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).