the Doctor’s interaction with the city as he attempts to employ 1960s technology to investigate an alien infection which is being spread through the city’s water supply (the TARDIS having been conveniently parked too far out of reach). He associates himself with Clint, a taxi driver who’s somehow a vital piece of a puzzle as to what the inevitable alien threat wants. Together they navigate a city experiencing the famous blackout of November 9th, 1965, when in the real world, a misjudged safety relay led to the electricity network overloading when busy north-eastern USA went about their cooking and heating in a bitterly cold winter.

With its slender running time, to give much more away would spoil some of the surprises, though since it's on the box, I think it’s safe to say that Amy and Rory’s job is to “sabotage the city’s water supply to slow the spread of infection” which leads to the main action adventure quotient of the story as well as some of the chills as the couple try to make their way back to their friend afterwards. With another season’s worth of stories to work from, Smith interprets their relationship perfectly and Milligan judges it best not to try too hard with Amy’s accent which mean we’re more focused on the story than trying to divine which part of the highlands the reader is wandering in.

The real triumph of the story is the only other main speaking part, Clint, who takes most of the bizarre of events presented to him in his stride and isn’t afraid to question the Time Lord’s motives and process, a constant reminder to the Doctor of humanity’s nobility. The reading often slips into proper audio drama as the two characters become swept up in events, the Doctor challenging the cabby’s potential for heroism. This is aided by the writer pulling back on the descriptive elements of speech meaning Milligan doesn’t have to drop of character to say who’s speaking, just rarely adding how they’re speaking to help orientate the performance.

All of which sounds like a lot of commentary on process but having listened to a few of these audio exclusives now, I can truly say that outside of James Goss's experiments in form, this is one of the most successful of this era. It’s not the most original stories perhaps, and there isn’t a lot of story to go round actually, but it’s well worth an hour of your time and another illustration of how sometimes even stand alone, spin-off fiction can have the same authority as its televisual cousin. The closing moments, underscored by composer Simon Power’s Vangelis-like ambience are certainly as moving.

Doctor Who: Blackout written by Oli Smith and read by Stuart Milligan is released on the 8th September from AudioGo. Review copy supplied.

attempting impersonations of earlier actors like Roy Skelton

Books Present voice of the Daleks, Nicholas Briggs has become ubiquitous since he first began enunciating into his analogue moogerfooger for the earliest Dalek Empire series at Big Finish. So expert was he at bringing the requisite menace to those audios, it was inevitable that he should be asked to offer the same service in the television series, providing one of the best Dalek performances ever in the eponymous television episode. As he explains in an interview on the occasion of providing an alternative voice track for the Day of the Daleks dvd special edition, he does try to vary the sound, attempting impersonations of earlier actors like Roy Skelton, but the “Briggs Dalek” always exists underneath.

What this ubiquity means is that across the audios, because Briggs intimidating omnipresence is so familiar, it’s become a non-visual replacement for Raymond Cusick’s designs. On screen, a quick shot of the eye-stalk and straight away we know that the next (insert story duration here) minutes will be horrible. Now, on audio, Briggs’s guttural monotone, always so alien in comparison to whatever else is happening elsewhere in the sound design, sends chills even through the most seasoned fan, or should I say even this most seasoned fan. Which is probably why, when they’re combined on screen, even in the multi-coloured humped variety of Dalek, they’re now so utterly frightening.

It certainly elevates this audio book version of John Peel’s 1989 Target adaptation of the 60s Hartnell story, The Chase in which the Dalek Empire chases the Doctor and his companions across time attempting to destroy them through a series of convoluted plans. On screen, this a bit of a ragtag mess of a story, oscillating between charming and charmless, deathly slow in some places, zippy in others. But with Briggs’s impeccably scary performance threaded throughout Maureen O’Brien’s reading, we feel every moment of the TARDIS team’s peril, tensely wondering if they’ll survive as they’re separated from each other and reunited, the Daleks hot on their trail.

That’s one reason to listen to a story with a two and half hour screen time spread across twice the duration. The other is Peel’s adaptation which turns Terry Nation raggle-taggle selection of incidents in search of a story into the embarrassment of magical riches the television version aspires to be, more akin to one of Big Finish’s Short Trips audios or a collection of fairy tales about a mad man in a box. The patience trying Morton Dill incident becomes a quite melancholic meditation on a wasted life that goes out of its way to explain the character’s bizarre behaviour and the haunted house section, though perhaps slightly overlong, feels like being hit in the head with a Hammer.

Later on, during the nineties, Peel would try my patience with two continuity heavy eighth Doctor novels which felt entirely out of step with what the other writers on that line were trying to achieve. He’s in similar mood here in the late eighties, adding retrospective mythology to the story, but in this case it's rather charming as are his efforts to increase the complexity of the characters with Vicki in particular benefiting from the exploration of her internal motivation. Hopefully it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that he manages to find the perfect textual analogy for one of my favourite scenes in Doctor Who’s history, the Chris Marker-like conception of Ian and Barbara's return to their own time.

All aided by Maureen O’Brien’s beautifully appointed reading which in the best traditions of these audio books has the qualities of a bedtime or fireside tale. As seems to the mode in recent AudioGos, the reader doesn’t attempt direct impersonations of the characters, but does access Hartnell, Russell and especially Jacqueline Hill, her now mature voice often quite uncanny. In places, it also sounds as though O’Brien's rewatched the television series as a reference; when she offers Steven’s sceptical “Oh come on …” late on, it’s almost exactly the same performance as Peter Purves in the role. But always, when she gives way to the Daleks, Briggs, aided by some faithfully sources mechanical whirs and buzzes, can't help but steal the show.

Doctor Who: Daleks: The Chase read by Maureen O'Brien with Dalek Voices by Nicholas Briggs is released by AudioGo is out now. Review copy supplied.

"I had girls' jeans on"

Sub-Cultures The Isthmus reports that academia has been plunging into the question of what defines a hipster and inevitably a marketing professor is involved:
One of Arsel's interview subjects, Chris, declares consumer sovereignty: "I don't try to keep up with it. If I was sitting here right now, and I had girls' jeans on and a funky haircut and was drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon all the time and getting import copies of Swedish psychobilly folk noise pop, whatever the hell, and reading David Sedaris and watching obscure Samurai-trash-cult movies...I wouldn't even feel like a real person anymore."
I was reading Sedaris yesterday and cut my own hair today. Almost there. Now, that reminds me. I was going to see if the Chateau Neuf Spelemannslag was sill available on import.

linked below and full of spoilers

Radio As you probably remember, Torchwood: The Lost Files was a series of adventures broadcast in Radio 4's Afternoon Play slot in the run up to Miracle Day, set in and around Children of Earth. As expected AudioGo are about to release a cd box set of them but unexpectedly they've have been good enough to send me a review copy. When I wrote about the plays at time of broadcast it was with the assumption that you'd all been listening along (also linked below and full of spoilers), but I do know there will be some of you who'll be coming fresh to these, so here's a paragraph of text about each with the relevant spoilers excised.

Rupert Laight’s The Devil and Miss Carew isn't the most auspicious of starts. The idea is sound, an alien employing the Shipping Forecast to take possession of the residents of a care home, but the execution lacks pace, has some ear-splitting dialogue and repetitious exposition and some quite disappointing moments when exposition is repeated over and again on the assumption the audience is having difficultly following.  Ahem.  That said, the cast march confidently back into their old roles, especially Gareth David-Lloyd as Ianto, who's levity and comic timing have been much missed in the new television series [original review].

Ryan Scott’s Submission showed us that radio Torchwood can be both personal and epic and offer a story that could not necessarily be filmed on an average television budget. Channelling Jules Verne, this saw the crew with one of Ianto's old flames descending to the deep to investigate the noise being made by a vast creature. Thick with the atmosphere of the unknown world beneath the waves, the dialogue puts the audience directly into the capsule whilst still maintain the integrity of the regulars, gifting Gwen some of her best ever comic moments which Eve Myles obviously enjoys performing [original review].

But best of the three and as I said at the time, the best radio Torchwood ever, is James Goss's The House of the Dead, whose unpromising set-up belays an astonishingly involving story that would be too easily ruined if I went much further than what's said on the box. The most haunted pub in Wales is closing and to mark the occasion the landlord brings in a psychic to hold a seance. As the Torchwood team investigate, Jack starts acting strangely and it slowly becomes apparent that not everything is as it seems. Torchwood's The Chimes of Midnight and a reminder of what is possible even within the old "stand alone" format [original review].

Torchwood: The Lost Files is released by AudioGo on the 8th September 2011.  Review copy supplied.

"typical Ely"

The Day In Douglas Adams & John Lloyd's The Meaning of Liff, a faux-dictionary which employs proper names to put words to those elements of life which don't already have them defines an Ely as "The first, tiniest inkling you get that something, somewhere, has gone terribly wrong."

Ironically, that's the creeping experience of the actual people of Ely in the weeks leading away from the wedding of Kate and Wills as the bunting put up to celebrate the royal union have been left up and if the Cambridge News's account is anything to go by the local residents have become strangely angry about the whole thing.

"The bunting needs taking down. It looks scruffy – in my opinion it should only be up if there’s a celebratory or community event that’s on. If it’s up all the time then it reduces the excitement of the events it should be up for in the first place."
Presumably as it slowly dawned on local pedestrians that the bunting was still up, their brains began to seek reasons.  The general consensus  seemed to be that the local council was being a bit slow to activate, indeed a bit worksop, or as one local resident puts it "typical Ely".

Except, and it's the council's fault for not communicating this properly to their wage payers, the bunting has been left up to save money.  The extraordinary cost of hiring a hoist led them to decide that they might was well leave the coloured triangles in situ until Christmas when they'd be replaced by the festive lights.

I actually quite like the bunting.

Though I understand the idea that leaving it up is like having your Christmas decorations around your house all year ruining the temporary spectacle, this is just a one off. Plus, does this have to be single application bunting? Can't the meaning be simply transfered to celebrating life itself or less grandly the existence of Ely?

In any case, the bunting will come down eventually, and a wembley has been averted which as Liff puts it would have been "the hideous moment of confirmation that the disaster presaged in the ely had actually struck." or that the good people of the town would spend the rest of their lives seeing these tiny flags blowing in the wind.