"one of the greatest British productions of all time"

Film It goes in here ...

And comes out here ...
"Sam Dunn, Head of BFI Video Publishing says:
'We are absolutely delighted to be able to announce the DVD premiere release of this extraordinary film. The Devils is one of the greatest British productions of all time, and our special edition release will not only feature the longest version of the film ever to have been released on DVD, but will also include a host of new and exciting extra features.'
"The DVD will be released on 19 March 2012. An announcement detailing the full list of extras and technical specifications will be made nearer to the release date."
No blu-ray unfortunately because of continued issues at Warner Bros. according to a comment at Facebook. But look, The Devils. At this rate we may yet see a dvd for In The Bleak Midwinter too.

Updated! 19/11/2011 Mark's posted a video about the release:

Alternative director's cuts are the unusual animal. Not just reinserted footage but an alternative narrative. If you hated the cinema version of Daredevil, I'd urge you to have a look at the director's cut. It's a whole other, deeper, more expressive piece of work which respects the comics.

Wish I was a faster writer.

TV As I've mentioned before, Graham Kibble-White, reviewer of the contemporary series of Doctor Who in the party newsletter is re-producing his work in the form of a blog. On his latest post, The God Complex, he's included his working: the notes he took during the episode with a few words about his methodology. It's fascinating and well worth seeing.

Here's my methodology: watch the episode once. Decide if I'm going to watch Doctor Who Confidential or not (which won't be a problem in the future).  Decide how much I liked the episode.  Panic.  Realise I have no idea how to write.   Turn on computer.  Sit looking at Microsoft Word for half an hour.  Mess about on twitter (which has lately replaced mess about on Gallifrey Base).

Go to the toilet.  Make another cup of coffee.  Look at clock and realise that time's marching on.  Have an idea.  Start typing hoping it'll go somewhere.  Keep typing.  Realise that the structure I've chosen doesn't make any sense.  Rewrite everything so that it adheres to a new structure then realise I should have stuck with the old one.  Press undo a lot on Word until I get back there (after having copied useful paragraphs to Notepad).

Keep typing.  Having typed a thousand words become guilty because I've only mentioned the writer and some of the actors.  Try to remember something about the direction of the episode.  Realise that I don't remember anything about the episode now.  Check the TARDIS Index File hoping someone has posted a synopsis.  It's ten o'clock and I'm exhausted.  Keep typing.  Wish I was a faster writer.

Midnight.  Finished.  The clever thing to do would be to save what I've written and post it on the Sunday but I'm sick of the sight of the thing and just want to get it posted.  Copy to Notepad.  Copy into Blogger.  Look around for illustrative graphic.  Somehow manage to pick the same one as everyone else, especially Tachyon TV.  Add links to explanatory TARDIS Index File pages while simultaneously rewriting most of it.  Post.

Wake up the following morning to comments indicating I've put the name of the wrong director in because I believed whatever the TARDIS Index File said.  There are also comments pointing out I've misunderstood the story which I also blamethe TARDIS Index File for when I really know I should have watched it twice.  Spend an hour rewriting it again to resolve the tenses.  Spend the rest of the day correcting typos and grammar.

"comic geeks, nerds, dorks, wonks and other damned souls"

Film David Bordwell investigates the optimal place to sit at the cinema:
"Note that I said front-zone. Not every theatre favors front-row sitting. Kristin and I once went to a screening of An Autumn Afternoon in a tiny Parisian house, one of those that seem to have been carved out of a loading dock. We sat in the front row, but that was a mistake. We could put our feet up against the wall housing the screen, and we reckon we watched the movie at something like a 45-degree angle.

"Something a little more peculiar happened when we went to a Fan Preview of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Firmly ensconced front and center, we were packed in by comic geeks, nerds, dorks, wonks and other damned souls, all determined to enjoy this movie. So we had the strange experience of hearing a line of dialogue and then, because its eloquence had a rich bouquet, hearing yelps of appreciation rolling back behind us, as row after row (a) heard it, (b) laughed, and (c) did an instant commentary on it. I can’t judge this movie objectively to this day."
I agree. On the rare occasion I do attend now, it has to be the front row or the one behind. It's the area of least distraction (usually). Plus I've never seen the point of sitting on the back row and seeing a picture so small you might as well be at home. Which probably says a lot about my approach to life in general.

Review 2011: Call For Entries: The Opinion Engine 2.0: Update!

Review 2011  Just a quick word to say I'm still looking for questions and ideas for The Opinion Engine (ie, me) to plough through in December.

What I would like is for you to suggest topics for me to offer an opinion about.

Could be anything. Something cultural, a film, a book or some music. A current affairs story. A person. A concept. Even just a word.

You can be as specific as possible, phrase the suggestion as a question. Or simply a sentence or a title.

You can contact me through the usual virtual channels:




Really must I?

TV Back to incoherent ranting for Torchwood's Random Shoes. During the oft referred to rewatch, perhaps because I was a little bit older and not approaching each episode with anything like the same level of anticipation I managed to enjoy this on its own terms and even be touched by it, even during the still too long funeral scene. For the third week running the supporting actor is the main point of interest, Paul Chequer living up to his name and banking a rather wonderful turn even if he's slipstreaming Marc Warren like he's chasing the ghost car during a time trial mode on Ridge Racer.

"Life's full of disappointments…" Yes, yes it is. Every Sunday at 10pm on BBC Three (or as it appeared tonight briefly Children's BBC). Really must I? Can't I just say 'What Sean said' and move on? This isn't going to be half as entertaining or perceptive. I've just spent the past week writing this critique for my own blog for various reasons describing the main thing wrong with Torchwood and here's an episode that generally ignores my criticisms and creates a whole bunch of others. I could hate it just on that basis, but that wouldn't be fair so it looks like I'll have to make up a special list for this one. It's eleven o'clock at night, I should be thinking about going to bed or running another episode of Spaced which I'm watching once again. Have you seen the end of the paintball episode lately? It's like a forward homage to the Doctor Who episode Fear Her with 'There's a storm coming' and a crane shot and everything. Or are they both Terminator references?

I mean what the hell was that? Do the production team not think that we're not sitting at home thinking - 'Hold on - this is a bit like Love & Monsters…' or 'Is he a ghost? Out of phase with the rest of reality? A non-corporeal clone? What?' or 'Is she in wrap or idle whilst she talking to Gwen - isn't she thinking about her weekly stats - what kind of a call centre is this?' or 'Jesus Christ that's a horrific music cue… what a winy voice … is this supposed to be a joke' or 'That's the original A For Andromeda. Don't pan away, I'm watching that!' or 'Will that man please stop singing? This funeral scene has gone on long enough … what it's still going? How many bloody verses are there in 'Danny Boy' and apart from anything else what the hell is he doing singing it in Wales?' or the many thousands of other niggles that flopped through my brain as I tried desperately and should have been engaging with the story.

Eugene seemed a nice enough bloke, but his plight wasn't enough of a mystery to stretch out over twenty-five minutes let alone double that time. The episode seemed to be copying the structure of Citizen Kane which followed the steps from childhood forward to death in order to reveal a mystery -- it's about how a man lived being revealed in flashbacks and whatnot. Here it felt like the montage sequence from The Ghost Machine slowed down across a a whole episode but instead of the main character discovering information such as Eugene's early childhood it was shown to the audience first. Which meant that when it was revealed to Gwen later it lacked dramatic impact.

It just seems very wrong to me that on such a regular basis, that the so-called regular characters are given so little to do. Ianto's back to saying basically nothing and Tosh is simply asking questions. They're supposed to be main characters and yet they're being sidelined - it's Classic Star Trek all over again. The trouble with this episode was that it wasn't Gwen's story it was Eugene's with the maths 'genius' using her to discover what happened because he pushed her forward - too often she would walk into a scene and sat listening as characters described another bit of the plot. This wasn't really detecting because she wasn't allowed to put the clues together herself -- Eugene was motivating her, revealing his memories, the final moments being his success. Eve Myles was sidelined in her own show.

There wasn't anything actually wrong with the story, but surely it's the kind of thing you trot out in season three when you've established all the characters and you want either give them a week off or you're double banking and have some fun with them. Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Lower Decks is a prime example, as junior officers became the focus and we got to see the regulars from their perspective. Here, Eugene basically followed Gwen around because he lurrrved her and didn't really regard any of the others. During The Hub visit, he seemed more interested in The Doctor's hand (we get the joke already) than anyone else in the hub which seemed a waste.

Eugene was also a bit talky though, given to half quoting everything from Douglas Adams through to Ferris Bueller's Day Off via Monty Python's Galaxy Song, all very poetic, probably thematic, but slowed what little drama there was even more. Unlike Love & Monsters, however, it never felt like the ramblings of a half normal person, seeming more like it had been brought in because the story was being adapted from a novel and the screenwriter was too afraid not include the author's winning material. I'd also argue that the fact that Eugene was both describing events in both the past and present tense confused the point of view still further.

Paul Chequer is a talented actor and even though the character felt like a rehash of his character in As If, even with the Hitler quiff, he still managed to be sympathetic and appealing despite that wordiness. Once again, Eve Myles somehow managed to make Gwen seem like a normal, appealing figure even if her job on this occasion was to largely sit there and listen. The performances across board in this episode were good if not excellent amongst the guest cast although this has always been a problem with the series - the regulars are just less vivid and unloved in the face of the populace of South Wales.

The special effects too were very nice all of the wizzing around the solar system and galaxy, presumably representing Eugene's imagination, giving the episode a scale others have lacked. It was just a shame that they couldn't stretch to more than one moment in which he actually put his hand through someone. He was still walking around at normal speed with doors, such as the ones in the hub, waiting for him to walk through. This quirk could have been worked into the episode - perhaps providing Gwen with proof of her feeling that someone was about but instead it looked like an inconsistency waiting for a nitpicker like me to point it out.

Other oddities -- have Gwen and Owen split up is that what all the arguing is supposed to imply? Why just imply it, why not just say it? And why the hell after all the lovely scenes earlier in the series haven't we seen a proper break-up scene for Gwen and her boyfriend? The show seems determined to reduce every character to a plot point or cypher. Are they allergic to giving the characters convincing private lives? Most of the problems with this episode could have been solved with a reduction of the influence of Eugene's character and the introduction of a B-plot about Jack or Tosh or even Ianto.

Marks were gained for the use of 'Starman' instead of 'Life on Mars', but what the hell was that thing during the autopsy sequence in The Hub? (and as a side note if they had cut him open wouldn't they have found the eye?) Well I know what it is thanks to Outpost Gallifrey - 'Hope There's Someone' by Antony and The Johnsons and in a different context I might have liked it, but here it just ruined the mood and was completely out of context. Love & Monsters had a coherent musical structure but this was just a mish-mash.

But taking the episode as it stands though, it simply wasn't as touching as it should have been even with all of that music layered in, for the reasons already listed and that bloody funeral scene at the end. You really have to have worked hard in the body of a drama to earn something like that and they didn't and as that poor actor graveled his way through even more of Danny Boy I was screaming at the screen for him to stop when I know I should be crying and didn't matter how much sob music was layered in afterwards, they'd lost me again.

Next week: It's more Star Trek plots as TNG's The Neutral Zone and Voyager's The 37ers are given a run around. Once again, we're left wondering what the premise of this show is actually meant to be.

PS, Proto-Skins, As, If still hasn't had a dvd release thanks to the relaxed attitude to musical licensing on first broadcast.  Luckily, this YouTube user has uploaded the entire thing.

you make the companion "Luke Skywalker" and the Doctor "Obi Wan Kenobi"

Film You will have heard and if you hadn't you're hearing it now, that Harry Potter director David Yates in conjunction with BBC Worldwide has it in mind to make a Doctor Who film.  This sort of thing used to happen a lot when the show was off air, Doctor Who Magazine's Gallifrey Guardian news section filled with monthly reports of this or that producer or this or that actor being involved (Denzel Washington?).  As you might expect the reaction, especially on Twitter has been mixed, the usual spectrum of opinion.  Let's irrationally and pick over Yates's quote from Variety helpfully truncated by the Doctor Who News page:

"We're looking at writers now."

Creative control of the franchise has always pivoted between producers and writers.  When Sydney Newman had the original idea for the slot, it was fleshed out by Verity Lambert, David Whitaker and Waris Hussein.  It's a shared concept and universe.  But when the show came back it's been very writer led.  It's interesting that this is going into reverse and I wonder if they realise that for it to work properly they'll need a fan, not just someone who has an appreciation of the material.  The non-fans who've worked on the recent tv series and turned in decent scripts have either been rewritten heavily or guided by the fans producing them.

"We're going to spend two to three years to get it right."

In context this quote looks like it means they're going to spend two or three years looking for a writer which is really quite bizarre.  Presumably they'll audition loads of them, bring them in, ask them for a pitch of how they want to make it and decide which one to go with.  It's the how they want to make it which is a concern.  Let's hope they've had a good long think about who this is for.  Fans might look on it politely but few will properly embrace it.  The British public in general, the no-we, might like it, but even some of them will wonder why "Doctor Who" is being played by some different bloke and a huge amount of the publicity will be about just explaining that.  The global audience?  Well, that's the real trick isn't it?  Which is why ...

"It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena."

... arguably if you have a character actor and a TARDIS the job's already done.  Time machine lands, the Doctor and a companion are deposited into the adventure and you're there.  Which makes you wonder what Yates means by "radical transformation".  The fear is of course he's decided that Doctor Who is about the mythology, Gallifrey and all that nonsense and that they need to tell an origin story.  The tv show didn't feel the need to do that in 1963.

Start talking about "radical transformation" and you're turning it into something which isn't Doctor Who.  When Spielberg was prepping the TV movie/pilot in 1996, he decided the show needed an origin story and that led to the mess that was the The Leekley Bible, the horror of which some soul at the wikipedia has managed to distil into a single sentence:
"The pilot was to feature the half-human Doctor seeking his father, Ulysses, through various time periods—contemporary Gallifrey (where Borusa dies and is merged with the TARDIS, and the Master becomes leader of the Time Lords), England during the Blitz, Ancient Egypt, and Skaro (where the Daleks are being created)."
Doctor Who is the antithesis of Douglas Campbell and the heroes journey and if he isn't, you make the companion "Luke Skywalker" and the Doctor "Obi Wan Kenobi", anything else and you've missed the point.  And looking again at that international audience, the more continuity you load on, the less transferable you make it.  There's a reason the man with no name has no name and it some of the very best Doctor Who is simply a fantasy genre version of A Fistful of Dollars.

"The notion of the time-travelling Time Lord is such a strong one, because you can express story and drama in any dimension or time."

Which is the only indication that Yates has a clue.  He even used the capital letters in the right places in Time Lord, something even I've been lacks with on occasion.  The problem is demonstrating that in a two hour feature film without it becoming just about time travel.  Much as a love the Moffat era, it's still the stories about the Doctor and his companions landing somewhere and saving the Earth from an alien invasion or on a base under siege which are the show's DNA.  The trick is not simply making Independence Day or Aliens with a Time Lord somewhere inside and that's why you need a fan.

"Russell T. Davies and then Steven Moffat have done their own transformations, which were fantastic, but we have to put that aside and start from scratch."

Which seems the clearest indication that this isn't going to simply be A.N. other story, but an origin tale, because if it's A.N. other story, you don't need to start from scratch, you do just tell a really good tale with a character actor and a police box.  Plus if you do start from scratch you're also alienating a fair portion of the viewing public because it's not going to be part of the current continuity.  The beauty of Doctor Who is that it's one long story, that's why Davies then Moffat have just essentially continued where the TV Movie left off, give or take a time war.

The reason, presumably, is so that it doesn't step on the toes of the television series, but they're already doing that by making a feature film.  It's like trying to make a television version of Harry Potter now.  If and when the film is released, how's the current television actor going to feel watching someone else playing the part on the big screen.  About as happy as Hartnell was when Cushing turned up.  Though at this point, any film is going to be as much of a curio as the Cushing films.  And about as canonical.  Sorry, that had to be said.  The real tragedy is that we're finally going to get Doctor Who on a massive budget and it won't "matter".

"We want a British sensibility, but having said that, Steve Kloves wrote the Potter films and captured that British sensibility perfectly, so we are looking at American writers too."

If you like.  Of course, the argument for could be that superheroes and other mytho-literary characters have had multiple versions.  Both Spiderman and Superman are currently being rebooted only a few years after their last iteration and that it's just about the story.  Superman Returns was at the cinema at the same time as Smallville was on television.  The Doctor himself is arguably an iteration of Merlin or a "big space Gandalf".  The Camelot myth survived First Knight and indeed Chris Chibnell's Camelot.

Well. yes, I know all of that.  And David Yates is a very good director even if he wasn't the best director to work on the Harry Potter franchise.  And I did at some point suggest it wouldn't be so bad if there was a US version of Doctor Who which did start from scratch and had an alternative continuity and this wouldn't be that much different.  And it's not like Doctor Who's ever had a single creator, so it's not like trying to make Buffy without Joss Whedon.  With Paul Bettany or Bill Nighy as the Doctor and Emma Stone or Rosario Dawson as the companion with a script by Peter Morgan or Charlie Kauffman, you might have something.

It's just that this is Doctor Who.  Someone else has already ruined the Transformers films for me.

Updated! 23:25  Or as a commenter at Tpless Robot puts it:
"It can be popular enough to attract a new fandom unaware of what makes DW great in the first place, re appropriating your fandom and filling message boards with crap.

I'm not saying this will happen, but I'm sure G1 Transformers fans said "What's the worst that could happen?" Sure they can ignore Bay's films, but now they see Autobot stickers on redneck pickup trucks. Now the word Transformers is associated with the most mindless, hedonistic, misogynistic part of society.

"I give Yates infinitely more credit than Bay, but if his version is popular, it won't exist in a vacuum. It will affect your fandom."
Arguably the show coming back effected our fandom and there are classic Whovians who hate the way they see the show having been taken away from them. But you can't imagine how irritating it's going to be once this has come out for every conversation to begin with "What did you think of the film?"

Updated! 23:30 Bleeding Cool gathers together some denials from Twitter. Edward Russell who's in charge of licensing in Cardiff (and would know) says "Perhaps? Maybe one day. But not right now!" and Doctor Who Magazine says it's the same material which has been knocking around for a few years.  The difference in this case is that it's a director who no one had heard was previously attached to the project making noises and the feature film in development at BBC Worldwide will be the same one which was announced at Cannes.  So either it is a nothing or Cardiff is out of the picture.  Hmm...

Updated! 15/11/2011   An hour ago, Steven Moffat tweeted:
"Announcing my personal moonshot, starting from scratch. No money, no plan, no help from NASA. But I know where the moon is - I've seen it."
Which really rather explains what he thinks (and how much he's been consulted about it presumably).  In other words this all probably has about as much veracity as that bloke who wanted to reboot Star Trek.  No The other one [tweet noticed by Gamma Squad, Gamma Squad post noticed by @scottm].

Updated! 2/12/2011 From Doctor Who News, from MTV, a new quote from David Yates on the topic of the film, speaking from the red carpet event for the BAFTA Los Angeles 2011 Britannia Awards:
"I can't really talk about that because its such a long way away. We're principally looking for a writer, and we'll start with that. Everything has to start with a great script, so that's more important than casting.

"I've lived with (fan) pressure for so long. What's pressure? I don't know anymore! It's fine, it's good. It's such a wonderful character and such a wonderful world. It's exciting.

"It's a long journey and we're going to take our time with it. Right now I'm looking forward to a vacation, frankly!"
The fan pressure he's talking about is presumably from Potter fans. He doesn't know what's about to hit him does he? Cue dozens of tweets in Steven Moffat's direction and the following responses from him:

Movie thing: David Yates, great director, was speaking off the cuff, on a red carpet. You've seen the rubbish I talk when I'm cornered.

To clarify: any Doctor Who movie would be made by the BBC team, star the current TV Doctor and certainly NOT be a Hollywood reboot.

Which is amazing simply because this isn't anything like what David Yates said in the initial interview (above) or indeed on the red carpet.

So either Steven's got the wrong end of the stick, David Yates is going to be directing what amounts a Cardiff product or this really is a reboot and he's trying to wrestle some kind of control over it.  Or he's joking.

Either way, some people need to get into a room (at the very least Moffat and Yates's people if not the actual persons) to thrash out a coherent message on the project and a press release clarifying everything, because this just keeps getting stranger...

 Updated! 2/12/2011 again!  And stranger.  Steven's emailed The Register to "clarify" things.  He says that Yates "was talking off the cuff and a little prematurely", there's no plans for a Doctor Who movie at the moment and anything would have to be a joint venture between the BBC and BBC Worldwide.  As I've already said that's still at some variance from the Variety article so either meetings have been had and Moffat's now grabbed back his sash of Rassilon or we're going to get a very interesting quote from Yates soon offering his side of the story.

Updated! 20/12/2011  Well this is fairly unequivocal.  From BBC Breakfast this morning:

It's an imaginary film. David Yates - a very brilliant director - was talking off the cuff and slightly off-message. We're not going to do a film of the nature that he described, which would be rebooting the story and having a different Doctor and being in a different continuity - that would never happen, that would be insane and that would be insulting to the audience. I hope one day we will do a film, maybe even soon, but it will be very much an offshoot of the television series with the same Doctor and all that. (and you doing it?) Yes.

Move along.  Move along.

Jackanory directness

Books After the subtle disappointments of the previous instalment, I’m pleased to report Paul Magrs and the gang are right back on form with the third Doctor Who’s Serpent Crest story, Aladdin Time. After being absorbed by the secret magical Tzistari egg (how do we spell Shistari? Kichetary? Chichester?) the Doctor and Wibbs find themselves in an Arabian Nights inspired land of fiction conjured by Robotov heir Alex’s imagination. Aided by a familiar sounding Aladdin, they face all manner of perils and obstacles while searching out the magic lamp who's powers might allow them to escape.

When the older Doctor says to River in Flesh and Stone “The Pandorica, That’s just a fairy tale” and she replies “Aren’t we all?” I’ve always wonder if it was partly a nod to Magrs who more than most writers has glimpsed at the franchise through the looking glass of fables. The primary evocation is The Scarlet Empress in which the Eighth Doctor even employs Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale to escape some captors, but most of his best stories have developed the notion of the unfolding text of Doctor Who as the greatest myth of all.

Aladdin Time could almost be seen as the synecdoche of these previous stories, featuring as it does a reference to the planet on which The Scarlett Empress is set, the Doctor’s scarf contracting anthroporphism like the furniture in his Tenth Doctor novel Sick Building and a taradiddle that metafictionally comments on classic Who’s own episodic, cliffhanger-based format. The story is even narrated by the unreliable storyteller of the Arabian Nights attempting to keep her mortality amid her master’s threats, a part read with Jackanory directness by Sophie Ward.

All of which makes Aladdin Time sound like the academic exercise it really isn’t. There’s a lightness of touch to the scripting which gallops along like Lewis Carroll, the Time Lord and his housekeeper encountering all manner of environments and strange beasts.  It's The Mind Robber with GCSEs. But the language is the real star as Magrs takes the opportunity to return to some of the florid poetry which made Hornet’s Nest so listenable. My particular favourite is “the treachery of knitwear” (which left me giggling on the bus home Bootle this lunch time).

As you can imagine, Tom’s in his element amongst all this whimsy and a world in which his idea that his companion should be a parrot might actually work. Andrew Sachs plays his scarf with the malevolently that suits the above description.  Mrs Wibbsey is the realistic centre of this story, and there are some rather moving moments which Susan Jameson seizes on.  This is magnificent stuff altogether really though I imagine it wouldn’t be for everybody, especially fans who prefer a straight up alien invasion. Good job episode four’s called The Hexford Invasion, isn’t it?

Doctor Who: Serpent Crest: Aladdin Time by Paul Magrs is out now from AudioGo.  Review copy supplied.

a film

Nature Murmuration [I don't to embed here because it's a film best seen without preamble].

the cunning foresight

TV Comedy Central picked up the rights to Friends after Channel 4 dropped them after a couple of decades. I've just discovered (via @ultraculture) that they're appearing HD because to quote their website:
"Back in the 90s the peeps at Warner Bros had the cunning foresight to shoot the original episodes on film so we’ve had them re-mastered to bring you better looking Friends on our channel. Widescreen and everything."
Given the ropey old transfers E4 were showing until the end and on the dvds which both made the episodes look like they were shot on standard sitcom video, that's a really pleasant surprise and leaves the way clear for a blu-ray release. As an illustration, here's the credits sequence from the pilot episode, the one without the clips. Make it 720p and fill the screen to get the full effect:

Look at all the extra space on either side of the couch!  You can even see the freckles on Lisa Kudrow's face. No wonder the complete dvd boxsets are being knocked out at rock bottom prices.

Children of Steel.

Books Martin Day’s Children of Steel is this month’s other spin-off release based on The Sarah Jane Adventures and sees the gang bidding for an unusual Victorian brass head at a local auction which is revealed to contain a futuristic research probe. After some digging they discover that this metal bonce is part of a much the larger robot, a Difference Golum, designed by a turn of the century abolitionist as an alternative to human slavery, the irony being of course that in creating an intelligent being he’s essentially creating a more complex version of the same problem.

In other words, it’s I, Robot for kids. As with other push-button stories, it’s taking advantage of futuristic metaphors to introduce youngster to fairly weighty concepts. Most of the old well rehearsed arguments from Asimov’s original story, Alex Poroyas’ film adaptation and Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Measure of a Man are trotted out albeit simplified (there’s no direct talk of the three laws here) and having repaired the automaton, Sarah Jane etc have to decide whether he should continue his sometimes menacing existence.

Which rather means, unlike the other release, there’s not much here for adults. The dialogue is more straight forward and generic, and there’s more plot than character. If Scott Gray’s Judgement Day is akin to one of those thoughtful Sarah Jane centric stories by Gareth Roberts, this is one of the early Phil Ford efforts, albeit on a much smaller scale with fewer locations. Ironically, Gray covered some of this ground himself, and better in Autonomy Bug, which was part of his classic Eighth Doctor run of comic strips for Doctor Who Magazine.

Daniel Anthony’s reading is good and especially impressive when working sparks of humanity into the Golem, though his pronunciation takes some getting used to after hearing the similarly named but differently spelt character from Lord of the Rings. Simon Power’s sound design also helps bring the metal man to live, the creaking turns of his head and stomping rattling into headphones and out of speakers and there’s possibly enough of that to keep children entertained which is really the point. Sometimes the target audience is king.

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Children of Steel by Martin Day is published by AudioGo. Review copy supplied.

"this procrastination was research"

Books I forgot to mention the other day (weirdly since it was this which prompted me to contact the publisher and ask for a review copy) but The New Yorker has posted five excepts from the Miranda July book. Here's a sample of the introduction ...
"This story takes place in 2009, right after our wedding. I was writing a screenplay in the little house. I wrote it at the kitchen table, or in my old bed with its thrift-store sheets. Or, as anyone who has tried to write anything recently knows, these are the places where I set the stage for writing but instead looked things up online. Some of this could be justified because one of the characters in my screenplay was also trying to make something, a dance, but instead of dancing she looked up dances on YouTube. So, in a way, this procrastination was research. As if I didn’t already know how it felt: like watching myself drift out to sea, too captivated by the waves to call for help. I was jealous of older writers who had gotten more of a toehold on their discipline before the web came. I had gotten to write only one script and one book before this happened."
... and here are Michael, Andrew, Pam and Joe.  I've updated the original post the reflect the omission.