Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Recyclingwatch Special: Voyage of the Recycled

Rose: Companion holding off villain with sports activities over giant molten pit.

The End of the World: Although it might not be visible at first glance, it’s this story that it’s all coming from: human being who has, through attempting to combat the vicissitudes of age, been rendered into a grotesque quasi-human object on serious life support, who joins a group of people on a cruise over the Earth, starts picking them off one by one using killer robots, tries to aim the vessel at a heavenly body, and then, when caught, reveals it all to be a financial scam before being killed.

The Unquiet Dead: maid sacrificing herself for the hero.

World War III: Well-known television anchor makes guest appearance.

The Long Game: Hidden megalomaniac tycoon named Max; shielded layer of the ship/space station where nobody goes which hides a terrible secret.

Boom Town (and arguably Torchwood): Watch where the Tardis goes when it flies towards the Earth—it’s on a beeline for Cardiff.

The Parting of the Ways: person getting sucked out into space; character giving farewell message through blue-tinted projection.

The Christmas Invasion: Ambulatory seasonal ornaments which turn out to be killers; unseasonal snow caused by spaceship activities; a bit of gratuitous royal-family-baiting.

Tooth and Claw: More royal-baiting, plus a queen who knows who the Doctor is.

Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel: Crippled megalomaniac businessman plotting takeover with evil army of robots; talking holographic advertising pictures with annoying catchphrase; Doctor gatecrashes posh party; companion in waitress uniform.

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit: Trapped people, trying to find their way out of a doomed edifice while being attacked by what used to be calm-voiced innocuous servant-beings and are now calm-voiced vicious killers; Tardis, which could provide a solution, is conveniently rendered hors-de-combat for the duration; somebody getting sucked into space; the commander is trapped in the control centre with no way of getting to the others. Unscientific adventures in magnetism.

Love and Monsters: The Doctor’s “Hold on! I can save her!” bit, with mixed results.

Fear Her: Yet more moonlighting news anchors.

The Runaway Bride: Santa’s a robot, yes, and so are the Christmas angels. More unseasonal snow. Gratuitous Gallifrey namecheck. One-off companion (though the chances of this one coming back in two seasons’ time are slim). Villain falling into bottomless pit at end. There's a review on Tachyon TV which draws pretty hilarious parallels between the two.

Smith and Jones: Another bloody companion who falls in love with the Doctor straight off, and manages to get a snog off of him.

The Shakespeare Code: More baiting of queens who know who the Doctor is.

42: More trapped people trying to find their way to the bridge; more people getting sucked into space, in this case grabbing the villain and taking them with them as they do so.

Human Nature: Yet another companion in Edwardian servant uniform.

Blink: Creepy unstoppable killer angels.

Catchphrasewatch: “I’m so sorry”; “Allons-y, Alonzo” (groan); “No no no no no no!” (ad nauseum).

Old Skool Who: The Robots of Death, a lot (beautiful art-deco robots who go on a strangling spree thanks to the intervention of an evil genius who’s smuggled himself on a long trip; practically every line the Host have which isn’t preceded by the word “information” is, or ought to be, copyright Chris Boucher, and by the time you get to a scene where one gets its hand first stuck, then cut off, in a door, you start to wonder if RTD isn’t just taking the St Michael); Enlightenment (human-seeming entities who have fun by flying Edwardian ships around the solar system and looking down on Earth humans); Delta and the Bannermen (alien tourists visiting Earth, incognito, having a fairly dubious grasp of the planet’s culture, and getting hit by a satellite; there’s even a tickling-stick visible on the Titanic as the Doctor leaves the Tardis); Revelation of the Daleks (disembodied-head bad guy who is secretly planning corporate machinations); while we’re at it, there are talking disembodied heads in Perspex tanks in the Peladon stories as well; The Claws of Axos (a horde of space-borne beautiful golden killers); The Web of Fear (unexpectedly deserted London); The Enemy of the World (it’s not the first time the Doctor’s teamed up with a blonde named Astrid); Earthshock (blobs representing people vanishing off the scanner screen as they get picked off one by one by robots; ship programmed to crash into the unsuspecting Earth). Silver Nemesis (Queen cameo). The Wheel in Space (controlled meteorites as weapons). Frontios (Human being incorporated into machinery that runs on wheels).

Everything Else: Real life (tycoon Robert Maxwell, who famously threw himself off his yacht when his company went under, or did he); Blake’s 7 (teleport bracelets, even down to the design; Mr Copper’s half-understood pastiche of Earth culture is like the President’s half-understood pastiche of Earth history in “Bounty”; “In-for-ma-tion”); The Poseidon Adventure (forget all other 70s disaster movies—this is the source, down to including a fat woman with a Shelley Winters hairdo); Star Wars: A New Hope (attempt to cross a chasm on a narrow beam, as army of killers tries to break through the door); Aliens (unexpected attack by woman wielding forklift); Alien 3 (same woman, hurling herself and the enemy into a fiery pit; Astrid even does a slow-motion look-up like Sigourney Weaver does); Seven Years in Tibet (the Doctor’s slow-motion walk through fire); any movie/TV show involving a talking disembodied head in a Perspex tank, from They Saved Hitler’s Brain through the future sequences of Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (where Nursey is now, well, you get the idea); Harry Potter (talking pictures); Ghost (touching sequence featuring kisses between phantom and corporeal people); Robert Silverberg’s novella “Elegy for Angels and Dogs,” which features a clique of superrich people who, at one point, sail through the Solar System on the Queen Mary liner, which has been converted for space flight); Goldfinger (gold people theme, plus compare the Angels’ halo-throwing to Oddjob’s hat trick). James Cameron’s Titanic (leaving aside the obvious, you’ve got an ending where the hero [Leo DiCaprio/Astrid] dies and the bad guy [Billy Zane/that rich fellow] lives; Douglas Adams’ Starship Titanic. There’s a film called “Passenger 57”.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I'd sooner kiss a Wookie

Thoughts on the Star Wars DVDS:

  • When you watch the movies in prequel --> original order, weird things stand out. Like how there's no kids in the original series (well, I think there's a baby Ewok at one point, but that hardly counts), and lots in the prequel series.
  • Likewise, the Stormtroopers take their helmets off all the time in the prequel series, but not in the sequel. Which makes sense from a production point of view, but narratively it makes you wonder if they all suddenly got ugly or something.
  • What an amazing thesp-fest the original series is! It's fun to watch just for the sheer entertainment value of seeing Julian Glover, Cy Town, Don Henderson etc. turning up every five minutes. Prequel series far more disappointing in this regard, though occasionally you do notice someone like Celia Imrie where you wouldn't expect it.
  • Round about The Empire Strikes Back, suddenly there's a masive jump in dialogue quality. Even characters like C-3PO suddenly up the wit quotient (the monologue at the beginning, where he's rambling on about how difficult it is to get Princess Leia's clothes washed and dried in the freezing cold of Hoth, sounds like improv comedy). And I'm sorry, but, in narrative order, that's the first non-Lucas-written script.
  • People can say what they will, I like the new overdubbed voice for Boba Fett, mostly because the idea of a bad guy with a New Zealand accent is enchanting.
  • Doesn't Ian McDiarmaid really look like Dennis Potter? All he needs is a pair of huge 1980s glasses for the resemblance to be complete.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Late addendum

Have added another renaming option: "Nyder's Takeaways"-- referencing the Nyder's Dyner parent site. Because Blogger won't let me edit the poll, I've added it as a separate poll, but will count votes for it in the main poll.

Monday, December 03, 2007

New Poll: Rename this Blog?

Please note: on the right-hand sidebar, I've started a poll. I'm considering changing the name of the blog, as it's a bit negative, and really I'm not so sure I do hate Steven Spielberg. Possible options include:

Keep the current name (why not, if you like it)
"Dreams Without Gangsters" (a line from the theme tune to Gangsters: I like this one because of the Maurice Colbourne connection, and the media connections)
Daniel Feeld's memories (sometimes I feel like I'm just archiving nostalgia)
Mostly about the Media (the simple minimalist idea)

I was tempted to include "prison sex with Christopher Neame" as an option, since it's one of this blog's inside jokes, but decided not to on the grounds that I might be stuck with it.

I'll add other options if I think of them. Poll closes Jan. 10.

RIP Evel Knievel

...which is even more ironic, since two days beforehand, I discovered this website. It's full of toy catalogues from the mid to late 1970s (including two separate Evel Knievel catalogues), which has taken me on a massive nostalgia trip, full of exclamations of "I used to have one of those!" "The kids next door used to have one of those!" and "I always wanted one of those!" It's interesting, too, to be able to put a name to all those nine-inch action figures that the unbelievably grown-up and sophisticated older kids next door (three and six years older than me, respectively) were always playing with (Mego Star Trek, Planet of the Apes and Superhero figures, mostly).

I'm also both enchanted and frustrated by the discovery that Space: 1999 had not one, but two sets of action figures associated with it (by Kenner and Mego, respectively). I didn't discover Space: 1999 till my teens, but I would so have loved a teeny-tiny Paul Morrow and Victor Bergman for my desktop.

It also makes me mourn the loss of the Family Show. TV shows that were adult hits, like The Six Billion Dollar Man, Planet of the Apes, Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica routinely had action figure lines, reminding us that these programmes were made to be enjoyed by kids too, even if they didn't totally understand the nuances. Much as I love the new BSG, it's a real shame that the only programme out there which seems to have that family niche at the moment is Doctor Who.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Popular Culture 101, again

One thing I've never been able to understand in telefantasy fandom is the people who become fans of one single programme, and feel that as a result of that, they have to hate all other programmes (particularly similar ones; I've lost count of the number of Doctor Who fans I've met who automatically hate-on Blake's 7, and vice versa, even though they shared many of the same writing and production team and are, as Corpse Marker demonstrates, close enough conceptually to take place in the same fictional universe). I mean, if you have a child, you don't automatically hate all other children; if you get married/civil partnershipped, this doesn't mean you automatically hate everyone else of the opposite/same sex; if your favourite food is hamburgers, you don't automatically hate every food that isn't a hamburger. Also, thinking about it, it doesn't seem to work that way in literary fandom-- people who like, say, William Gibson, don't automatically hate Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, Neal Stevenson et al.; indeed, to judge by the "If you like X you'll also like Y" adverts in bookshops and lit magazines, it's assumed that fans of one author will be actively looking for similar authors to enjoy. So why is it somehow different with television? Answers on the usual postcard please.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Warmed-over Lazarus

...and a late addition to the Recyclingwatch: wow, doesn't the head of hybrid-Dalek-Sec look astonishingly like the organic-look VR helmets in Cold Lazarus.

(I tried to find a picture to do a comparison with, but unfortunately image searching for Cold Lazarus gets one five pictures of Albert Finney's head, and several dozen relating to some Stargate SG-1 episode which ripped off the name shamelessly. Instead of "No biography," Daniel Feeld's last words should have been "no recycling...").

Daniel Feeld's memories available for download

As part of Channel 4's 25th anniversary celebrations, the 4 on demand service is putting up a lot of old content for free viewing. This includes the otherwise-unavailable (unless you or one of your friends managed to video them back in the day) Dennis Potter classics Cold Lazarus and Lipstick on Your Collar (they've also got the prequel to Cold Lazarus, Karaoke, but they've cunningly made it pay-per-view). The viewing window is unfortunately tiny-- but hey, it's free, and I can't recommend them enough.

I first encountered Cold Lazarus when it was shown on CBC in the mid-1990s; being totally ignorant of Potter and the whole context of the story (and also, coming into it mid-episode), my reaction was "cool, the British have finally started producing great sci-fi series again; hope this one runs and runs." Eleven years later and, with occasional brief blips like Doctor Who (which, let's face it, isn't actually new science fiction, it's just reviving an old format-- check out Recyclingwatch if you honestly think it's all that different to the series that ended in 1989), I'm still waiting for the present-day British to start producing great sci-fi series of the sort that seemed to come out weekly in the late seventies (Blake's 7, The Omega Factor, Children of the Stones, Beasts, etc. etc.). Forget WWII and the Blitz Spirit-- this is the sort of thing whose passing the more jingoistic press should be lamenting.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Linking Park

Just like to draw your collective attention to Edward Gorey's The Trouble With Tribbles-- it's in the sidebar, but I don't think everyone reads that.

Also-- Twenties-style LOLcats!

Friday, September 07, 2007

The LOL'ing Prisoner

Well, since nobody else out there seems to have done a The Prisoner macros site, I thought I'd join the trend... it's at, and if you want to join in, please do!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fall Out and website update

First off-- Fall Out is now for sale-- buy it, people, it's got more opinionated textual analysis than you can shake a stick at!

Second off-- major update this week to LGB Who. I apologise to all readers for the fairly skimpy entries on TSOD/LOTT beforehand, but I was too busy going "What?! Catherine Tate?!" to update it.

Third off-- Recyclingwatch is now appearing as a serial feature in the DWAS magazine Celestial Toyroom, for those of you who like to have dead-tree copies of things.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Life ain't fair.

Me: Why can't they structure the tax disc system to be more like the television license fee? That way, we'd pay far less tax.

Alan: How did you work that out?

Me: Because our car is black and white.

The Silly Season begins

I feel like a high-schooler, posting a quiz-based meme in what's ostensibly a semi-serious blog, but I was rather amused to learn today that, according to the promotional website for The Golden Compass, if I were a character in a Philip Pullman novel, my daemon would be a tiger named Alvin.

Now, I think most people who know me would agree with the "tiger" bit, albeit probably in a far less complimentary form (I'm also a Year of the Tiger baby, which apparently means, ahem, I have a quick temper and will never get married). But... Alvin? Seriously.

Though I did grow up in the same house as a ginger cat named Theodore.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ironies of global warming

All this rain we've been having lately has caused the car to do what Minis do worst: i.e., develop a) rust and b) more worryingly, damp sparkplugs. Which is ironic, considering that it's a pretty ecologically sound choice of car (it's recycled, it contains no energy-burning bells and/or whistles and, despite being nearly old enough to drive itself, gets about 30 miles to the gallon), and the neighbour's gas-guzzler seems to be getting through the deluge unscathed. No justice.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Recyclingwatch omnibus

Now that Doctor Who is over for the moment, here is a handy link to the full run of Recyclingwatch. Responses have been surprisingly gratifying (i.e. people actually wrote in to say they liked it) which means I'm thinking of doing something similar next year. It's actually been a fun way of reviewing the episodes without having to actually write paragraphs, from my point of view, so there's a few reasons to go for it.

Reasons to be slightly puzzled

Today I received a cheque for £9.00 in the post from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, and I'm still trying to figure out why. Not that I'm ungrateful for it, it's just that I can't think of anything they should be reimbursing me for.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Riding around in cars with boys

Alan: Better not park your Mini next to that other Mini, or they'll mate and we'll be stuck with a litter of little Minis.

Me: Don't worry, I'll park next to this Alfa Romeo, so that if they mate, we'll get a litter of Mondeos.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

B'Stard Beware

Alan and I went to see Rik Mayall's The New Statesman stage show a couple of years back, and thought it was a great updating of the series for the Blair era. So, naturally, when Rik Mayall turned up with what purported to be a new NS stage show at the Richmond Theatre (our local, at least until the Egham/Staines area gets a proper rep theatre), we booked tickets and settled in.

Only to find that it was the same stage show. Sort of.

To be fair, the jokes had all been completely updated, but the plot was the same, aside from a new subplot about Alan B'Stard wanting to join the Trillionaires Club. Oh well, we agreed afterwards, buyer beware, and at least there were enough new jokes to make it worth the trip.

But then I reread the advert in the Richmond Theatre's guide to upcoming shows:

"Brand New Installment Direct From West End Success..."

"Episode 2007...."

"Don't miss Rik Mayall's hilarious comedy creation in this brand new installment..."

And the one bit that actually describes the plot, focuses exclusively on the Trillionaires Club subplot.

I suppose one could make some kind of comment about it being a metatextual joke on the audience in a B'Stardesque vein, but if so, it wasn't funny enough to justify the ticket price.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Last of the Recyclingwatches

The End of the World: Popular musical numbers again (is RTD trying for a soundtrack album?).

Father's Day: Turning back time to change history and reset a screwed-up timeline.

But mostly, this episode is a greatest-hits compilation of the following four stories:

The Parting of the Ways: Let's see: enemy alien which is really little bits of human in a mechanical casing; Captain Jack getting shot by the enemy while creating a distraction (even doing the whole cruciform-arms "yeah, I kind of figured that" bit while doing so); deus ex machina ending in which one of the main characters becomes a transfigured glowing godlike thing and uses their magical powers to hit the reset button; the power of belief.

Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel: Companion takes up with the resistance, who involve cute stubbly men and butch older women; humans converted into robot thingies and seeing nothing wrong with this; donning of maids' uniforms; companion decides to stick around Earth at the end of the adventure due to their experiences in it. Villain with airborne HQ and all-controlling mobile phone network. The Doctor/Master, speaking over a television network, assuming that Rose/Martha is watching at the time and will interpret what he says and does correctly, which happens, through coincidence, to be exactly the case.

Doomsday: Companion in resistance in black designer fighting suit; companion leaves series; companion as "defender of the Earth." Invasion by flying thingies from out of the rift, who are defeated by a convenient deus ex machina. Companion's dysfunctional family are magically back together at the end.

The Runaway Bride: Companion decides not to take the Doctor up on an offer of further adventures; the Doctor repeating the word "what?" after something incongruous turns up in the Tardis after the teary goodbye.

Ripping Themselves Off: Who'd've thought The Lazarus Experiment would wind up as the pivotal story of the season? I mean, really? Plus the whole power-of-words bit from The Shakepseare Code (seriously, why couldn't they have carried on ripping off"Human Nature"?).

Timelash Moment: The ending was oddly dissatisfying. Plus finding out that the Borad is the Loch Ness Monster/Captain Jack is the Face of Boe (both equally unlikely-sounding fates).

The Fifth Element: Clearly-defined moment that you can point to and say "There, that's where the shark got jumped."

Old Skool Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (ripped off in so many ways, the Nation Estate ought to be suing); The Curse of Fenric (future humans paradoxically come back for revenge on their ancestors); The Leisure Hive (aging the Doctor again-- come on, it's been done before); The Stones of Blood (Professor Amelia Rumford returns, but heterosexual). The American Telemovie (turn-back-time ending; climax that involves a total ignoring of the existance of time zones on the part of the writer; heavy-handed Doctor=Christ Master=Satan metaphor). The Mutants (where Ky turns into a big shiny, floaty god-thing and makes everything OK again). Timewyrm: Revelation (the ending, where the companion goes back in time and does things to people who can't remember the alternate history which are incomprehensible to them).

Everything Else: Peter Pan (clap your hands if you believe in fairies, and Tinkerbell shall live again). Star Wars trilogy again (the Doctor lighting the Master's funeral pyre, just like Luke does with Anakin at the end of Return of the Jedi, only less poignant). Scarface (Michelle Pfeiffer called, she wants her performance as a faintly-stoned, red-evening-dress-wearing, blonde wife of a psychopath megalomaniac back). The Doctor has been variously compared to Gollum, Dobby the House Elf, and Moloch from Blake's 7, though he reminds me personally of a cross between a puppy dog and the ghost of Doctor Mabuse from Das Testament des Doktor Mabuses (but then, as Alan has helpfully pointed out, that says more about me than anything). Quatermass (the 1978 one; degenerate future world where the hero's allies are helpful scientists and slightly butch older women). Blake's 7: "Terminal" (the human race, at the end of its existence, devolving into primitive savagery). Flash Gordon (as well as the Master's death-dodge at the end, there's the floating HQ, the hero on a picaresque quest to rally the populace, who all inexplicably decide to rally round at the end). The Matrix trilogy; any film/TV programme which uses the Titanic disaster to ironic effect (that Benny Hill monologue in which a shipwrecked sailor, after many hair-raising adventures, is finally rescued... by the Titanic... leaps to mind); Tim Burton's Batman (Jack Nicholson called, he wants his popular music collection back). Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Series 4 finale (hero being transfigured through others' belief in her) and Series 7 finale (again, the faith/belief of ordinary girls being channelled to defeat evil), as well as another visual reference to Willow's flying act in "Tough Love." Battlestar Galactica ("one year later...": though to be fair, Alias and Six Feet Under both got there first).

Now I've got Aqua's song "Turn Back Time" going through my head. How annoying.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Recyclingwatch minus one and counting: The Sound of Drums

Rose: Doctor and/or companions running from explosion (I know, but visually compare the two sequences, OK? You'll see what I mean).

The End of the World: Chips as comfort food; villain playing popular musical number.

The Unquiet Dead: Aliens with little-girl voices pleading to be let into our world, and some Time Lord is mad enough to do it.

Aliens of London/World War Three: New PM, who's been elected while companion's been away, presides over an alien invasion which isn't all it seems; the cabinet getting killed and the public knowing nothing about this; alien attacks on London; return of Mal Loup the American news presenter; montage of celebrity cameos on TV; Ms Rook's mad-eyed strut through Number 10, brandishing her press pass, is disturbingly like Harriet Jones' robotic "MP for Flydale North!" schtick; the government tracking down and arresting the Doctor and companion, courtesy of the companion's mother.

Dalek: Floating attack balls, plus return of old enemy with new name.

The Christmas Invasion: Hotshot new prime minister turns out to be less cop than expected.

Rise of the Cybermen: Population hypnotically controlled through mobile phones; gas mask-wielding villain who reveals his robotic hordes at the end of the story. Villain meets a sceptical President on the tarmac of an airport and later has him killed.

The Idiot's Lantern: More bird names-- and if you look at the back of Martha's television when we see it briefly, you'll notice that it was made by Magpie Electronics (the boy done made good, apparently).

Army of Ghosts/Doomsday: Again with the celebrity cameo TV montage; again with the rift opening up and thousands of alien robot thingies pouring through; again with the brief images of "normal" people being attacked; again with the arrival of something/one who the local populace think are friendly but, gasp, the Doctor knows better.

The Runaway Bride: Floating attack balls.

Torchwood: Nice to know the Doctor thinks they're as dodgy as the viewers do.

Ripping Themselves Off: Let's hope that Lazarus Experiment reference wasn't just gratuitous, and does actually have an interesting payoff. The Doctor also does the aging thing in "Human Nature" (hope they're paying Paul Cornell a lot).

Old Skool Who: The Leisure Hive (the Doctor aging); The Time Monster/The American Telemovie (the Master has a missus); the Master keeps doing Pertwee and Baker references (swaggering around in red-satin-lined black jacket and gloves one minute, offering round the jelly babies the next); The Sensorites (the sky, burnt orange, etc); The Deadly Assassin (in which we get those stupid Time Lord robes; why couldn't they have broken with continuity on that one, please?); The Mind of Evil (the Master firmly established in powerful sociopolitical role and using it); Genesis of the Daleks (Jack's bracelet seems to be used in much the same way as the Time Ring, even down to everyone placing their hands on it at arm's length); the Doctor Who comics (appearance of Gallifrey, plus a solitary black Time Lord); Logopolis (the Master's speech); The Sea Devils (the Master mistakes a children's programme for a documentary); The Curse of Fenric (sudden discovery of dynamite attached to ordinary household object, followed by panicked exodus and explosion); the New Adventures (A "paradox machine"? Ahem).

Everything Else: Star Wars (so, Time Lords are chosen from the general population at age 8 and taken off to an Academy to undergo rigorous psychic and physical testing? And one of them turned into a megalomaniac with dreams of galactic domination as a result of it going wrong? Lucas' lawyers must be going mental right about now); The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (stare into the vortex and you go mad, unless you're Zaphod Beeblebrox); Captain Scarlet (hang on, what good is an airborne aircraft carrier, anyway?); Marvel's SHIELD comics also feature an airborne aircraft carrier (I never followed the series so I'm going on hearsay); The Omen (psycho demon child); I Claudius (where Caligula goes around hearing the sound of drums, is acclaimed by the Romans as leader before he suddenly turns on them and reveals the extent of his madness, and, guess what, there's even a Derek Jacobi connection). Harry Potter (kids off at a mystical academy, and one goes mental and becomes a supervillain); Quatermass (car driving madly off down urban street at speed whilst being fired on by heavily-armed types); Phantasm (eccentric villain with floating attack balls which suddenly unfurl with knives); Gordon Brown is currently attempting to build a cross-party coalition cabinet for no good reason, but that's probably coincidence.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lessons learned

Further to the post below, I decided in the end to go with a new iPod rather than a Zen. I'm still angry at Apple, but research suggested that both were similar in terms of lousy customer service, susceptibility to breakdown and pathetic warranty cover, plus a) the Zen has an apparently easily-lost connecting device, and b) I'd have to start all over in terms of buying compatible accessories.

Anyway, I opened up the box and had a look. There was something a tiny bit different about the new one-- like they'd redesigned it slightly. And indeed, they had. Including....

...the data port. The wretched data port which was the thing which eventually scuppered the first iPod. They redesigned the very thing that I'd found such a problem.

Thing is, I don't normally buy products which are fresh on the market; I usually wait until the kinks have been worked out, but somehow I seem to have gotten, well, a kinky one. I suppose in this case, I assumed that since Apple have been manufacturing these things since the 1990s, they'd've sorted out the obvious stuff. Anyway, things are looking better, but I'm still pretty miffed.

Update: Showed Alan the new machine, and he remarked that probably the reason Apple refused to fix the first iPod was because they'd been inudated with defective data ports and didn't want to go to the expense of replacing them all. He's probably right.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Recyclingwatch: Utopia

Sporadic RWatch this week (busy still); will post this and update as the week wears on.

It's practically impossible to write this review and not spoiler the episode. My first attempt at this tried not to include spoilers, but for the edited version (this one), I'm throwing caution to the wind and just saying that if you don't want a serious spoiler (and believe me, you WILL like this story much better without spoilers), don't read this.

Rose: For God's sake, stop mentioning her!!!

The End of the World: The Doctor takes his companion into the far, far future, to meet quasi-human things, and other things claiming to be the last human.

The Empty Child: Captain Jack flirting his way through history, etc.

Boom Town: The rift in Cardiff being used as a Tardis-recharger; Captain Jack; introspective story in which we get to know one of the villains a little better; someone does something creative and unexpectes with the Tardis console.

Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways: "Just saying hello," "I don't mind" returns in catchphrase format. Along with various quips about how good Jack looks naked, etc. John Simms' speech when he regenerates is a deliberate parallel of David Tennant's "New teeth, that's weird," one.

The Impossible Planet: Industrial red-lit settings; unforeseen threat from an old enemy of the Doctor's; the Doctor gives the *&%^ "indomitable" speech for no good reason; Tardis goes missing; the Doctor and companions do a "it could be dangerous out there... [outrageous grin and rush out into said peril]" bit, although somewhat more understatedly here.

Torchwood: Captain Jack repeatedly dies, lies around for a minute or two and comes back with a big gasp. But that's it, fortunately; it's lovely to have the proper Jack back, as opposed to the evil twin version.

Ripping Themselves Off: Human Nature; hope Paul Cornell got paid extra for this. Plus the arrival, finally, of Mister Saxon. Martha sees herself, and even her own catchprases about the Doctor not loving her, in Chantho.

Timelash Moment and The Fifth Element: Haven't the faintest this time, actually. If I think of something, I'll update.

Old Skool Who: Trial of a Time Lord and Battlefield (we're initially led to believe that the Professor is a mind-wiped future incarnation of the Doctor); The Ark (oh, figure it out); The Ark in Space (compromised humanity-rescue attempt; also, please, Nu-Who team, no more variations on the £%&* "indomitable" speech!); Survival (the Master, and people with animal teeth); The Curse of Fenric (what humanity will evolve into in the far future; Doctor as vengeful pagan deity); The Leisure Hive (clickety insect people). There's a lot of New Adventures stuff in here as well (Steve Lyons' "Land of Fiction" books including a kind of evil-twin version of the Doctor, for instance, and they have lots of introspective moments where companions think about how little they really mean to the Doctor).

Everything Else:
Dead Ringers' "Torchwood" spoof ("I'm Captain Jack Harkness, and these are my shiny teeth..."); that Alita: Battle Angel comic mentioned below (in which the alt-universe Alita bonds with the alt-universe version of the villain); the 1960s version of "First Men in the Moon" (deserted planet; insect people; mad professors); Neil Gaiman's Sandman (man who finds he literally cannot die) and Neverwhere (multilayered structure crammed full of weird people). Several episodes of Blake's 7, principally "Countdown" (two antagonistic, yet similar, men have a fraught discussion while defusing a nuclear devce and end up respecting each other), "Deliverance" (rocket bearing the last survivors of a humanoid race which its creators can't launch, until an alien turns up and shows them how to do it) and "Dawn of the Gods" (spaceship winds up in a starless void where refugees are engaged upon a mysterious task). Robert Asprin's Thieves World novels feature a character who never can die, and who periodically takes it upon himself to test whether this is still the case (haven't read the books since I was about sixteen, so can't remember more). Buffy the Vampire Slayer S5 featured the Knights of Byzantium, who sport tattoos not a million miles from those sported by some of the Futurekind; Mad Max and its sequels (as admitted by Graham Harper)-- in fact any of the postapocalyptic-punk films that filled the cinema schedules in the 1980s.

Reasons to hate Steve Jobs

OK, those of you who read my "current top picks" sidebar will know all about the saga of my iPod troubles lately: to boil it down quickly for those who haven't: damage out of warranty (supposedly); Apple refuse to replace; will repair it but for more than the cost of the machine itself. The logical thing to do at this point is to forswear Apple entirely and go for something else. The problem is that the only other device that comes close enough to what I want is the Zen Vision-- but it doesn't have a text-files function, and it's no cheaper than the equivalent iPod, plus the reviews on their customer service performance are mixed. Plus, no iTunes, no automatic podcast download, and I'd have to buy a new set of accessories. So, do I go with an iPod again, since it's got exactly what I want in an audio/video player, but it might die on me; or go with a Zen and restart the whole learning/product acquisition curve? Answers to the usual address please.

I'd also like to say this: over the past few years, I've had my PlayStation, laptop and iPod break down. Guess which one wasn't immediately replaced or repaired, no questions asked, by the manufacturer?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Recyclingwatch: Blink

Late and rather brief Recyclingwatch-- it's been an annoying week. Anyway, on with the business at hand.

This is another literary self-recycle, since Moffat rewrote a story from the first Nu-Who annual for this.

Rose: Geeks endlessly debating something on the Internet (the Doctor there, the transcripts here), which proves crucial to the plot.

The Idiot's Lantern/Rise of the Cybermen: Damn, more bird names.

Rise of the Cybermen: For the third time this season, a convenient newspaper provides date and/or location exposition.

Love and Monsters: Action revolving around one-off character on the fringe of the protagonists' lives; people's lives getting irrevocably messed up due to coming into contact with either the Doctor or something he's done.

Torchwood: Random Shoes: Action revolving around one-off character on the fringe of the protagonists' lives; grotty DVD shop and Internet geek prove crucial to solving of mystery; story effectively told backwards as the protagonist figures out what happens.

The Fifth Element: Yes, there's one this week too: people in the past affecting foretold events in the future.

Timelash Moment: Something happens in the present which only makes sense in light of future events. Several "Timelash" clips in the Confidential, as well.

Old Skool Who: Ghostlight (mysterious old house where a girl finds something evil yet science-fictiony); The Stones of Blood (stone aliens that move); Battlefield (the Doctor leaving clues for someone in the past to find); The Daemons (Bok!)

Everywhere Else
: Warner Brothers' cartoons ("Duck, no, seriously, duck"); any comedy that uses the person-talking-back-to-a-recording gag (I seem to recall Get Smart being notorious for this); Sapphire and Steel, particularly the Railway Station and Petrol Station episodes (abandoned houses, supernatural creatures sending people into the past); Twelve Monkeys (recording from the past that makes sense once the events of the future unfold; man trapped in the past finds romance); William Gibson's novel Pattern Recognition (mysterious messages, transmitted via electronic media, which eventually make sense once their origin is traced); Life on Mars (cop from the present day, sent mysteriously back to the past, and when he returns to the present, he dies).

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Brideshead Recycled II: The Family of Blood

First off... as before, with Gridlock, let me say that I thought this was outstanding-- but that I'm still Recyclingwatching anyway.

And, as before with the Dalek two-parter, this one's just going to be an addendum post, putting in any new recycling, or any previously-mentioned recycling that's either become a bit more obvious or acquired a twist, or otherwise become mentionworthy.

The Unquiet Dead: Plucky girl housemaid saves the day; a human being makes a conscious decision to die so that the Doctor can live.

Aliens of London/World War Three: I've said it before, but Lawrence Miles put it better in his blog: "The Doctor describes these aliens as hunters. They track their prey by smell. They have a strong sense of family. They insert themselves into human bodies, they've got a thing for strange gases, and they clearly prefer fat victims. Even Rebekah Staton looks like a younger, cuter Annette Badland. Is the message not clear, I asked myself?" Apparently RTD has said that he based the Slitheen on the Family of Blood, so this is kind of the ouroboros of recycling here.

Boom Town: Introspective conversations between the Doctor and someone else, the upshot of which is that, seen from the perspective of those who catch the fallout, the Doctor's really not such a nice guy after all, even when he's trying to be.

The Parting of the Ways: Moral decision time for the Doctor. The Doctor's cell structure changes, turning him into someone else.

The Girl in the Fireplace: Well, this one's got a girl in the mirror, but it's also got a woman who loves the Doctor but is willing to let him go because she loves him. The Doctor meet someone as a child, then fast-forward to when he's an old man.

The Impossible Planet: Mother-of-Mine getting chucked into a black hole.

Love and Monsters: Being on the fringes of one of the Doctor's adventures wrecks a whole bunch of human lives, but one of them, who's been having mysterious dream-visions, suddenly has them all make sense for him.

Old Skool Who: Battlefield (war memorial sequence; anti-war message). Any of the Cartmel Dark-Doctor stories and the NA's they spawned (emphasis on the idea that the Doctor's really a bit of a bastard, if you see it from someone else's perspective); special mention again to "The Curse of Fenric," featuring a baby, and a baddie who is trapped in a flask for all eternity; "The Five Doctors" (Borusa wants eternal life and gets it but in an ironic way); any humans-taken-over-by gaseous-aliens story you care to mention. The American Telemovie (featuring a half-human Doctor, though they may have nicked that one from Cornell's book to begin with, so it's sort of another ouroboros-recycle). Warrior's Gate (dwarf star alloy, and people living inside mirrors). The Enemy of the World (Tardis doors opening and a baddie being sucked out). The Wheel in Space (the sequence where the Family line up the schoolboys and go through them looking for the Doctor resembles the Cybermen going through the crew manifest with the same intention).

Everywhere Else: If again, in spades; Oh! What a Lovely War (ironic use of hymn music over battlefield sequences); Twelve Monkeys (thanks to Lawrence for this one); Battle Angel Alita (OK, I don't know if Paul Cornell's ever seen this, but there's a sequence fairly late on where Alita experiences an alternate world in which she didn't grow up a warrior-cyborg, but instead had a normal human-style life; and, seductive as this option is, she makes the conscious decision to end it so that she can save her friends). The Sapphire and Steel story about the man who lives in every photograph ever taken (the fate of Sister-of-mine).

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Brideshead Recycled: Human Nature

OK, first off this story takes the Recyclingwatch prize automatically for being an admitted recycle of Paul Cornell's New Adventures novel Human Nature.

Alan and I had a discussion during the Confidential over whether this means that I can't actually point out similarities with earlier episodes of Nu-Who, since the story was technically written before Nu-Who was even conceived of. We decided in the end that it was legit, because in the first place the novel has been rewritten to bring it into the Tennant Era (and thus there might well be bleedthrough from other episodes), and, in the second, they wouldn't have picked that particular novel if they didn't think it fitted with the show as it is now.

Plus, Alan pointed out that each season thus far has recycled a production from the Hiatus Era, so doing the same this year is carrying on the trend.

Rose: Silent, shambling automaton-monsters; also, despite Phil Collinson's assurances that they stop mentioning her after Episode 3, guess what, she gets another namecheck.

The Unquiet Dead: Shambling possessed human corpses; non-corporeal aliens; plucky girl housemaids; psychic children/young people.

Aliens of London/World War Three: Aliens in human suits who are into hunting, and, particularly, want to hunt the Doctor.

Dalek: The first season's Hiatus Era recycle, being Jubilee without the, well, jubilee.

The Empty Child/the Doctor Dances: Creepy blond little boy; seemingly possessed children and adults.

The Parting of the Ways: the Doctor has a recording of himself in the Tardis to instruct the companion of what to do if something goes wrong.

School Reunion: The Doctor impersonates a schoolmaster, while his companion impersonates one of the school's staff; the Doctor meets a human woman, and his relationship with her makes his companion jealous.

The Girl in the Fireplace: The Doctor falls in love with a human woman, to companion's chagrin; "a girl in every fireplace," says Nurse Redfern.

Rise of the Cybermen: The second season's Hiatus Era recycle, being Spare Parts without the, well, spare parts. Once again a newspaper masthead is used for exposition about the date. A party which is gatecrashed by monsters.

Torchwood: Greeks Bearing Gifts: Sometime in the past, an alien spaceship crashes/lands and an alien who looks like a human turns up with intent to infiltrate and kill the human population.

Timelash Moment: Story refers extensively to earlier, unfilmed adventure of the Doctor's which we haven't seen.

The Fifth Element: Alien creature is transformed into a human to protect it.

Old Skool Who: Remembrance of the Daleks (the possessed little girl with the balloon; Murray Gold even references the "five-six-seven-eight-there's-a-Doctor-at-the-gate" musical sting for her); Shada (invisible spaceships); I'm pretty sure there was a BBC Books novel featuring animate scarecrows; the unmade Doctor Who Meets Scratchman movie (animate scarecrows again); the Troughton Era (the Doctor's diary, plus gratuitous Mister Science moment about meteors); Four to Doomsday (shenanigans with cricket balls); The Pyramids of Mars (Edwardian upper-class twit unwittingly wanders into spaceship and gets possessed by aliens); The Mark of the Rani (where the Master disguises himself as a scarecrow and the Doctor meets his feminine match). Arguably Black Orchid (though it's twenties-Edwardian rather than tens-Edwardian, it does have posh Edwardian men wandering around crumbling old buildings hiding secrets and ranting about the Empire). The War Games (World War I; the Doctor going by the alias John Smith, though at that you could count any number of stories starting from "The Wheel in Space" for that one). The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (creepy alien-impersonating-human family; the Doctor engaging in Heath-Robinson physical comedy). The Curse of Fenric (the sequence of the scarecrows shambling over the fields and then attacking the landowner with their arms stiffly outstretched is pure Fenric; as is the cheeky lascivious housemaid being possessed by something evil).

Everywhere Else: Pick your public-school stories here: Billy Bunter, To Serve Them All My Days, The Compleet Molesworth, The Browning Version, Ripping Yarns, If (complete with students running amok with firearms), The Liar, etc. Also your Edwardian social-change/class conflict dramas: Brideshead Revisited, Upstairs Downstairs, Gosford Park, The Duchess of Duke Street, Howards' End. The Singing Detective (animate scarecrows, plus the fact that, to judge by the local landowner's accent, this is set in Gloucestershire). The Wizard of Oz again (scarecrows, their appearance and walk).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Recyclingwatch: 42

"Go on, my sun!"

The End of the World:
Companion gets superphone from the Doctor and rings her Mum, pretending that everything is normal as she does so.

Aliens of London:
Companion gets key to TARDIS as mark of status with the Doctor.

Dalek: Human illegal/amoral action triggers chase scene with unstoppable enemy in closed environment.

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
: In the Radio Times, Chibnall acknowledges that these were "an influence," though perhaps "straight ripoff" might have been more accurate (did I say "straight ripoff"? I meant "generous homage"). Far-future multiethnic space-faring human culture in postindustrial setting where everyone walks around sweating in grotty workwear; mysterious voice speaks to, then infects and takes over, buff male crewmember, who then goes around being all sinister, having funny eyes, and repeating catchphrases; Doctor makes remarks about indefatigability of humans; the Doctor becomes separated from his companion, who nonetheless trusts that he'll rescue her somehow; the Doctor and companion are separated from the TARDIS, with seemingly no way to return, early on; the pretty/young female crewmembers are dispatched quickly, while the companion hangs out with male/working class ones; Doctor suits up for journey into the unknown; the bit where McDonnell and Korwin go floating balletically off into space is far too similar to the one where the dead Skooti drifts off to the black hole.

Fear Her: Fraught suburban Mum/daughter relationship; shadows being burnt/drawn into walls.

Earlier This Season: What the hell is it with Season 3 and MRI machines?

Timelash Moment: Seemingly dead villain-monster revives.

The Fifth Element:
Gritty working-class-sci-fi with nonetheless beautiful space sequences. Colour scheme heavy on the reds and yellows.

Old Skool Who: Pretty much any of the base-under-sieges, particularly if they involve aliens taking somebody over rather than invading from outside (The Invisible Enemy, The Wheel in Space, and see below); also any of the Robert Holmes man-gets-infected-with-something-that-takes-him-over-to-the-dismay-of-his-relatives ones (Seeds of Doom; Ark in Space; Pyramids of Mars). Resurrection of the Daleks and Earthshock (Alien-influenced post-industrial chase stories with tough women leaders; at least two homages to Resurrection's "does nothing work properly?" moment); Destiny of the Daleks (twitching-hand revival); Terror of the Vervoids (the facemasks; the colour scheme; the murder-on-a-spaceship theme); "The Pyramids of Mars" (seemingly human villain, actually taken over by some sort of alien; baddie who can cause people to steam to death by touching them, and has a sinister calm voice; bit where the sibling/partner of the taken-over person attempts to bring them back to themselves by reminding them of the relationship, with no success); "The Invisible Enemy" (Doctor taken over by alien and urges his companion to try and cure him; infected people walking around in helmets with visors, opening them up to reveal their infected state, and zapping other people with their eyes, as well as muttering catchphrases); "The Stones of Blood" ("Where's that Dunkirk spirit?"); "The Daleks' Master Plan" (character ejecting herself and another character out the airlock to save the others); "Planet of Evil" (planet/sun is actually alive and taking people over, picking off crewmembers one at a time, and appeased when something taken from it is returned; people with glowing eyes).

Outside Sources
: 24 is the most obvious one (realtime, or supposed realtime in the case of 24, action; action-adventure style, and government conspiracies), but you can also take your pick of the 1980s sci-fi-with-dirt-and-bugs-in boom (Alien and sequels/ripoffs, Event Horizon, even Star Wars usually shows the dings and scratches on the droids; this just makes RTD's proud claim on "Confidential" that this is somehow uniquely British rather silly-sounding). Alien and sequels/ripoffs also major source for McDonnell (working-class woman spaceship captain running around being tough in a singlet); The Black Hole (crew of spaceship about to crash into a natural phenomenon and trying to avoid it). Star Wars (compare the bemasked and gasping villains to Darth Vader, and watch George Lucas choke on a hobnob and phone his lawyer). Solaris, particularly/exclusively the film with George Clooney (planet/sun which is a living entity, driving people on a spaceship/station above it mad; the bit where Martha is shot into space in an escape pod is visually very close to the scene where Clooney's character deliberately shoots "his wife" into space similarly). Twin Peaks ("Fire walk with me"). "Last of the Mohicans" (RTD admits to this one: Daniel Day-Lewis' "I'll find you" moment). Red Dwarf (gritty, working-class, eighties, post-industrial etc.; character in stasis chamber). The Old Men at the Zoo (shadows burnt onto the wall; plus pick any documentary/drama about Hiroshima/Nagasaki); Not sure if Saxon's minions are closer to The X-files or The Men in Black.

Spending too much time on airplanes, redux

I spend a lot of time on planes, particularly in the summer months, and every time I do, I dutifully switch off my iPod (etc.) for the takeoff and landing portions of the journey. This time, though, it occurred to me to wonder why we never get told to switch off electronic equipment during periods of turbulence when the seatbelt sign goes on (when one would assume that electrical interference would also be a problem for the pilot). Also, on this trip, I actually had my iPod on for pretty much the entire descent of the plane, with no one telling me to switch it off (I switched it off myself just out of a sense of habit, but we were almost on the ground by that point). So, is this a real safety precaution or just some kind of superstitious custom? Answers on a copy of BA stationary, please.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Recyclingwatch: The Lazarus Experiment

Rose: Companion bids farewell to Doctor; Tardis flies off; then is back two seconds later.

The End of the World: "She's/he's my plus-one." Old human resorting to science to stay young/alive.

Aliens of London: Rose returns after twelve months in the company of a mysterious older man called the Doctor, and Rose's mum excoriates him, slaps him, urges Rose to have nothing to do with him and shops him to the government. Martha's mum does exactly the same, although, since Martha's only been away twelve hours, David Tennant doesn't look older than about thirty, and Martha, being a medical student, has a reason to be hanging around doctors, it's a bit more of a baffling response in the case of Mrs Jones. And the government shops the Doctor to Martha's Mum, but that's an inversion rather than an outright change. Human transforming into improbably larger monster and hunting people.

Dalek: Monster goes on rampage, building complex goes into emergency lockdown, cue scenes of people panicking along corridors and up staircases as they try to escape it.

The Long Game: Tardis lands in living room, next to a phone with an answering machine which turns out to be somewhat significant to the story. Emaciated, drained corpses.

The Empty Child: "That'd be the Blitz."

New Earth: Everything has its time; old people should accept death and not go all mad trying to fight it; the Doctor feels a bit depressed at his own longevity.

School Reunion: Monster jumping around ceilings and walls (it even looks a bit like a giant Krillitane); monster in human form cricking its neck to indicate that it has just reverted; authority figures being really human-eating monsters.

Rise of the Cybermen: Companion and Doctor go to party; Doctor dresses in tuxedo while companion chats up her relatives; party suddenly interrupted by glassware-smashing monster.

Army of Ghosts/Doomsday: The Doctor gives his companion his sonic screwdriver and tells her how to use it as a sign that he trusts her; power failure causes unstable creation of monster (Yvonne Cyberman there, the Lazarus monster here); the humans in the story take for granted an occurrence which the Doctor finds very suspicious.

The Runaway Bride: Spiderlike monster with human face and with plans for world domination. One character distracts the monster from attacking another one.

And, guess what, they're even recycling this season...

Evolution of the Daleks: Mentally unstable human hybrid monster that is affected by sound; really old-fashioned labs with glassware and coloured fluids (incurring sequence of Doctor lighting bunsen burners/gas taps); a plan to "change what it means to be human" going rather awry.

Timelash Moment: False ending where it looks like the monster/villain is dead... and then, surprise, it isn't.

The Fifth Element: Dodgy businessperson comes to sticky end after backing dubious project.

Old Skool Who: Ripping off Nigel Kneale is a time-honoured pastime, particularly if you're Robert Holmes-- precedents include The Ark in Space, The Seeds of Doom, and others; the scientist-with-invention-that-goes-horribly-wrong is another Old Skool staple (precedents include Robot, The Talons of Weng Chiang, The Mind of Evil, The Two Doctors, Genesis of the Daleks etc.) in "Vengeance on Varos" people "devolve" into unlikely creatures; The Invasion of Time again (monster affected by sound); The Leisure Hive (treatment purported to rejuvenate the old, which goes wrong); the dessicated corpses look like the ones seen in Planet of Evil and The Horns of Nimon, for the same reason in all cases.

Everything Else: The Quatermass Experiment (human hybrid monster up a cathedral being talked down; apparently in the original script it was St Paul's, which would just have made it even more of a ripoff); The Fly (scientist experiments on himself in big glossy chamber and having it go horribly wrong); Life Force (monster draining people of their life energy; this story also ripped off the Quatermass serials shamelessly); Star Trek: TNG: "Genesis" (people "devolving" back into animals; the science is a bit differently explained but just as improbable); Carpenter's The Thing (creature with human face); Lost In Space the 1990s movie (where poor old Gary Oldman gets CGI'd into a kind of spider/scorpion creature with a distorted and spiky version of his face; I'll just remind you that RTD says in the Confidential that he "wanted a really original sort of monster"); Predator (the way the creature opens its bottom jaw); Spider-Man 2, apparently (I've more or less forgotten the whole movie, myself, but apparently the botched-transformation scene is ripped off from something Doc Oc did); the New Testament (with a surname like Lazarus, you just know there's going to be rising-from-the-dead hijinx); Cold Lazarus by Dennis Potter (not just the name, but also a dodgy older woman who really, really wants to become young again backing scientific research with dubious implications).

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Headline of the week, continued

On Ceefax this morning:


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Recyclingwatch: Evolution of the Daleks

Since this one's a two-parter, I'm just going to focus on elements which are new, or more or less new here; read last week's for the setup.

The Unquiet Dead: The Doctor offers to take the alien refugees to another planet where they can start again. Aliens taking over human bodies, and bursting through shrouds.

Dalek: Dalek acquires human DNA through highly improbable method, promptly goes on rampage, starts discovering his emotional side, then dies before he gets a chance to spread his hybridness through the universe. People trying to kill Daleks with ordinary rifles, and looking up at flying Daleks. Dalek Caan is the purported last of the Daleks at the end of the story (don't you believe it). Following a nose-of-destruction confrontation with the Daleks, Doctor deals with his Time War issues and comes out of it a better person.

The Long Game: Bloke who's been interfered with in some visibly alien/futuristic way (Adam there, Lazlo here) is released back into society by the Doctor.

The Parting of the Ways: Leader rallies troops for doomed anti-Dalek battle; Daleks flying around shooting at people and apparently getting some sort of pleasure out of this; Daleks viewing the Doctor on a monitor screen; Doctor surrendering to the Daleks, asking them to shoot him, and only being saved by a passing deus ex machina; the Controller wired in to the system; Dalekised humans and Daleks with issues about this.

New Earth: Doctor deciding to try and save lives through chucking a bunch of coloured fluids in a container, and then patting himself on the back from the result; aliens experimenting on humans big-time; chases in and around lifts.

Rise of the Cybermen
: Black leader makes speech appealing to the villains and gets killed.

The Age of Steel: The Doctor defeats the villain through appealing to the humanity of his converts; the Doctor and companion split up and join up with local factions, reuniting at the end. Massed ranks of blank-faced converted humans marching around.

The Idiot's Lantern: Mad-dash climb up Ally Pally = Mad-dash climb up the Empire State Building (this was in last week's too, but it's more obvious here)

Love and Monsters: The Doctor saving the life of the alien-affected and dying girl/boyfriend of the guest star; said girl/boyfriend can't live a normal life anymore, but said guest star vows to stick by them anyway.

Doomsday: "Emergency Temporal Shift" is now the Dalek equivalent of the way that defeated villains on the old Hasbro cartoons (Transformers, GI Joe) used to shout "Next time!" as they fled at the end of the story. "Allons-y!". Action stops for two characters to work out their feelings (more subtly here, but still).

Torchwood: Bloke brooding on a building, wearing a big flappy trenchcoat.

Timelash Moment: Hideous human/monster hybrid (see last week) wants to breed more like him and start a new race, but his coracialists have other ideas.

The Fifth Element: More art-deco arty sort of look; climactic shootout in a theatre; Frankensteinesque biology labs used to create a weird thing that looks human but isn't really.

Old Skool Who
: Once again, we have a story mostly ripped off from "The Evil of the Daleks" (human-Dalek hybrids; the Daleks forming a tentative alliance with the Doctor; the Doctor "infecting" the hybridisation process; one of said hybrids asks "Why?" and starts a civil war; hell, the hybrids even walk like Marius Goring in "Evil"; the Daleks on stage look for all the world like an homage to the recent "Evil" stage play, and, well "Evil-ution of the Daleks," groan), but they're also going to town on Cybermen stories: "Earthshock" ("My/our army awakes!" followed by shots of said army marching through corridors; the human-Daleks bursting through their shrouds); "Invasion" (sewers); "Attack" (sewers again, plus hybrid creature working to bring down his masters); "Tomb" (Toberman being converted and then turning on the Cyberman Controller). Otherwise: "Genesis of the Daleks" (one eyed human-Dalek thing in charge of Daleks, who is gunned down by them at the end, and the Doctor refusing to commit genocide despite his stated antipathy to the genocidees; Doctor taking a zap of electricity and surviving), "Remembrance" (Dalek wired in as controller); "Resurrection" (big gun battle out of which only Lazlo/Lytton walks unscathed); "The Daleks" (leader of a community of outsiders makes a speech appealing to the Daleks' finer feelings and is gunned down for it; also sequence in which protagonists escape in a rising lift which is then called down again); "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" (chase sequence through sewer, with crocodiles/other monsters); "The Talons of Weng Chiang" (sequence in which a large number of enemy footsoldiers are conveniently killed through a Heath-Robinson rigup the moment they're about to burst through a door and attack); "The Invasion of Time" (enemy paralysed by loud noise"); "The Ark in Space" (sequence of the Doctor desperately trying to undo the locks/remove the Dalekanium plates with his sonic screwdriver, against the clock); "The Visitation" (Doctor offering to take last of alien refugees to another planet if they'll leave Earth alone); any story featuring Daleks doing a countdown ("The Daleks," "The Daleks' Master Plan," fill in your own favourites here).

Everything Else: Sunset Boulevard (the Doctor lying, seemingly dead, on the top of the Empire State Building); Vertigo (vertiginous top-of-building shots at climax); King Kong (blonde, Thirties, Empire State Building, blah blah blah; possibly the gimped-up Dalek Sec); Frankenstein (especially the James Whale version, and The Bride of Frankenstein as well). The persistent rumours that something is living in the sewers of new York. Are You Being Served ("first floor, perfumery!"). Blade Runner (artificial creatures who have an artificially shortened life).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Headline of the Week

Today, regarding the death of 1966 England squad member Alan Ball, Ceefax led with this headline:


...and my first thought was "Crikey, it's not enough that they write obituaries for the players, now they're doing it for the sports equipment too?"

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Recyclingwatch: Daleks in Manhattan

It's Daleks! In Manhattan!
[Samuel L. Jackson] I'm sick of these motherf***ing Daleks in motherf***ing Manhattan!

Right, that's out of the way, now on to the Recyclingwatch.

Rose: Major landmark forms part of villains' plans; see also Rise of the Cybermen, The Idiot's Lantern; Aliens of London, Army of Ghosts etc. etc.

Aliens of London: Pig-people; the Doctor approaching a frightened pig-person in a friendly way only to wind up in a chase sequence; major world capital is invaded by aliens.

Dalek: American in black suit who has a Dalek-related secret; Daleks in the lifts; Dalek-human hybridising; "you would make a good Dalek" or similar line. Exposed Dalek mutants left, right and centre.

The Empty Child: Mid-century setting; people going to musical show to forget their troubles; bisexual humour ("You can kiss me later; you can too if you want, Frank"); the Doctor forms alliance with a group of homeless people.

Bad Wolf: Tallulah with 3 Ls and an H, meet Lynda with a Y.

The Parting of the Ways: Daleks using humans to supplement their ranks, and having moral qualms about this; Daleks backing off; American rallies a group of reluctant supporters into an impromptu anti-Dalek army.

Rise of the Cybermen:
Doctor and companion land somewhere, and companion finds a convenient newspaper giving the exact date (following which they both look up to see a) zeppelins or b) the Statue of Liberty). Villains are kidnapping homeless people and converting them into hybrid things. No zeppelins, though, which is a bit surprising considering that one might reasonably expect to see one in 1930s New York.

The Age of Steel:
The Doctor/companion join a queue of potential conversion victims in order to infiltrate the facility; the chief villain gets himself converted. Things in the sewers.

The Idiot's Lantern: The Doctor tampering with mid-20th-century technology to turn it into something more sophisticated; since the Empire State Building mast was actually a radio transmitter, there's a parallel between the goings-on there in "Daleks in Manhattan" and the Ally-Pally focused activities in this script. The Doctor was trying to get to New York in the earlier story (is it just me or is the RTD administration obsessed with New York? Two New New York stories, The Idiot's Lantern, and now this...), and finally makes it here.

Doomsday: The cult of Skaro get another outing, with backstory restated. Scene of Daleks backing off, and of Daleks viewing what another Dalek is seeing through its eyestick. Companion bossily confronts a Dalek about its plans.

Torchwood: Pig-people in boiler suits = Weevils in boiler suits; apparently the Torchwood website makes a bit of a joke of this, claiming that there was a suspected Weevil infestation in New York in the 1930s.

Timelash Moment: Human/monster hybrids wandering around subterranean tunnels; one of them is a hybrid of the chief villain.

The Fifth Element: Bronzy art deco sort of look; interrupted musical performance by a diva.

Old Skool Who: Where do I even begin? "The Chase" (Daleks on the Empire State Building, and it was fun to watch RTD pretend that was completely Helen Raynor's idea during Confidential); "City of Death" (compare and contrast: Sec Hybrid with Skaroth; end of episode 1 cliffhanger involving one-eyed squid creature in suit reveal); "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" (Daleks applying intelligence tests to kidnapped humans to test their suitability as slave-workers and converting them, plus the Doctor and companion joining a queue of same); "Genesis of the Daleks" (discussions of Dalek survival and racial purity, plus a kind of Dalek/human hybrid figure); "Attack of the Cybermen" (many of the sewer scenes are plagiarised from this one, particularly the one in which a shadowy figure is glimpsed down a sewer tunnel but the glimpsee doesn't discover what it is until too late; Frank being pulled off the ladder by the pig-people is also damn close to the scene where Lytton is pulled off a ladder by Cybermen; Lazlo, like Lytton at the end of the story, is a half-complete hybrid); "The Invasion" (Tobias Vaughn undergoes a partial cyber-conversion; sewer chase scenes, and again someone getting grabbed by Cybermen while trying to climb out of a sewer); "The Talons of Weng Chiang" (pig people; music-hall shows with sewers in the basement and something nasty going on involving people disappearing; something nasty and genetically modified in the sewer); "Tomb of the Cybermen" (compare the Cyberman Controller's emergence in the 1960s story with the Sec Hybrid's emergence from the Dalek casing in this one); "The Happiness Patrol" again (piggish-people in the sewer pipes; unhappy people pretending to be happy; companion makes an unplanned appearance in a variety show; how many times are they going to reference this one?); "The Five Doctors" (Phil Collinson admits on the podcast that the image of a Dalek shadow being cast on a wall before the Dalek itself is visible was taken from this one); "Revelation of the Daleks" (Dalek remnant making use of humans to supplement their army); "Destiny of the Daleks" (the Doctor discovering a Kaled mutant out of its casing and making an important mental link as a result); "Day of the Daleks" (Daleks in dark tunnels); "Death to the Daleks" (two humans up a tower on a windy night); any story involving a Dalek mutant/embryo ("The Power of the Daleks," "Resurrection," "Master Plan," etc.); and, most especially, "Evil of the Daleks" (Daleks in a past era of human history who co-opt a local ambitious businessman to fulfil their schemes, and later turn him into a kind of Dalekised human).

Everything Else:
"The Phantom of the Opera" (deformed creature that lives in the sewers but is obsessed with a performer in a local show, leaves her roses and creeps up to the wings to watch her perform; the scene where Lazlo is discovered cries out for a chorus of "He's there! The phantom of the opera!" from the showgirls); any movie in which the protagonists come to New York to start a better life (likewise, the shots of the Statue of Liberty were crying out for Barbra Streisand standing on the deck of a boat singing the final chorus from Yentl); Damon Runyon (Tallulah is the pound-shop version of Sweet Adelaide from Guys and Dolls); Philip George Chadwick (1930s writer who predicted the creation of artificial biological life; cf. the Doctor's examination of the green thing from the sewers); Bugsy Malone (New York Prohibition-era goings-on; blonde showgirl named Tallulah).

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Recyclingwatch: Gridlock

First of all, let me say that this is one of my favourite episodes of the new series ever, and I haven't had this much fun watching Doctor Who since "The Girl in the Fireplace." However, I have a service to provide, so that's not going to stop me doing a Recyclingwatch on it. I'll just open by juxtaposing two quotes that sum this whole exercise up:

"I think we're creating... our own mythology." --Phil Collinson
"You're just taking me everywhere you took her, aren't you?"-- Martha Jones.

The End of the World: The year Five Billion; the Face of Boe; the Doctor takes his companion on a journey to the future to show off and ends up putting her in peril; companion expresses distaste over future society and concern for her parents; Doctor ends up explaining to companion about being last of Time Lords, etc. The Doctor says "Everything has its time."

New Earth: The setting; the Face of Boe dying; cat people; red people; the Duke of Manhattan; New New York's got a nasty secret in its lower layers again; crescent moons; apple grass; companion kidnapped; rain/shower effects; Doctor saves the day with simple solution. "New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New York" gag.

Bad Wolf: The Doctor returns to what he predicts will be a glorious time for humanity, only to find it's all a bit grotty now. Doctor gives angry/uplifting speech about how he's going to find his companion and then come back and wipe all the grot out.

The Parting of the Ways
: Ostensible atheist Russell T. Davies does yet another story about Christianity; the Doctor messing around with wires; major character does self-sacrifice bit. Rose says "Everything has its time."

The Long Game: The drug vendors suddenly appearing; nobody knows what's above/below the studio/motorway, but they have heard that it's good/bad. When we find it, it looks like some kind of giant sea creature.

School Reunion: "Everything has its time" again, this time spoken by Sarah.

The Idiot's Lantern: Sally Calypso (blue and white virtual lady); companion kidnapped and Doctor vows to find her and then come back for revenge.

The Satan Pit: Once-intelligent monsters losing their intelligence. Random classical/hymn music interlude. Companion being drugged and kidnapped, and pulling a gun on her kidnappers once she revives.

Love and Monsters: Bliss.

Army of Ghosts: Cute Japanese girls.

The Fifth Element: Do you really need it spelled out for you? Just watch the first twenty minutes of the film and you'll get the whole idea.

Timelash Moment: Something nasty lurking in the lower reaches of the city, unknown to its (tiny) population. Morlox, meet Macra; Macra, meet Morlox. Sally Calypso should probably also meet the fake Borad.

Old Skool Who: The Happiness Patrol (bowler-hatted gent, but see below); The Sensorites ("The sky is a burnt orange..."); Paradise Towers (satire about contemporary urban life; people trapped in brutalist location after catastrophe kills off most of the planet's population; two old ladies in a long-term relationship; crablike monsters); The Macra Terror (go on, guess); The Robots of Death (recycling human waste for human consumption); Mawdryn Undead (companion mistakes burnt corpse for Doctor); Silver Nemesis (arrows remaining in door from previous story are removed by the Doctor). David Weir's unmade story "The Killer Cats of Geng Singh" (go on, guess again).

Everywhere Else: Ben Elton's novels (satire about cars); any cyberpunk writer of the 1980s (designer drugs absorbed through transdermal patches; huge highways; techno-dystopias; Japanese people; Max Headroom-style holographic newsreaders; ISTR one cyberpunk short story which featured an entire society living in the stairwells of a block of flats); Bladerunner (only in terms of the dystopian-city really IMO, but if I don't mention it I'll get eight million e-mails on the subject); Escape from the Planet of the Apes (ostensibly normal baby animal that suddenly starts saying "Mama, mama"); Judge Dredd (dystopian urban satire; RTD claims on Confidential that the bowler-hatted gent is based on a character from Judge Dredd, but as Andrew Cartmel was a comic fan, they may share the same source); Good Omens (people trapped on a motorway for all eternity); American Gothic (the painting, not the series); the video for REM's "Everybody Hurts" (in which a group of people stuck in a traffic jam on a motorway all abandon their cars and walk away).

But hey-- talking kittens!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Conversations with Alan: Recyclingwatch

Alan: Maybe all this recycling of plots and elements within Doctor Who is really some sort of deep, metatextual comment on the banality of life and the repetitiveness of existence.

Me: Who knows?

Alan: I do: no it isn't.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Recyclingwatch: The Shakespeare Code

The Unquiet Dead: the entire plot, basically (honestly, it's practically a straight swap, Dickens-Shakespeare, ghosts-witches), but, if I must go into detail: Doctor going all fanboyish over historical writer; companion making first trip into past and going all gooey over it, plus nervous over the idea of changing the past; a near-identical dialogue sequence in which the Companion points out that she can't have died/the Earth can't have ended in the past, and the Doctor sets her straight; more lit-studies in-jokes than you can shake a stick at. Near-identical climaxes in which the evil aliens attempt to come through a rift to our world, and are thwarted not by the Doctor or companion but some random historical person.

Tooth and Claw: the whole celebrity-historical formula (this time with Queen Victoria and werewolves; what's next year, Wordsworth meets Frankenstein); psychic/ghostly phenomenon given explanation involving aliens; queens threatening the Doctor's life on little/no provocation. The moon.

Rose: Familiar London monument (the Globe/the London Eye) used by aliens as means of instigating an invasion of Earth.

Also notice that once again pretty girls are either evil (Torchwood: Greeks Bearing Gifts) or dead by the second reel (The Impossible Planet).

Old Skool Who: The Massacre (17th-century, or near as damnit, setting; companion having the opportunity to cop off with one of the locals but calls it off in the end); The Chase (Shakespeare, Elizabeth 1); The Mind of Evil (man drowning on dry land through psychic suggestion); Silver Nemesis (17th-century setting again; arrows hitting the Tardis and remaining there after takeoff).

Timelash Moment: The Doctor meets a famous writer from the past and gives him a number of his best ideas.

The Fifth Element:
The idea of ancient writings being really alien codes.

Everything Else:
Blake's 7: Power (the Seska, an all-female race with psychic powers, who use co-radiating crystals versus the Carrionites, an all-female race with psychic powers, who use co-radiating crystals); The Da Vinci Code and any other book suggesting that the art/literature of the Renaissance had some kind of ulterior purpose beyond its obvious artistic value (I'm especially thinking Tim Powers here); any of the BBC's educational dramatisations of Shakespeare plays; Shakespeare in Love (Shakespeare reconceived as something like a modern celebrity; jokey anachronisms; cameo by Queen Elizabeth; Shakespeare receiving outside help on his writing; lost Shakespeare plays); Restoration (madhouse scenes); Buffy the Vampire Slayer (S5 episode "Tough Love" features flying lesbian witches, well, Willow anyway); The Wizard of Oz (witches swirling around in a whirlwind)

New Service: Doctor Who Recyclingwatch

OK, I can't be the only one who's finding the new series of Doctor Who a little, well, familiar. Identifiably so, in fact. So, as a service to those of us who care about these things, this year I'm going to identify exactly what was ripped off from where (feel free to send in things I've missed at the usual address, btw). The focus is on the last two seasons of DW, obviously, but I'll put in a few of the more amusing other sources as well, plus seeing how many times Timelash and The Fifth Element get a look-in.

Smith and Jones

: Typical boring day in life of DW-companion-to-be, which turns into exciting romp with aliens; Doctor grabs hand of companion-to-be and runs with her to escape said menace; companion-to-be's family issues explored in detail; after one particularly extensive instance of family issues, the Doctor turns up and offers to take companion-to-be away from it all, and she accepts; blonde slappers and absent fathers; "OMG it's bigger on the inside, etc. etc." moment. Companion saves Doctor at the climax through doing what she does best.

Aliens of London: Major London landmark damaged/removed through alien intervention; politicians quick to cash in on this.

The Parting of the Ways: The Doctor absorbs and expels a massive dose of radiation (though this time, he doesn't die in the process).

New Earth: Hospital; aliens with the heads of familiar Earth animals (cats there; rhinos here); camp older woman villain; taking on other people's bodily aspects (out and out bodyswaps there, plasmavore stunts here). The moon featuring prominently again.

Doomsday: Freema Agyeman; more Thamesside settings; a quick retconning namecheck by Martha.

Generally: Saxon = Torchwood last year, Bad Wolf the year before it.

Old Skool Who: The Curse of Fenric (plasmavore = haemavore; she's played by Anne Reid, who played Nurse Crane in the former serial), The Stones of Blood (blood-ingesting aliens; older women who turn out to be aliens), The Happiness Patrol (the Doctor taking a black medical student as companion).

Timelash Moment: Something weird happens early on, which turns out to be the result of a trip to the past being made later in the story.

The Fifth Element (early indications are that this movie is going to turn up a lot this year): protagonist hijacked on an ordinary working day into excting time and space plot.

Everywhere Else: Judge Dredd (the Judoon without the rhino masks), any and all medical shows (don't make me say Holby City), Buffy and Forever Knight ("vampire" surviving through raiding hospital blood banks); Casualty 1906 (a one-off docudrama BBC1 showed last year which was based on the patient records of an Edwardian London hospital; the sequences involving messing around with the X-ray machines and MRI reminded me irresistably of the sequences in Casualty 1906 showing how a turn-of-the-century radiology lab worked). Red Dwarf (bloodsucking alien that uses a straw to do it); The Wizard of Oz (ordinary building being swept up in a freak weather incident and deposited intact on another world). There's a Billie Piper music video in which Billie encounters a nightclub with a CGI anthropomorphic rhino bouncer that looks amazingly Judoonlike (earlier in the same video, she develops godlike powers, and turns a dustbin into a man; does RTD get his ideas from MTV?).

Taking It Back

Earlier this year, I posted in the Current Top Pics that I was finding Life on Mars disappointing this year. Well, I take that back, and I take back any criticism I may have made about the series. The final episode managed not only to be amazing and very touching (I don't mind admitting that I choked up) but it completely and totally, at a stroke, explained every inconsistency, every duff episode, every cliche and instance of poor characterisation that's gone before, and left the viewer satisfied. Now that is good television.

Much as I like Martha...

...I can't help but deplore the fact that we are now going to be inundated with fan videos to the tune of Aqua's "Doctor Jones."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Prisoner addendum

Just a quick note in case I have any fans who don't read the Kaldor City site: Fall Out: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to the Prisoner is now available for preorder on


Surprise of the week: catching a 20something John "Life on Mars" Simms as a juvenile delinquent on this week's Rumpole repeat on ITV3. Close second was discovering that Destry Rides Again is actually any good.

Non-surprise of the week: discovering that Hellraiser 2 really is as bad as they say.

Disappointment of the week: the Victoria and Albert's exhibition on the impact of slavery on art and design. They decided to do it, not as a room of objects, but as a "trail" (i.e. you're supposed to wander through the galleries finding the relevant objects), meaning that after half an hour of helpless wandering trying to find the Silver Sugar Dispenser With Scenes of African Life (ca. 1750), we gave up and went to look at the Postwar British Household Design gallery instead.

Moment of Regret of the week: The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom is over. Only three parts; why couldn't it have been six? Or twelve?

Bela Lugosi of the week: The Corpse Vanishes. More entertaining than The Black Cat, but lacking the latter's Expressionist design; less entertaining than White Zombie but with, if anything, a more ridiculous plot. Some genuinely chilling moments from Lugosi and the woman playing his wife, but the rest of the cast are only good for a laugh.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Popular Culture 101

Your essay topic for the week:

"Gilbert and George or The Pet Shop Boys? Discuss."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Number Six is loose!

The Prisoner book has finally been officially announced by Telos!



World Fantasy Award winners Telos Publishing are pleased to announce the forthcoming release of a new addition to their Cult TV range: Fall Out: the Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to The Prisoner, by Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore with a foreword by Ian Rakoff, to be released August 2007.

The Prisoner's impact upon society was explosive, transforming art, storytelling and popular culture like no other television programme before or since. Patrick McGoohan spearheaded the project in his role as an unnamed man, held against his will in a strange isolated Italianate village, tormented by a succession of individuals, each calling themselves 'Number 2', whose true motivations and intentions towards him remain a constant mystery. The man, known only as 'Number 6', attempts escape, is befriended and betrayed, undergoes hallucinogenic journeys, and experiences strange revelations, before the series achieved its cathartic climax.

The Prisoner was ahead of its time, and in this book, Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore, authors of Liberation: the Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to Blake's 7, take on the task of debriefing the programme and attempting to make sense of the many interpretations and readings which have been placed on it. This is not the book with all the answers.... but it may help you ask the right questions.

Telos' range of Cult TV and Film titles is one of the most varied and exciting around, including books on Doctor Who, Blake's 7, Survivors, British horror film, Stargate SG-1, Charmed and 24. For more information and to check out other Telos ranges, please visit


Alan and I will keep you all updated at as preorder information, blurbs, publicity etc. become available.