Good as Gold, the results of this year's Doctor Who script to screen competition

TV  Last night, Blue Peter broadcast Good as Gold, the results of this year's Doctor Who script to screen competition and you can watch it here:

Now, isn’t that fun? However entertaining the spin-off media is, particularly the audio exclusives from AudioGo or the Doctor Who Magazine comics, they’re never quite the same as the television version with its acting and music and camera whooshing around. And there they are for the first time since Christmas, The Doctor, Amy, the TARDIS console room and the chemistry we’ve enjoyed this past few years. Just three minutes including credits and whooping from the Blue Peter audience, but a magical three minutes.

Much of that has to do with the Children of Ashdene School or more precisely Rebecca, Emily and Libby from Year 6 who’ve cleverly looked at the fundamentals of what makes a Doctor Who story, as the first Doctor says, “the great spirit of adventure” and run with it, making it the Time Lord’s primary motive after some needling from Amy. None of the wanting to be left alone which has epitomised all of the Doctors at some point or other. If they’re not having an adventure at least once a week, there’s something wrong with the universe. Amen to that.

As with much of the newer series, kids entering the competition were handed a shopping list of what their script had to include. The scripts had to be no longer than three minutes when performed, have an Olympic theme, set either in the TARDIS or a new planet or world (but not both) and feature the eleventh Doctor plus Amy AND/OR Rory PLUS either a Judoon, Cyberman, Ood or Weeping Angel AND/OR a brand new human character (this can be a contemporary figure or a historical character).

None of which is quite werewolves, Shaolin monks and Queen Victoria but still has a few problems and it’s to the writer’s credit that they have managed to shoehorn all of that into three minutes. Shrewdly they’ve realised there isn’t much room in that time to give Amy and Rory something to do, especially in something this plot based, so they’ve stuck with just the former, which suggests that maybe this story happens some time in new series five, after The Time of Angels, perhaps as late as when Rory has been wiped from existence.

The Olympic theme was a big ask. This could have manifested itself in a metaphoric sense but the kids have gone with a more terrestrial theme and inevitably the result contradicts Fear Her as the athlete says he’s going to be lighting the flame. By rights this minisode should feature the tenth Doctor. But demonstrating a Dicksian understanding of the franchise, they’ve realised that “established events” should never get in the way of a good story so time’s been rewritten and here we are with a version of the London 2012 opening ceremony in which the TARDIS lands in the middle.

That’s the other interesting choice. Given the opportunity to set this particular adventure elsewhere, we have another minisode set in the console room. Perhaps that’s why it was chosen by the judges, but again in writing they’ve realised that establishing some new planet at the beginning wouldn’t have left much narrative real estate for something to actually happen. Even without an EXT, shot in the script, most people watching will know what this place looks like so it’s a perfectly reasonable shorthand. Plus there’s something seductive about only just glimpsing what’s beyond its door.

That the TARDIS has an "adventure" setting shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. As we discovered in Steven Moffat’s Space/Time, it already has the capacity to enter "conceptual space", presumably an offshoot of the Land of Fiction (which was used as part of the promotion for the series). Unless the Doctor’s simply glossing the randomiser to Amy as a way of showing off and tantalising those of us who vaguely wish the TARDIS’s guidance systems would fall apart and we could return the haphazard approach to destinations of the 60s.

Another ingenious decision is in selecting the Weeping Angels. Partly that might just be ruled by taste – the Angels are the coolest of the aliens on that list – but again like the TARDIS console room, they have a shorthand. The problem with Judoons, Cybermen or Ood is that they have to have a motive, some reason to be there, they’d need some dialogue. We know the Weeping Angels simply want to make you die slowly. Plus they have a recognisable catchphrase that has an inbuilt terror. They exist therefore they’re scary.

The Doctor also gets a bit of a speech. It’s a bit Huw Edwards, and “destroy the very spirit of respect, excellence and friendship it represents" isn’t going to beat “they’re indomitable” or “do I have that right”. But it shows that Rebecca, Emily and Libby have done some research into the history of the games and what they represent.  Along with Fear Her, it would be entirely appropriate to broadcast this again as part of the BBC's main coverage.  Genuine thought’s gone into this script.  Perhaps after this.

All in all then, an economic, neat, funny, snack of a story which can stand along side all the rest of the minisodes written by professionals which is a credit to its authors and to the production which invited them. With Confidential cancelled, competitions like this will be instrumental in inspiring the programme makers of the future and hopefully even the children who weren’t successful in the seeing their work filmed will have enjoyed the process enough to be motivated to become the production team of the future.

"a PR was sitting in on an interview"

Journalism Jason Arnopp interviews an anonymous PR about their work. On interviews:
“Oh, and you know what PR’s hate more than sitting in on interviews? Journalists commenting on the fact that a PR was sitting in on an interview in the copy. Let’s be clear, the public do not care about this, and it doesn’t make interesting copy. It’s petty point scoring that just sours your relationship for no real reason.”
Two things on this. Firstly, as a member of the public I do like to hear about this. If there's a PR in the room, as the interviewee suggests, it means the subject can't and won't be as open as if they weren't which is presumably why the journalist mentions their presence.

(B)  Interviews are boring.  If you're a fan of someone, you'll read dozens of interviews with them and there's an element of churn, the same stories over and again.  What makes them different is the journalists and although some would prefer them to be anonymous stenographers, some of the best interviews I've read have been about the journalist as much as the subject.

There's a balance and sometimes it can go wrong, but in the main, when a journalist mentions the PR, they're doing their job properly and probably producing interesting copy around that which isn't just reproducing the contents of a press release.

the launch of this year’s Liverpool Biennial at the old Cunard Building

Art  Last night I attended the launch of this year’s Liverpool Biennial at the old Cunard Building. Each year my access has been increasing and there’s something a bit thrilling about being introduced to the festival this early.  As I entered the massive room where highlights of the programme would be revealed, it occurred to me that I’ve been to enough of these things now that I’m seeing familiar faces, some of which I can talk to, which is a blessed change from the Biennial in 2008 when I wrote about “the sheer brace of strangers”.

The massive room in which we gathered was the luxury lounge for first class passengers before and after embarking and disembarking from Cunard's passenger liners. I spent some of the time simply looking at the deco ceiling and walls wondering how, like the Town Hall, such a beautiful piece of architecture could be so perennially off limits to the public. If the Biennial have made at least one good choice this year, it’s making the Cunard Building its base, since the fact the building will be open has a curiosity factor in and of itself. For some, the art will be an added bonus.

After a cup of coffee and my usual slightly embarrassed explanation to new people as to what I do (“I write a blog. It’s called feeling listless…”), the presentation began. At which point I can reveal that I also wrote this blog post last night because the contents were embargoed until after the London press launch at Tate Britain this morning. This too is quite exciting. I’d never attended an embargoed press event before. Afterwards I even had to ask what it really meant, at least in terms of not wanting to piss anyone off.

I can certainly understand the slight buzz some journalists have of knowing something someone else doesn’t. But I’m also oddly a bit gloomy about knowing so much this early. Granted, as the new artistic director Sally Tallant quickly listed the various venues and artists whose work will be filling them I couldn't absorb everything, and in some cases they’re not sure exactly what these new friends will be bringing, there are still a couple of works which seem like they would have worked best as unexpected pleasures. Even arts festivals can have spoilers, it seems.

The main title of this year’s festival is “The Unexpected Guest” and the theme is “hospitality” which as the press notes explain is “an attitude and a code of conduct fundamental to civilisation, as well as a metaphor whose conditions and energy inspires artists”. It’s a loose enough topic to bringing in a range of ideas and arguably great art should be “hospitable” as it draws the viewer in to the world of the artist’s inspiration, though it shouldn’t necessarily be interchangeable with “accessible”.  Some of the very best art is also about as hospitable as the surface of Pluto.

Weathering well the various venue closures in the years since the last Biennial, this year’s festival has absorbed some which were part of the independents last time, like Metal and The Royal Standard. The Victoria Gallery and Museum at Liverpool University has also been made official venue as has the old postal sorting office on Copperas Hill, now owned by John Moore’s University, which will house the Bloomberg New Contemporaries and City States, both moving from the Baltic Triangle.

For all the reasons we’ve discussed, I’m reluctant to look too closely at what’s coming up (you can read about them yourself at the Biennial website when it's updated), but there are a few things which made me chuckle during the presentation. Singapore artist Ming Wong is remaking Chinatown in his own language with himself playing all the roles. That’ll be in the public realm as will The Mad Lift, an Oded Hirsh installation at Liverpool One in which a lift looks like its crashed to the surface as though a hidden civilisation is accidentally interacting with ours. That’s a real lift. Amazing.

At the Bluecoat, John Akonfrah is producing a installation work about the life and philosophy of Stuart Hall, the professor who I remember from my not-so misspent youth watching Open University programmes during school holidays. The Open Eye Gallery will house Kohei Yoshiyuki’s collection of images of couples having sex in parks and their spectators, captured with infrared cameras, images which will apparently only be viewable in a darkened room via torchlight in an attempt to recreate the artist’s own processes.

There’s plenty more and I’m neglecting whole venues, but the information’s all up here as well as in the professional media. After a Q&A in which I managed to stutter through a query about the venue of the other launch (“And where is the Liverpool launch happening? Oh err I mean London …”), the Biennial’s directors and curators all rushed off to taxis so that they could catch their train and I wandered out of the building with some people towards the bus home with a feeling of having been made welcome. The Liverpool Biennial 2012’s hospitality has begun.

"Why should museums and galleries close at 5.30?"

Museums Last week some time, I commented during a live chat at The Guardian's website about the future of museums. This week, a round-ups been posted and my comment has been included. Here we go:
"From advanced interactive technology the conversation turned to the most basic of museum fundamentals – opening times. Commenter feelinglistless made the point:

"Why should museums and galleries close at 5.30? Why is it only possible for most of us to only see things at the weekend (when often they're closed on Sundays too)?"

"It seems to me that regional museums and galleries suffer because they're not seen in the same light as theatres, cinemas, concerts, restaurants etc in terms of a destination for free time or entertainment," he added.

Tapping into a market of working professionals who leave work as the museum doors close could not only increase foot flow and sales but might also have a positive effect on how the wider public view museums as a whole. By opening up the space into sociable and after-work hours, the museum becomes a entertainment hot-spot.

All of the panel offered their support for museums to open a little later and to provide evening events on a weekly or monthly basis – much like the Natural History Museum's After Hours programme."
It's interesting that they said "a little later".  My suggestion is for them to open as late as nine or ten o'clock.  Perhaps not every night.  The Louvre keeps its door opening until 9.45pm on Wednesdays and Fridays (but then it doesn't have enough staff to have all its rooms open all the time and is shut on Tuesday).  I'm not saying its a perfect example.

But we have to get out of this just being for special events and make it the norm.  For it to be accepted and expected.  Extra hours would cost money because of staffing and utilities and whatnot but it's not entirely unlikely that the extra footfall to use restaurants and shops.  Potential donations may compensate.

I'd be against charging for just these particular hours since that would nullify the benefits and limit access.  But this has to be something worth looking at.  As a nation we're rather stuck in rut in relation to our evening's entertainment and this would go some way to offering some extra freedom to those of us who keep the engines running during the day.

"the show was more like MAD TV on an off week"

TV This AV Club post about fictional artistic endeavours picks a few easy targets, suggests a couple which I'd disagree with (RENT) but inevitably finds itself on the sunset strip. In Studio 60:
"In order to justify the show’s hyperbolic take on late-night sketch comedy as the epicenter of America’s perpetually boiling culture war, the show-within-a-show would need to cross-pollinate Saturday Night Live at its zeitgeist-capturing best with the ballsy, timely, politically engaged satire of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Alas, judging by the glimpses of sketches viewers had the misfortune to see, the show was more like MAD TV on an off week, a regrettable collision of shameless mugging, broad comedy, and parodies of celebrities (Holly Hunter, Juliette Lewis) who haven’t been culturally relevant or well-known enough to make for good satirical fodder in decades. Studio 60 had all manner of problems, but setting the bar for its sketches impossibly high certainly didn’t help."
Someone in the comments makes the interesting point that if you're with the show by the time the sketches actually appear, somewhere in episode three, your suspension of disbelief accepts that the sketches are brilliant within the diegesis of the show because the characters believe they are.  Even though for most of the time they're not.

Personally, I accepted them because most of the time these kinds of late night shows tend to be relatively patchy and repetitive anyway (even in the UK).  Plus Sarah Poulson's impressions are so uncanny, they are genuinely funny despite their lack of relevance.  Also in some episodes, especially later in the season, the sketches aren't supposed to work because the writers have lost the plot.

singer-songwriter Zoë Bestel

Music In last night's Countryfile, Matt Baker visited Scotland's National book town, Wigtown, to talk about its Hay-on-Wye like collection of bookshops and regular arts festivals. In one especially beguiling moment, Matt was shown as the single audience member for an impromptu gig by local singer-songwriter Zoë Bestel.

 Wanting to find out more, I checked Google and found her official website, which is richer than sites for some well established artist, and has a blog entry about the experience and entertainingly for those of us who're fans of how programmes are made, a short video of what happened in the five minutes before the bit that was on television.

I think it's only fair to force you to link here to watch it, but it's well worth it for  proof that Matt's much the same in "real life" as on television and the background action when the cameraman, otherwise glancing through the bookshelves realises what's going on, realises how good Zoe actually is (and she is very, very good) and dashes out to get his camera.

There are worse ways of gaining some national exposure. Her EP is up on Spotify and embedded below.

Signed copies can be bought here too.

"the marginalisation of children"

TV On the Blue Peter switch. There's a quote in this Guardian column from Greg Childs, the director of Children's Media foundation which "aims to promote media for children and young people":
"We understand the logic of what they are doing, but there is a symbolism about this that the BBC is not taking into account."

"Our worry is that you are saying to kids, you are no longer on our main channels, you are niche, and that other things might follow. We are always concerned about the marginalisation of children. At some point in the future, if more money is needed for daytime, for example, where is that money going to come from?"
In an ideal world, Blue Peter would continue to have a prime slot on BBC One or BBC Two just before the news (or Eggheads), but tonally it's a different programme to everything else on the channel right now.  The ratings can't justify it either -- the majority of its audience is watching it on CBBC anyway.  But looking at that quote, I wonder if what we're seeing in the diversification of channels across digital services isn't similar to the redevelopment of the BBC's radio networks in the late 60s, but much more gradually.

Then, the Light Programme, Home Service and Third Programme shared audiences and demographics and types of programmes but then rationalised into Radios One to Four splitting their relative audience into demographic groups.  In other words in audience terms, CBBC/BBC Three is Radio One, BBC One/BBC Two is Radio Two, BBC Four is Radio Three and BBC News is Radio Four.  That's not perfect obviously, there's still some cross over, but it's the general sense.

We don't complain much that Radio One doesn't have classical music, just as its odd when Radio Four plays disco as it did the other day when Donna died.  Audiences are happy to be segmented on that service and even more so with the extra digital only stations like 6Music.  It's only really nostalgia which assumes that BBC One should cater for particular niche audiences when there are other channels capable of doing it just as well.  We'll talk about the mess that is BBC Two some other time.

"All News Dan Harmon"

TV I've never seen Community, but people I respect have and say it's quite good and that's because of its creator and show-runner Dan Harmon. Or rather he was show-runner and now he isn't. As ever rumours are filtering across this digital wasteland, but rather than simply letting them, Harmon's taken to his blog and set a few things to rest. Or tried to:
"The important one is this quote from Bob Greenblatt in which he says he’s sure I’m going to be involved somehow, something like that. That’s a misquote. I think he meant to say he’s sure cookies are yummy, because he’s never called me once in the entire duration of his employment at NBC. He didn’t call me to say he was starting to work there, he didn’t call me to say I was no longer working there and he definitely didn’t call to ask if I was going to be involved. I’m not saying it’s wrong for him to have bigger fish to fry, I’m just saying, NBC is not a credible source of All News Dan Harmon."
It's a classy piece of writing, tonally well thought through and leaving fans of the show in no doubt as what the show won't be like in the coming season.

my elderly brain

Life I've been a bit under the weather this past couple of days, mostly tiredness, bit headachy, not that you'd necessarily have noticed, given the review from yesterday morning.

 That was a battle in and of itself but felt important to do the following morning when all the memories where still sloshing around in my elderly brain.

It did mean I wasn't up to seeing in real life a friend I met online what feels like years ago who happened to be in town, which is more than a bit rubbish.

But given that I have always wanted to meet them, I think it best when I do meet them, that I meet them when I'm at least conscious and capable to coherent communication for longer than a few minutes.

Which I am now, but they've gone, such is the way of things.