Monday, December 08, 2008

SJA Checklist: Enemy of the Bane, part II

Crowds of people walking through London under alien influence: Non-check, though half the population of London appears to be really Bane.
Tie-in with Doctor Who story: Check, and mate.
Girl protagonist's mum is annoying: Check; seriously, all it takes is for someone to wander round saying they're a nephew of her neighbour's and she's having them in for tea? I actually live not too far from Ealing, and, while it's a pretty friendly neighbourhood, no self-respecting Londoner is *that* trusting. Also more antics with getting Sarah Jane's name wrong.
Mobile phone as plot device: Non-check, though a galactic sat-nav is.
Luke says something so daft that you have to wonder how he gets through life without being mercilessly bullied: Well, he doesn't actually *say* much that's daft, but he does sit there listening to Mrs Wormwood with this air of dumb incomprehension, and it also never occurs to him, once he's inside the forcefield, to just point out to Mrs W and Kaagh that they can't get him in there, and sit down and wait things out rather than doing their bidding.
Sonic lipstick: Check, complete with jokes about ladies carrying lipsticks.
Wristwatch scanner: Check.
One or more of Sarah's companions falling under alien influence: Non-check, though Major Kilburn does turn out to be a Bane (like everyone didn't see that coming).

And, a special bonus for the end of the season....

Sarah Jane making wide-eyed speech about the wonders of the universe and how great it is to be in her gang: Big old check.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

SJA Checklist: "Enemy of the Bane," part I

Crowds of people walking through London under alien influence: Semi-check; crowds of people wandering around London industrial estates/suburban Ealing who are really Bane.
Tie-in with Doctor Who story: Check; tie-in with the entire UNIT era, actually, as well as with the Sontaran two-parter.
Girl protagonist's mum is annoying: Check; just when you think she can't become any more of a stereotype of a middle-aged mumsy woman, she takes a job in a little shop and whips out a giant bar of Dairy Milk.
Mobile phone as plot device: Semi-check; the UNIT people's hands-free earpieces do get used as a means of immobilising them all temporarily.
Luke says something so daft that you have to wonder how he gets through life without being mercilessly bullied: Check, as he works through his adoption issues. "Luke, I am your mother," indeed.
Sonic lipstick: Check, mere minutes after the wristwatch scanner.
Wristwatch scanner: Check
One or more of Sarah's companions falling under alien influence: Non-check; Gita doesn't count, and neither does Luke falling for Mrs Wormwood's blandishments.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

SJA Checklist:: The Temptation of Sarah Jane, part II

Crowds of people walking through London under alien influence: Semi-check; the slaves in the parallel universe are technically under alien influence, though I'll agree it's pushing the definition.
Tie-in with Doctor Who story: Check; see last week.
Girl protagonist's mum is annoying: Check. She's more or less OK in the parallel universe, but it's business as usual when we get back home.
Mobile phone as plot device: Non-check-- well, it is the 1950s after all. Though, give the mobile addiction most of the characters in SJA seem to have, I'm surprised Rani and/or Clyde didn't whip theirs out right after arriving in the parallel universe to check if they've got a signal.
Luke says something so daft that you have to wonder how he gets through life without being mercilessly bullied: Non-check, though his mother gets in some daft lines about how wonderfully special it is to be in her gang.
Sonic lipstick: Check.
Wristwatch scanner: Check.
One or more of Sarah's companions falling under alien influence: Non-check-- in fact, it's a plot point that they're protected from it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

SJA Checklist: The Temptation of Sarah Jane

Crowds of people walking through London under alien influence: Non-check.
Tie-in with Doctor Who story: Check. Apart from being basically "Father's Day" for over-fifties, "The Monster of Peladon" gets a name-check and the Graske returns. Apparently there's also supposed to be a subtextual connection between the Trickster and the events of "Turn Left" as well, so that also counts (perhaps, having been thwarted on Donna, he's trying again with a less bolshy companion?)
Girl protagonist's mum is annoying: And a hat-trick for non-checks. Though Sarah Jane's mum keeps reminding me irresistably of Drusilla from Buffy.
Mobile phone as plot device: Non-check.
Luke says something so daft that you have to wonder how he gets through life without being mercilessly bullied: His guess-the-gobstoppers-in-the-jar routine; Sarah Jane's mum briefly looks like she'd like to give him a clip round the ear for that one.
Sonic lipstick: Check.
Wristwatch scanner: Non-check.
One or more of Sarah's companions falling under alien influence: Non-check, for a change.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara...

...There's no one as Irish as Barack Obama.

It's true:

SJA Checklist: The Mark of the Berserker, part II

Crowds of people walking through London under alien influence: Semi-check; Clyde's Dad left a crowd of people under alien influence, but they weren't going anywhere.
Tie-in with Doctor Who story: Check-- "hey Dad, hack into UNIT!"
Girl protagonist's mum is annoying: Still a non-check; they must be giving her a rest this fortnight.
Mobile phone as plot device: Check. Clyde's refusing to answer his friends calls (and puzzlement at their names in his phone book), Maria downloading data to Rani and Luke via mobile, Sarah Jane having her mobile switched off meaning that she can't come to the rescue, etc.
Luke says something so daft that you have to wonder how he gets through life without being mercilessly bullied: Non-check for once.
Sonic lipstick: Check, briefly.
Wristwatch scanner: Non-check.
One or more of Sarah's companions falling under alien influence: Serious check. We're pretty much batting 100 on this one this season.

Alan points out: UNIT couldn't have existed in the 1940s, as it was originally at least a UN organisation. Unless there's some historical revisionism going on in Cardiff. Or maybe it was the League of Nations Intelligence Taskforce instead?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

SJA Checklist: The Mark of the Berserker, part I

Crowds of people walking through London under alien influence: Semi-check; no crowds, but good heavens, how many alien mind control devices can one series feature?
Tie-in with Doctor Who story: Non-check.
Girl protagonist's mum is annoying: Amazingly, non-check, though her Dad fills in admirably.
Mobile phone as plot device: Semi-check. It's obvious that Clyde's Dad rejecting a call from someone called "Mel" is going to mean something important later, but we don't know what yet.
Luke says something so daft that you have to wonder how he gets through life without being mercilessly bullied: Check: the whole sequence where he argues determinedly with Clyde that his visit is in fact a sleepover despite Clyde's assertions that sleepovers are for girls.
Sonic lipstick: Non-check.
Wristwatch scanner: Non-check.
One or more of Sarah's companions falling under alien influence: Big. Old. Check.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SJA Checklist-- "Secrets of the Stars" part II.

Crowds of people walking through London under alien influence: Check, check, check.
Tie-in with Doctor Who story: Non-check, though Alan said, "they might as well just have said 'Mandragora Helix' and have done with it."
Girl protagonist's mum is annoying: Almost a non-check, but her folksy twinkle over Dad's cooking at the end just did it for me.
Mobile phone as plot device: Semi-check, as Clyde's remarks about not having a mobile meaning a loss of identity ties in with Luke's worries about his lack of birthday meaning a loss of identity.
Luke says something so daft that you have to wonder how he gets through life without being mercilessly bullied: Non-check; the idea that there was a universe before this one where astrology worked is total bollocks, but as it's part of the premise of the story it doesn't count.
Sonic lipstick: Non-check.
Wristwatch scanner: Non-check.
One or more of Sarah's companions falling under alien influence: Check, though I was expecting they'd get Sarah too.

Just one comment about the American election

OK, I've been resisting the temptation to join the overwhelming throng commenting on the US election, but, as a scientist, this really makes me furious. Just read it and you'll see why.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

SJA Checklist backlog


Crowds of people walking through London under alien influence: No.
Tie-in with Doctor Who story: Check. Direct sequel to "The Sontaran Strategem"/"The Poisoned Sky."
Girl protagonist's mum is annoying: Check, though less so than usual, and she does do something nicely ballsy too.
Mobile phone as plot device: Check.
Luke says something so daft that you have to wonder how he gets through life without being mercilessly bullied: Can't remember, so I'll give it a non-check benefit of the doubt.
Sonic lipstick: Check.
Wristwatch scanner: Check.
One or more of Sarah's companions falling under alien influence: Semi-check: it's not the companion but the guest star.


Crowds of people walking through London under alien influence: Huge great check.
Tie-in with Doctor Who story: Semi-check, in that there are continued in-joke references to "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" (and one to "The Celestial Toymaker").
Girl protagonist's mum is annoying: Check, and looking set to check that box for many episodes to come.
Mobile phone as plot device: Sigh... check.
Luke says something so daft that you have to wonder how he gets through life without being mercilessly bullied: Check.
Sonic lipstick: Check.
Wristwatch scanner: Check.
One or more of Sarah's companions falling under alien influence: Check, or perhaps two half-checks: Rani and Clive are not influenced by the clown, but targeted by it, and Luke isn't mentally influenced by the clown, but is kidnapped by it.

The Sarah Jane Adventures Checklist

This week's was slightly better in that Gareth Roberts' scripts always make me laugh out loud and feel good about the universe. But really, I'm starting to consider setting up a kind of Sarah Jane Adventures version of Recyclingwatch:


Crowds of people walking through London under alien influence: Big old check.
Tie-in with Doctor Who story: Semi-check. Nothing specific, but we do get a School Reunion flashback sequence.
Girl protagonist's mum is annoying: Check.
Mobile phone as plot device: Non-check, and a nice subversion of the way mobiles seem to be constantly used to break alien influence, in that this week a conveniently-timed mobile call to Clive fails to break his hypnosis.
Luke says something so daft that you have to wonder how he gets through life without being mercilessly bullied: Check. "She's a plant!" "You mean she's a vegetable lifeform?" (a fourteen-year-old boy who's never read or watched a spy story?)
Sonic lipstick: Non-check.
Wristwatch scanner: Check.
One or more of Sarah's companions falling under alien influence: Check.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sarah Jane versus the Shark

So I've been watching The Sarah Jane Adventures for two full stories now, and I have to say I'm pretty disappointed. Whereas last year's series was a delightful surprise, this year, I'm wondering if it isn't a victim of its own success-- i.e., the production team, finding themselves with a surprise hit on their hands, go all conservative and start doing formulaic, predictable stories as opposed to the excitingly unexpected ones that they did last year. Last year we had stories with themes like the difficulties of coming to terms with aging and mortality; this year we get "moving away is hard" and "everyone has something to contribute, even the class clown," both of which are seen over and over again in children's media. It's early days yet so I'm hoping for improvement, but, remembering what happened to Doctor Who between Seasons 1 and 2, I'm worried.

Headline of the Week


...Rockers being questioned in connection with the inquiry.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Alan and I do some marketing

The mission: to come up with an honest marketing slogan for Torchwood.

The winners:


Torchwood: At least it's not Bonekickers.

Torchwood: Better than rabies.

Torchwood: Better than a repeat of Ready, Steady, Cook.

Torchwood: Makes Tittybangbang look sophisticated.

Torchwood: It has a bigger audience share than a load of other minority-channel programmes.

Torchwood: Help pay John Barrowman's dog's vet bills.

Torchwood: Because Russell T. Davies can never have enough royalty money.

Torchwood: A few people in America said they liked it.

Season II

Torchwood Season II: Takes out a pickaxe and keeps on digging.

Torchwood Season II: Keeping the careers of ageing cult stars going since 2006.

Season III

Torchwood Season III: Half the length of original Torchwood!

Torchwood Season III: We've cut the story length, got rid of Chibnall, killed off the single most annoying character and got it all out in a single week; surely it can't suck this time?

Torchwood Season III: Now with 100% less Freema!

Contributions can be sent to the e-mail address on the sidebar.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Am I mad, in the Atlantic, or back in time?

"Lost in Austen", about a modern female Jane Austen fan who goes through a magic portal into the middle of Pride and Prejudice, is currently being touted as a costume-drama twist on "Life on Mars". Since that series then spawned a sequel featuring a protagonist of the opposite gender and a later setting, can we look forward next year to "Lost in Melville," where a modern computer technician with a Victorian adventure-novel fetish finds himself suddenly on board the Pequod, searching for Moby-Dick?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Reasons to hate (OK, be mildly irritated at) Michael Grade?

This week, an ITV production company are in my workplace, filming a series called "Trinity" (well, that's what the propsman who I asked said). The main immediate results are that a) the back quad is always full of actors, technicians and equipment, and b) they've taken over the staff carpark too, meaning we're all parking in the overspill car park, which is unsecured, full of potholes, and a stiff walk up a steep hill away from the main building.

If anyone wants to see where I work, look out for "Trinity" (although I'm not sure how much of the building will be visible in it).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


The BBC's brilliant trailer for the Olympic coverage:

Seriously, the BBC need to commission those guys to do a Monkey cartoon series, in just that style. Get the guy who wrote the 1980s live-action series to do the scripts, and it would be just the best thing ever.

Another brilliant thing is Hamfatter:

Go download their single, like, NOW.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Music for the Masses

Following Lawrence Miles' recent assertion in his blog that you can come up with lyrics for all of the Murray Gold instrumentals, Alan and I watched "The Stolen Earth/Journey's End" yesterday trying to do just that. The winner was, to the tune of the triumphal towing-the-Earth theme at the climax of the story, "A buuuunch of stupid grinning twiiiiits... staaaanding... around a coooonsoooole... around a consoooole..." And then I noticed that the music for that theme is exactly the same as Kristy MacColl's "He's on the Beach," just slowed down and with a slightly different rythm, and that was that.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Survival Recyclingwatch

Is this the template for Nu-Who? Consider:

-Urban London contemporary setting
-Pointless celebrity cameo
-Return of old villain/monster who's mainly of interest to the fans
-Gay agenda (the sergeant and Chris)
-Gratuitous soap about companion's friends and family
-Monsters that look like humans in animal masks (are the Cheetah People that far removed from the cat-nuns or Judoon?)
-Lots of explosions and makeup to distract from the general lack of effort on the resolution front...

I'll think about this some more.

Strange things happen

I met somebody named Ianto the other day.

I thought they only existed in fiction.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Recyclingwatch's End, not really. Expect me back for every single special next year, and, Stephen Moffat Team, I'm watching you.

Anyway. Fittingly for the final hurrah of the Recycler-in-Chief, this was the ultimate in recycling; in fact, many of the tropes have been repeated so many times that I'm officially reformatting Recyclingwatch, as follows:

Something disastrous happens to the Earth, with pundit commentary and cutaways of people first hanging around looking apprehensive, then celebrating: Aliens of London/World War Three, The Christmas Invasion, Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, Voyage of the Damned, The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky.

Dalek armies menacing the Earth: The Parting of the Ways, Doomsday, Daleks in Manhattan, blah, blah blah.

Captain Jack's not-dying abilities coming in handy: The Parting of the Ways, Utopia, Last of the Time Lords, several episodes of Torchwood.

"I've just taken on some dangerous energy and now I'm going to expel it in some fantastic way": The Parting of the Ways, The Christmas Invasion, Smith and Jones.

The Daleks are back and they've brought some freaky weird saviours with them: The Parting of the Ways, Doomsday, Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks.

Big reunion, hooray! With everyone cheering and bonding together, hooray! (gag): School Reunion, Army of Ghosts/Doomsday [Mickey and alt-Pete's return], The Sontaran Stratagem, Martha's Torchwood episodes.

One or more Daleks has an epiphany that they're all evil and thus need to be either exterminated or utterly transformed: Dalek, Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways, Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks.

Setup of great big much-trumpeted villain/group of villains, who is/are then promptly killed off, but with a vague exit clause so they can bring him/them back when they start running out of ideas: Aliens of London/World War III; Dalek, The Parting of the Ways, Doomsday, The Age of Steel, The Sound of Drums.

Doctor as Messiah: Gridlock, Last of the Time Lords/The Sound of Drums

Martha with a lethal weapon, and/or lethal weapon as distracting McGuffin: Last of the Time Lords

Slow bullets: Dalek, The Parting of the Ways.

Pounding on a glass door mouthing words: 42, Partners in Crime.

Monsters herding queues of people off to a horrible fate: The Age of Steel.

Mickey leaves his current universe with a mopey line about Rose not loving him: The Age of Steel.

Rose loses somebody she loves, then gets a too-perfect substitute handed to her on a platter, but she's still not happy about it: Doomsday.

Human Doctor: Human Nature/The Family of Blood.

Companion takes something more powerful than herself into her mind and has to have it purged by the Doctor, resulting in memory loss: The Parting of the Ways.

Main characters prepared to commit suicide/destroy the Earth rather than let the bad guys take it over: The Parting of the Ways.

Stopping a moment of pathos to clear up an irrelevant continuity point from earlier in the series' run: Torchwood-- Exit Wounds.

Doctor taking on someone else's personality: New Earth.

Jokes about Clom: Love and Monsters.

Good gravy, now they're even recycling within *this* season: A Doctorless Donna, "Turn Left". The Doctor being a hypocrite in condemning violence but then letting his companions do it, "The Doctor's Daughter." Same story also provides a handy clone from the Doctor. "Ordinary people are special! Really they are! But if the Doctor's not around, we're all hopelessly screwed!"-- Turn Left. See above for all the recycling of "The Sontaran Strategem/The Poisoned Sky", etc.

Catchphrasewatch: "A temp from Chiswick." "I'm so sorry." "Ohyesss!" "No, no no no." "Oi, spaceman." "Molto bene." "Brilliant." Babbling out explanations far too fast. Somebody please explain to Murray Gold that smaller is better, and that giving every character a leitmotif which you play to death every time they open their mouth is only excusable in Wagnerian opera (I have a suspicion he got it off "Attack of the Cybermen," though at least there they had the wit to vary the style and instrumentation of the Lytton Theme every time they whacked it out).

Old Skool Who: Doctor having flashback montages: Logopolis, The Caves of Androzani. Daleks herding queues of people off for some unknown but hideous fate: The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Destiny of the Daleks. The Virgin books used to milk the whole "Doctor turning companions into human gun platforms" bit for all it was worth until they got rid of Ace. Davros thinks destroying the universe is a damn fine idea and doesn't think through the implications for himself: Genesis of the Daleks. The Daleks keeping Davros around, but not because they like him, because they think of him as some kind of vaguely useful abberation: Resurrection of the Daleks, plus vague implications in Destiny of the Daleks. Pushing a powerless Dalek away with one's foot: The Daleks, plus the AARU film thereof. Trapping the Doctor and one companion in the Dalek control centre: The Daleks. Companion being left on earth with a new boyfriend: The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Testing an ultimate weapon on a convenient stooge: The Daleks' Master Plan. A parallel Earth that's a little bit ahead in time: Inferno. Any book by Ben Aaronovitch (the Daleks call the Doctor "Destroyer of Worlds." Companion being left with no memory of her time with the Doctor: The War Games. Tardis as towing service: The Horns of Nimon. Someone being thrown into a furnace and coming out of it OK: The Armageddon Factor.

Everything Else: The Matrix, and every single action movie since (slow bullets), Marvel and DC comics and their continued incessant team-up stories, Buffy and Angel, ditto (particularly involving spinoff series). Hellraiser II-VI (taking something that was pretty good and then repeat it until it's a pale copy of itself). The Wizard of Oz ("I'm going to miss you, Scarecrow/Jackie, most of all"). Red Dwarf (character stuck on a single word; character gaining superintelligence at a cost). Blake's 7: Terminal ("Maximum Power!"). The Terminator ("Come with me if you want to live," which of course also got used in "The Fires of Pompeii"). Star Trek: The Cage (the benign aliens create a duplicate Captain Pike as a consolation prize for the girl who can't leave the planet). Oh, sod it-- I can't think of anything else that's this ridiculous.

Incidentally, German for "exterminate" is "Ausrotten."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Stolen Recyclingwatch

Aliens of London/WW3: Not just Harriet Jones still clinging psychotically to her ID-card routine, but slightly unbelievable antics using the Internet.

Dalek: Crazy Dalek in chains, plus one of the traditionally cited defenses against Daleks (running upstairs there, covering the eyestalk here) scotched by new Dalek technology.

The Parting of the Ways: "Ladies and Gentlemen, we are at war!" Plus the obvious stuff about Daleks invading Earth, shots of flying Dalek armies descending, Dalek creators generating whole Dalek armies out of nothing. etc. Woman firing machine-gun at Dalek while screaming.

Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel: Robot creatures that are herding humans together for some purpose. Plus the wheelchair-bound mad genius thing comes full circle. Secret sending of mobile numbers.

Army of Ghosts: Aliens land and start going into the streets of Cardiff kidnapping nuclear families.

Doomsday: Daleks led by a lateral-thinking leader; barriers between universes breaking down.

Smith and Jones: Not just the Judoon and the disappearance of a seemingly unmovable object, but the return of the "no blow fo ro mo'fo" dialogue.

Daleks in Manhattan: More invasions by lateral-thinking Daleks, and Daleks getting a hate-on for one of their own that's a bit different. Plus some Daleks in Manhattan (what do you want to bet the Empire State Building got blown up first?)

The Sound of Drums: Lots of crazy mobile-phone antics, and teleport-device escape routes, plus ex-companion guest stars.

Last of the Time Lords: Not every single person thinking "Doctor" at the same moment, but every mobile phone on Earth ringing him at the same moment.

Torchwood: Creative use of time rifts.

Catchphrasewatch: "Harriet Jones [flips ID card]-- former Prime Minister." An awful lot of "Don't, just don't," and technical explanations given at breakneck speed.

Old Skool Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (and the film, Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD-- what do you want to bet that RTD had a bet on that he could make Bernard Cribbins' involvement in a Dalek invasion canonical?) for too many reasons to cite; just watch it again already. Faction Paradox (a "Shadow Proclamation" full of weird-looking Goths? Wonder where they got that idea from). The Daleks, in reverse (human hitting on the idea of covering a Dalek's eyestick with a viscous substance, but it doesn't work here). Remembrance of the Daleks (where the Special Weapons Dalek was thought of as "the abomination" by the others). Logopolis (a planet full of pale humanoids who regulate the universe). Trial of a Time Lord, part 13 (the Earth being moved across the galaxy for some reason). Destiny of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks (return of Davros after he was thought dead). Battlefield *again* (a multicultural UNIT which seems to follow UN administrative systems more than the original did). Logopolis, and RTD's Virgin novel Damaged Goods (hiding something by placing it a second ahead in time). The Tenth Planet (something sending an Earth-related planet off into space, plus a faintly unhinged American general running things). The Pirate Planet (stealing a load of planets which, when properly aligned with each other, create some kind of powerful field; one of them's even named Calufrax).

Everything Else: The Hitch-Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy series (Earth animal turns out to be an alien species and flees the planet at the first sign of trouble). The Omega Man (a race of black-clad albinos with Afro hair). Minority Report via Battlestar Galactica (ship run by crazy twitching creature which occasionally has prophetic flashes). Any comedy that does a parody slo-mo-running-towards-each-other and has it end abruptly. Terminator III (teleporting blonde girls with big weaponry). The Wizard of Oz (magical device that takes you home).

I'd like to know what all the *other* ex-companions still on Earth in this time were up to while all this was going on, though. "Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister... and you must be Jo Grant, Professor Shaw, Sir Alistair, Professor Chesterton, Mike Yates, John Benton, Victoria Waterfield, Dr Sullivan..." (and, since she's really from the early 2000s, what about Zoe?)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Recyclingwatch Left

This Recyclingwatch will leave out the obvious and deliberate references to the series' events since The Runaway Bride.

The Unquiet Dead: Ordinary person lifted to heroism through self-sacrifice.

Aliens of London/World War III: Mal Loup the American newsreader is back, and there's more BBC News 24 hijinx.

Father's Day: Companion causes time paradox which threatens the universe. This is resolved when someone steps in front of a moving vehicle.

School Reunion: Old and new companion action.

The Girl in the Fireplace: Time traveller who makes periodic visits over a long stretch of time to a single individual, though plainly little time has passed for the time traveller.

Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel: Fascist alternate universe.

Love and Monsters: Real life is banal, kids, and you need the Doctor to sort it all out.

Army of Ghosts/Doomsday: People leaping through from alternate universes which are supposed to be closed off.

Human Nature: Somebody getting the chance to experience a life they never had, but this was probably a bad thing.

Utopia: No stars.

Last of the Time Lords/The Sound of Drums: Earth turns into a horrible fascist state, with people crammed in several families to a terraced house, but don't worry, because that timeline's been erased thanks to heroic bravery on the part of the companion. Plus more Doctor-as-Messiah action.

The Sarah Jane Adventures: This story is basically a grown-up version of "Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane," just with the Doctor instead of Sarah.

Good gravy, now they're even recycling *within* the season: Once again Donna has a whole virtual "normal" life, without the Doctor.

Catchphrasewatch: Despite not being in it much, the Doctor gets in a "Brilliant". Otherwise it's left to the companions to make up the quota: Rose contributes a couple of "Brilliant"s, where Donna gets not only a "Brilliant," but a "Don't, just don't," a "No, no, no," and a "I'm tired, I'm so tired."

Old Skool Who: Battlefield *again* (UNIT has a black female leader with an African name, but who is quite clearly British). Faction Paradox (creatures which gain energy from changing the universe), and specifically the BBC Doctor/Faction novel "Alien Bodies" (Doctor's latest companion has too many coincidences surrounding her life). Evil of the Daleks (time travel with mirrors). Planet of the Spiders (woman with invisible insect/arachnid on her back). The American Telemovie (the Doctor is apparently dead).

Everything Else: "It's a Wonderful Life," "Sliding Doors," Marvel Comics' "What if...?" series, "Back to the Future" and pretty much any other "what if such-and-such trivial event happened and changed the universe?" type movie/TV show. "Quantum Leap" (Alt-Donna leaps back to the psychological moment to get history back on track, advised by Rose). "Terminator" (another leap-into-the-past-and-change-history story; Donna lands in Chiswick in a crouch which is a plain homage to the landing scenes in that movie). "La Vita e Bella" (Italian man, on his way to the concentration camps, lying and pretending he's going somewhere fun, so as not to cause people to worry). Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy (there's a darkness out there which threatens all the alternate universes, and a blonde girl leaps from universe to universe in an attempt to stop the entropy). Hellraiser (Chinese fortune teller kick-starts a chain of events which lead to death and destruction). Cloverfield (everyone is running away from the giant spider, but the protagonist runs towards it)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Boyz in da Hood

Recently caught Noel Clarke on breakfast television, promoting his new movie Adulthood, a sequel to Kidulthood and thus about working-class multiethnic teenagers in the Ladbroke Grove area coping with life's difficulties. Clarke was eager to emphasise his own origins in those area, and the fact that he's a black lad from a single-parent family who made good as a writer/actor/director. All very well and good, until he was asked how he managed to escape the sort of life he portrays in his movies. "I was studying media at univ--" he began, before he visibly realised the discrepancy in what he was saying with what he'd said before, and rapidly changed the subject.

Alan said later that he was slightly reminded of Guy Richie.

Midnight on the Recyclingwatch

Just before we start-- that Christina Rosetti quote was exactly what I was on about last two weeks. It's not so obscure that the audience will feel intimidated by it, but it's out of the mainstream enough that the bookish kids can feel a bit proud for recognising it, and hopefully some of the less bookish ones will go out and look it up.

This week (and probably next week and the week after) is going to be more of a work in progress than usual as the end of term/start of conference season workload catches up with me; check back as I find time to update and edit.

The End of the World: The future is into slightly misunderstood 20th-century kitsch as entertainment; use of pop song/video as atmosphere-building.

The Unquiet Dead: Alien invader that goes in for possession.

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit: Small crew, with a member who seems normal in some ways but is actually possessed and speaking with someone else's voice. The mechanic who dies is a trainee on their first trip.

Love and Monsters: A small group of people, initially trusting the Doctor, then turning on him because of the actions of another non-human.

Fear Her: The driver and mechanic as analogues for the nice council blokes. Alien "invader" who isn't actually invading, just doing its thing.

Gridlock: People trapped by transport media.

42: See TIP/TSP above, and add the possessed crewmember going in for repetition.

Voyage of the Damned: RTD does love his disaster movies, doesn't he?

Catchphrasewatch: "Allons-y," "Molto Bene", "No, don't do that," and another explanation that Donna's just a friend really.

Old Skool Who: "The Green Death," "Planet of the Spiders" and associated Pertwee-era stories (Doctor extolls virtues of paradise planet which turns out to contain some hostile lifeforms); "The Deadly Assassin" (companionless story). "The Horror of Fang Rock" (alien starts taking over members of small ensemble cast trapped in a perilous location, causing them to fight amongst themselves), though you could make a similar case for "The Image of the Fendahl," "Shakedown," etc. "Kinda" (possessed person who alternates between odd, animal-like movements and a kind of powerful sensual manner).

Everywhere else: Any disaster movie featuring a small group of slightly stereotypical individuals trapped in a small but imperilled environment, and/or any movie in which a mysterious entity possesses a vulnerable woman and wreaks havoc, and/or any of the recent spate of movies about emo teens whose parents don't get them (e.g. "Napoleon Dynamite"). Labyrinth ("Jared"). Poltergeist (the alien's ability to affect the electrical systems).

I've recently been reminded that David Troughton played Bob Buzzard in A Very Peculiar Practice. Skinny, championship-squash-playing, Olympic-swimming, full-head-of-hair Bob Buzzard. My word, hasn't he changed?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Recyclingwatch of the Dead

Further to last week's comment about mixed messages about reading in Doctor Who: if you want to encourage kids to read, isn't it a good idea not to tell them "libraries are scary and books can kill you"?

Usual two-parter deal: only new stuff or stuff I didn't think of last week.

New Earth: Endings with bewildered people standing around a lobby as a delighted protagonist hugs as many of them as he can.

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances: "Everybody lives!" again, plus compare the moment when the Doctor realises that Other Dave is just repeating catchphrases to the moment where the Doctor realises that the tape has run out a while ago. Microscopic organisms as this week's antagonist. Sonic screwdriver/squareness gun antics.

Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways: The Doctor announcing to the villains that he's going to win because that's what he always does.

The Girl in the Fireplace: The Doctor finds love, but she dies.

The Runaway Bride: Donna's wedding dress is recycled from that story, as is her falling for, and marrying, a fantasy man.

Gridlock: Doctor's antics involving dropping through doors and hanging from objects; the library really looks like New New (etc.) York, particularly in the ending bits.

Human Nature: Character experiences a virtual life, complete with spouse and children, which they enjoy but have to give up at the end.

Blink: "Mummy's not going to close her eyes," says Donna.

Voyage of the Damned: More people getting a virtual life, plus the Doctor doing another "I'm the Doctor and I'm going to win" metatextual type speech.

Catchphrasewatch: "No, no no no!" a lot, smacking about the technology while gibbering out an explanation at top volume.

Old Skool Who: Underworld (floating platforms, computers at the world's core). The Aztecs (River Song even says "...not one line"). The Robots of Death (two beings advancing on the Doctor from opposite sides, both spouting catchphrases, but the Doctor ducks between them). The Ark in Space (only three people on the teleport at any one time). Faction Paradox (creepy ladies in anachronistic Victorian dress). The Virgin NA Who Killed Kennedy (companion is sectioned and told her adventures with the Doctor were all a schizophrenic delusion, but still can't shake the idea that they were real). Battlefield, AGAIN-- look, people, it wasn't that good a story!

Everything Else: The Time Traveller's Wife, again (meeting someone who's special to you, after you've known them a while but it's the first time they've met you). Neil Gaiman's "A Doll's House" (people trapped in a virtual universe made up by a little girl). The idea of dead people downloading their consciousness into the Internet has been a staple of cyberpunk fiction since Neuromancer (although this story most closely resembles the denouement of Mona Lisa Overdrive). The Matrix, again. The early books of Piers Anthony's Xanth series (lady who alternates between ugly and smart, and ditzy but beautiful). Star Trek: Generations (the one where Picard falls into an anomaly where time has no meaning, and he imagines/creates for himself a family life with perfect spouse, kids and Christmas).

Monday, June 02, 2008

Recyclingwatch in the Library

According to this week's Confidential, Doctor Who is all about reading, encouraging kids to read and emphasising the power of the written word. OK, but why is it that, aside from Shakespeare and Dickens (who are the only two "quality" writers your average chav can name, if only because they've seen the BBC TV adaption), the only writers that get namechecked are the likes of J.K. Rowling, Jeffrey Archer, Helen Fielding, Agatha Christie etc.? It's like the writers are on the one hand saying "reading is cool, kids! Don't listen to what the bullies say!" and, on the other, saying "oh, but don't actually read anything with words of more than two syllables in it, that does actually make you a nerd." Personally I suspect that Doctor Who is actually about little shops, particularly given the merchandising glut out there.

The End of the World: Announcement systems giving amusing/peculiar futuristic instructions. The idea of the future as having a massive nostalgia industry. Companion freaked out by practices which are normal in this future society.

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances: Creepy undead thing repeating a fairly mundane catchphrase in a sinister way. Captain Jack's device for putting square holes in things makes a reappearance.

New Earth: Mysterious summons for the Doctor via psychic paper, and the presence or absence of little shops as an indicator of the health of an institution.

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit: Multiethnic, wisecracking group of future adventurers, one of whom is suddenly possessed by something that one would generally assume is a myth or articulation of a primal fear.

Love and Monsters: Stones with talking human faces embedded in them.

Fear Her: Small girl who draws pictures which turn out to be real.

42: In media res with a futuristic group of multiethnic adventurers with their own in-jokes, who unleash an evil force which possesses one of them, and he goes after the others.

Blink: Abandoned buildings, with something fairly mundane hiding a creepy alien secret. "Stay out of the shadows" as this year's "don't blink."

Human Nature: A diary about the Doctor's adventures, only he doesn't know about them. A child with some kind of supernatural power or ability.

The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords: That security camera with the consciousness of a child looks suspiciously like a Toclafane.

Voyage of the Damned: An impression of someone's mind being left inside a piece of technology, resulting in a creepy ghost that doesn't know where it is.

Good gravy, now they're even recycling *within* the season: Last week's Agatha Christie title-referencing competition spills over into this week, when we learn that there is No Body in the Library. Oh, and how many future companions/ex-companions/potential companions are we going to have to endure this year?

Catchphrasewatch: It's like Moffat had a bet on with someone as to how many times he could get Tennant to say "I'm so sorry."

Old Skool Who: River Song is basically Bernice Summerfield with curly hair-- archaeologist and Doctor's companion, full of one-liners and quips about unusual dating habits. Big intergalactic libraries seem to have been a staple of the Virgin and Big Finish eras-- even Moffat himself apparently had an earlier go at one-- but I'm thinking particularly of Daniel O'Mahony's "Timeless Passages," a story featuring Bernice Summerfield in a library with a creepy girl. Plus the entire Faction Paradox series focuses around shadows and their presence/absence/difference in form from their ostensible owner. That aside: Battlefield (the Doctor coming across a piece of his own future history), The Keeper of Traken (hiding a secret to protect the family pride, even at the cost of others' lives), Remembrance of the Daleks (creepy possessed little girls). The Horns of Nimon (the companion has their own sonic screwdriver). The Tomb of the Cybermen (archaeological expedition on a hiding to disaster, and it looks like their financial backer, who is accompanying them, is up to no good).

Other Stuff: The Omega Factor, episode one (protagonist flees along a street as the streetlamps go out ominously behind him); Space 1999 has a similar sequence in which a possessed crewmember drains the power from everything he passes; The Matrix (what seems to be twenty-first-century Earth is in fact an illusion, and the information-based nightmare is real, according to a bald black man with spectacles; also check out the Matrix homage in the Library's data displays). Any and all SF stories with giant future libraries. The Box of Delights (more issues about the presence or absence of shadows).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Nigerian Follow-up

A couple of years back I wrote this post, dealing in part with the fact that, due to my job being the sort where one might reasonably expect to receive e-mails from people in developing countries with the words URGENT REQUEST in the header, I tend to wind up opening a lot of Nigerian spam e-mails.

The ironic follow-up is that this week, I actually wound up deleting a legitimate and above-board e-mail, simply because it looked too much like a Nigerian spam to even bother checking.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Unicorn and the Recyclingwatch

Sorry to make you wait for this one-- I've been out of town.

The End of the World:
The year Five Billion, with its fully-blown nostalgia industry.

The Unquiet Dead:
As the script itself points out: famous writer, supernatural adversary, the Doctor gushing away like a fanboy.

Tooth and Claw:
“No, no, don’t do that” as companion attempts local argot; dinner party with discussions of the supernatural, lots of chasing of monster and being chased by monster, and goings-on about Britishness.

Smith and Jones: The Doctor neutralizing some kind of normally-fatal poison or radiation through Time Lord physiological magic.

The Shakespeare Code:
Aside from the obvious (see The Unquiet Dead, above), running gag about the Doctor and companion giving a famous writer all their best ideas, and speeches about how brilliant writers are, and how the power of writers’ imaginations alone can stop disasters happening (I’ve got five published books to my credit, and yet, somehow, I wasn’t able to stop Boris winning the London mayoral elections).

Mental link between two characters, such that if one dies, so does the other—“They Keep Killing Suzie” again.

“We’re not married”; Donna gets to tell Agatha Christie she’s brilliant. Christie quotes her own catchphrase about little grey cells.

Good gravy, now they’re even recycling *within* the season: Yet another alien creature wandering around with half its brain somewhere else.

Old Skool Who: The Doctor’s already had a Christie-esque adventure in the 1920s—the strikingly-similar-to-this Black Orchid. There’s a Big Finish involving giant mutant wasps, but I can’t recall the title right now. The Curse of Fenric (Donna telling Christie that everything will be better in the future = Ace telling Rev. Wainwright that everything will be better in the future). The Green Death (giant wasps that can be killed in the same way the little ones are). And of course The Ark in Space (three guesses).

Everything else: Cluedo (Professor Peach in the library with the lead pipe); The Box of Delights (shape-shifting ginger-haired vicar). I’m not much of a Christie fan (sorry—always preferred Dorothy L. Sayers) but apparently if you are, there’s lots of inside references to her books and namechecking of the titles (though somehow they managed to steer away from including the one beginning with the words “ten” and “little”). Brideshead Revisited (young camp noblemen having gay affairs in the 1920s, plus Aloysius guest-starring as the teddy bear). Gosford Park (servants keeping secrets having to do with unplanned pregnancies among their noble employers). The Man with the Golden Arm (character who has been faking paralysis in order to keep their spouse from leaving them, though maybe he got it from Little Britain instead). Raffles (society burglar who infiltrates country-house weekends and nicks the family jewels). The Anubis Gates (the protagonist combats strychnine poisoning by eating the contents of his fireplace, remembering that carbon neutralizes strychnine). The Incredible Hulk (“you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”). The Prisoner: The Girl Who Was Death (poisoned man drinking a variety of strange things to induce vomiting).

Incidentally, teddy bears weren’t invented until 1902, so, if the room hasn’t been disturbed since 1886, then Lady Eddison has a pretty avant-garde toy designer in her employ.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Niggling thought of the day

This has been bothering me ever since "The Poison Sky", but... how is it that, when a bad or morally ambiguous character on a TV programme or in a film commits an act of self-sacrifice after recognising that they've done wrong, why is it that people describe this act as "redemptive"? As opposed to if, say, the character recognised the evil of their ways, but then went on with the rest of their lives, living with the shame of the past and doing their best to make up for it, and make others' lives better in the process? Taking a bullet for the Doctor, or whatever, may make for a nice exciting climax and a slightly poignant episode ending, but, in real terms, it's taking the easy way out, and neatly avoiding any uncomfortable questions about forgiving your enemies.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Doctor's Recyclingwatch

The Unquiet Dead: ...has a *massive* amount to answer for in terms of random guest-characters sacrificing themselves while Murray Gold switches the keyboard to "sad" mode. Just once I'd like to see the obvious human sacrifice make it through the story (and this one doesn't count, as she does technically die).

Father's Day: Disappointment when your relatives don't turn out as you expect, plus a father who gets to know his previously-unknown daughter and comes to respect her.

Boom Town: Ages and ages of raking the Doctor's moral hypocrisy over.

The Parting of the Ways: Magic golden breath precedes regeneration.

School Reunion: Companion has convinced herself that she'll travel with the Doctor forever, but ex-companion knows better.

Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel: "I'm not your father! Really I'm not! Well, sort of, I suppose." Ad nauseam. Plus companion who heads off into the sunset for more adventures at the end.

Love and Monsters: Donna is played for laughs as a sexually frustrated older woman, sort of like Jackie in LAM.

Doomsday: More crash-the-action-to-a-halt-so-we-can-talk-about-relationships action.

Gridlock: The idea that the people in this society can't help themselves, they have to have the Doctor turn up and save them.

Daleks In Manhattan: Does that theatre look suspiciously familiar? Or maybe it's just the opera house on Kobol (see below)?

42: Race against time through corridors with fetching young people dressed in khakis; supposed enemy that isn't all it seems.

Last of the Time Lords: The Doctor as Messiah again.

Voyage of the Damned: Doctor meets plucky blonde girl temporary companion, with whom he bonds, and who dies, or sort of dies, at the end (and you could see *that* one coming for miles in both cases).

Catchphrasewatch: Lots of "No no no" this week, plus yet another iteration of the tired old "assuming the Doctor and Donna are married" bit.

Old Skool Who: The Face of Evil and Underworld (planets that start out as terraforming operations and end up with warring, primitive populations with no idea of their origins). The Chase (planet terraformed by machines, just waiting for people to fill it). City of Death (the jokes about Jenny being seemingly unable to solve a problem without violence are recycled from Duggan's). That famous Lenny Henry sketch (jokes about running up and down corridors). The Ark (human-alien colony mission, where relations between humans and aliens sour rapidly). Oddly enough, the Sontaran stories (warrior clones). The Curse of Fenric (Ace's distracting-the-guard bit, plus don't the Hath look kind of like haemavores?). Lance Parkin already did a similar Doctor's-daughter bit in the BBC novel Father Time. Full Circle (colonists who don't realise they're colonists, and/or that they've got a close connection with those humanoids with gills wandering around out there).

Everything Else: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan has a lot to answer for here, what with Genesis devices, heroic self-sacrifice, and loony old warriors (although the Doctor's wrong, the Genesis device *can* be used as a weapon), with a bit of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock coming in the resolution. Battlestar Galactica: TRS (generations-long war between two groups who are quite similar really; reproduction through cloning machines; protracted bonding between two members of opposing camps as they wander through an irradiated landscape, and the Doctor lifted his pointing-guns-at-heads-and-handing-them-over bit entirely from Sharon "Athena" Agathon in Season Two) Entrapment, the film whose sole attraction was watching Catherine Zeta-Jones negotiate a corridor full of lasers. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the obvious, plus random relatives being created out of nowhere through plot conveniences). Enemy Mine, and to a lesser extent "The Return of Starbuck" (Martha's bonding with the Hath adventures). BBC News (note that when the Hath do their victory dance with the rifles, it looks suspiciously like that dance that Iraqis do that involves hopping from one foot to another with your rifle held in the air). Silent Running (in the sequences in the terraformed jungle, I kept expecting the camera to pan across to Bruce Dern happily transplanting saplings with his little robot pals). Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (plucky and tough warrior girl who can't solve a problem without knocking it unconscious first).

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Poisoned Recyclingwatch

Usual deal for the second half of a two-parter: only stuff not mentioned in the first half gets in.

The End of the World: Companion, freaked out by recent experiences, rings Mum through time and/or space, and gets a kind of bizarre reassurance from it.

The Unquiet Dead: Guest character does heroic self-sacrifice bit, which incidentally also involves self-immolation.

Aliens of London/WW3: How is UNIT's computer security still so rubbish that Martha can hack the nuclear grid using her Ipod Touch? Plus another resolution to the general effect that with one thing changed, everything is now absolutely wonderful. Plus real BBC personalities slumming it in guest cameos.

The Empty Child: "Are you my mummy," indeed.

The Parting of the Ways: The Doctor can't just slaughter the bad guys, he has to give them the chance to back down. Companion, trapped on another planet to the Doctor through Tardis displacement, has to figure out how to get back to him.

The Age of Steel: Doctor instructing companion secretly in what they have to do, using a mobile phone and a video broadcast.

Fear Her, Army of Ghosts and The Sound of Drums: Celeb newsreader guest cameo.

Doomsday: Action grinding to a halt for various people to talk through their issues with each other.

42: More mobile phone and stranded companion antics.

Torchwood: The clone-Martha's relationship with her original, and her death, are lifted straight out of "They Keep Killing Suzie."

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Evil factories with attractive products run by aliens who want to breed; annoying parents who get in the way but sometimes come through for you.

They're still recycling within their own season: As if the other "Partners In Crime" parallels weren't enough, now we learn that the Sontarans want to breed.

Catchphrasewatch: A hat-trick this week: "Bwilliant," "I'm so sorry," and "No, no, no".

Old Skool Who: The Claws of Axos (new technology that is marketed as the solution to one of Earths' major problems turns out to be terraforming devices from an alien species). The Auton Invasion (killer dolls and chairs, meet killer cars). Invasion again (evil genius who recants and does good, plus huge set-piece UNIT battle with expensive hardware); Battlefield (UNIT's arsenal of cool bullets and anti-alien gadgets); Invasion of the Dinosaurs (tracksuited group of Utopians, convinced, wrongly, that they're going to go to another planet to start again). The Android Invasion (gratuitous explanation for lack of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stuart). The Green Death (ending in which the ecosystem will be, by implication, miraculously saved through everyone going green, and companion informs Doctor that marriage to a scientist is more exciting than going around with him).

Everything Else: Bizarrely, the original Japanese version of Godzilla has an equally stupid scientific resolution, in which the monster is killed by some chemical which acts on the sea, but with no explanation as to how they avoid killing all fish everywhere in the world at the same time. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (if you locked Rattigan in a cupboard with Warren from Season Six, which one would win?). Predator ("This isn't war, this is sport!"). Harry Potter (secret academies, with bitter and twisted misunderstood geniuses determined to kill off the unlike).

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Sontaran Recyclingwatch

Appropriately enough for an eco-story.

Rose: Duplicates, where the original conveniently has to be kept alive; Doctor's companion duplicated; harmless objects activating and attacking people; a few deaths early on, followed by an all-out massacre when the signal is triggered-- are these guys really Sontarans, or Nestenes in suits?

The End of the World: People standing in front of huge screens looking down on the Earth, check.

Aliens of London: Is there some kind of rule that all DW companions' mums now have to be obnoxious old things who just don't understand, and immediately start attacking the Doctor?

Dalek: The Doctor steals Van Statten's "Intruder, in-tru-der window" gag, even though there's no way he could have heard Van Statten making it.

The Long Game: More people standing in front of huge screens looking down on the Earth.

Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways: More evil companies and outer-space CGI armies over the Earth.

Tooth and Claw: Monks in red in big Gothic pile, meet geniuses in red in big Gothic pile.

School Reunion: Current companion, meet ex-companion, and let them bond over shared experiences.

Army of Ghosts/Doomsday: Doctor's ex-companion turns up, wearing black jumpsuit and working with a paramilitary organisation to fight alien menaces. Doctor comes back to visit another ex-companion and find out how she and her family have been getting on.

The Lazarus Experiment: See entry for "Aliens of London" and repeat slightly more loudly.

Last of the Time Lords: Does Martha's boyfriend know she met him in a parallel universe? Oh, and more companions joining the black-clad paras.

Good gravy, now they're even recycling *within* the season: Isn't this just a retread of "Partners in Crime"? Mysterious company shoots to fame with miracle product tackling topical social issue, which turns out to be really run by aliens; it's being investigated by the Doctor's ex-companion who is hoping he'll come back and help out; nosy female journalists investigating the place meet predictable fates.

Torchwood: The whole thing feels more like a TW than a DW story: nasty fates in cars on deserted roads (Countrycide), allegedly-secret supergovernmental organisations with a moral compass that ranges from the dubious to the facile (the whole series really), everyday things or objects given an alien twist (Meat, Random Shoes, Sleeper), guest appearance from DW monster (Cyberwoman, Exit Wounds) and/or ex-companion (Reset through A Day in the Death).

Catchphrasewatch: Martha gets in the "bwilliant" this episode.

Old Skool Who: Watch for recycling from pretty much every Robert Holmes story except the Sontaran ones: evil duplicates and mysterious factories with popular products (Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Autons), corporate satires (The Sunmakers, The Caves of Androzani, The Power of Kroll), satires about paperwork (The Carnival of Monsters), evil dwarves (The Talons of Weng-Chiang), academies of brilliant people being preyed on by aliens (The Krotons), red-clad secret societies in Gothic piles (The Brain of Morbius). The Time Warrior gets a brief look-in only with a misquotation of the thorax thing (it's not "vulnerable," just hypertrophied), and the idea of people being hypnotised (which is hardly unique to the Sontarans). UNIT's mobile HQ is straight out of The Invasion (though at least the Brig could afford a Hercules). Battlefield (reimagined UNIT). Any evil-duplicate-made-by-the-baddie story, e.g. The Chase, The Android Invasion, The Androids of Tara, Resurrection of the Daleks etc.

Everything Else: ITC series made evil-duplicate and evil-megacorporation stories a stock in trade in the 1960s and 1970s. There's also a whole horror subgenre revolving around evil or possessed everyday items (e.g. Ringu/The Ring, The House that Dripped Blood, etc.; one could arguably include the film Phone Booth), the most obvious referent here is Christine (cars with minds of their own and evil designs on their owners). Real life (jokes about "homeworld security", Guantanamo Bay, illegal immigrants, etc.). Battlestar Galactica: Razor and the third series episode "The Passage" (a hand suddenly shooting out of a tank of fluid and grabbing someone).

Oh, and I'll confess that when Donna's granddad says "you!" upon seeing the Doctor, I was half-hoping he'd go on with "back in 1966, when I was a bobby on the beat..." but of course he didn't. Rats.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Recyclingwatch of the Ood

Rose: Nestene Consciousness, meet Ood Collective Brain, with similar harmless-things-becoming-murderers bit.

The End of the World: Companion gets taken into the future for the first time and freaks out in both bad and good ways.

The Long Game: References to the Fourth Great and Bountiful Etc., plus a company that's hiding a secret nobody asks too much about, and a character turning
out to be a secret anti-capitalist operative.

Boom Town: Alien which had a few things wrong with it from a story perspective revisited and given a more nuanced treatment; the Doctor's ethics called into question.

New Earth: the Face of Boe/Ood singing telepathically; the cat nuns' experimenting on people for what they claim is the common good versus the company's lobotomising the Ood for similar reasons, etc. Both have "...and then everything gets sorted out perfectly in five minutes," happy endings.

The Girl in the Fireplace: The Doctor's mind-meld trick.

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit: Ignore the obvious connection, and focus on a) the slaves-rising-up bit; b) the psychic-CGI-monster-in-a-pit bit; and c) the fact that Murray Gold, when forced to do music that's a bit off from his usual bombastic National-Orchestra-of-Wales default setting, actually turns into a really good composer; both the Firefly-influenced stuff there, and the Sensorites-influenced stuff here, are great.

Catchphrasewatch: "we're not married" again; the Doctor works in another teeny "bwilliant," though manages not to say "I'm so sorry" to the dying Ood on the hillside.

Old Skool Who: The Sensorites (leaving aside the namecheck, we have a psychic bald race who are extremely gentle and kind when not under outside influences); The Robots of Death (only without the twist that the beings supposedly being liberated are actually just being reprogrammed); Ghost Light (although transforming the vicar into a monkey made more scientific sense there than turning Lord Percy into an Ood here); Revelation of the Daleks (Graeme Harper again gives us an opening where the Doctor and companion walk across a snowy landscape to discover an escaped mutant creature on the run); The Seeds of Doom (opening scene where companion comes out of the Tardis in hot-weather clothing to discover an arctic landscape, and rushes back in to put on warm clothes; also, later, when the companion finds certain of the villain's practices repugnant, the Doctor points out analogous practices in her own culture); like last week, anything with evil businesspeople and greedy consumers in.

Everything Else: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (slave race rising up and taking over the planet, led by a few individuals who are brainier than the rest); Blake's 7: Ultraworld (race with a collective mind which turns out to be an actual literal giant brain); Terminator III (company innocently producing robot slaves only to have them turn on them unexpectedly); John Wyndham's short story (later televised) "Dumb Mart" (alien creature thought to be stupid and fit only for use as a slave turns out quite intelligent indeed, and exacts revenge).

Anybody else wonder if the fact that this story's acronym is POO is deliberate?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Doctor Who Recyclingwatch: The Fires of Pompeii

Late and brief, I'm afraid...

The Unquiet Dead: This is basically the source story here. Doctor shows off by taking companion to requested historical destination (only he gets the time and place slightly wrong); said destination is being invaded by homeless aliens who have designs on Earth, Doctor and companion vow to go as far as sacrificing their lives to stop them, moralising about who one can/can't save. Girls with second sight making prophecies of visible relevance to the rest of the season. The Doctor even technically meets literary figures, in the form of the Caecillii. At the end of the episode he officially confirms Donna as companion.

Boom Town: Just as Margaret Slitheen predicted, the Doctor saves one family, and assuages his conscience.

Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel: Baddies plan to convert the whole human race to become like them, and take over the world.

The Satan Pit: Underground Balrog-like monster that gets loose; it's already been working its influence on some of the population, and they're physically marked by this.

The Shakespeare Code: Historical done as comedy, with anachronistic gags ("T.K. Maximus," etc.) Also (and this goes for "The Unquiet Dead," "The Idiot's Lantern, etc.), the idea that one can't do a straight historical, there has to be a monster in it somewhere.

Gridlock: Doctor bonds with companion at end of story over the nature of his life as a time lord; major prophetic revelations given in cryptic manner.

Daleks in Manhattan: Wales as stand-in for more glamourous location; some of the team go to said glamorous one and don't let anyone forget it.

Catchprasewatch: Looks like this "everyone assumes they're married" gag is going to become a recurring thing. "Allons-y, Alonzo," and a blink-and-you-miss-it "bwilliant".

Old Skool Who: The Aztecs, the Massacre, and The Reign of Terror get the whole "can you or can't you change history?" question resolved at a stroke (answer: sometimes), while The Romans is actually namechecked and The Myth Makers is also a visible influence. Any story in which a cult attempt to sacrifice the Doctor and/or companion; take two points if their reasons are actually other than religious (The Masque of Mandragora, Meglos, and see elsewhere); The Brain of Morbius (The Sisterhood called, they want their robes, makeup, and chanting-and-whirling schtick back). Big Finish did a CD called "The Fires of Vulcan" focusing around Pompeii.

Everything Else: The Confidential admits to Asterix and the Cambridge Latin Course (though IIRC the Caecillii never had a daughter), but other candidates include the HBO/BBC series Rome and, indirectly, I Claudius (Ancient Romans talking and acting like modern people), The Terminator ("Take my hand [if you want to live]"), Spartacus ("I am... Spartacus." "I'm Spartacus too"). A short-lived 1980s transforming toys franchise called "Rock Lords" (it was basically Transformers with rocks, and the creatures looked a lot like those Pyrovile things). Actual Pompeian history/archaeology (people turning into stone is a creepy reference to the petrified casts of Pompeians buried under the ash). Only Fools and Horses ("lovely jubbly"). Up Pompeii is going to be an unconscious influence regardless of what you do. That Star Trek episode where the crew journey back to the 1960s and accidentally kidnap an astronaut (in that the question of what to do with him is influenced by the question of how historically significant he and his offspring will be, much like the Doctor with the Caecillii).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More Moving Mayhem

British Gas Lady: Your closing balance is [gives number]. Would you like to pay that now?

Me: Yes.

BGL: You would?

Me: Why not?

BGL: Um... OK. What sort of card is it?

Me: ...a debit card?


Me: A [name of bank] debit card?

[more silence]

Me: Uh... [brand name of card]?

BGL: Ah! Could I have the long number on your card?

Me: [gives it]

BGL: Start date?

Me: [gives it]

BGL: Expiry date?

Me: [gives it]

BGL: Start date?

Me: I just gave you it.

BGL: Sorry, issue number?

Me: [gives it]

BGL: [long pause] I'm sorry, the card isn't registering. Can I have the long number again?

Me: [gives it, and all the other details above, again]

BGL: No, it's still not registering. Do you have another card?

Me: Look, I have direct debit on my British Gas account....

BGL: Oh, you do? (pause) Oh yes, you do. Right, I'll just debit your account then.

Me: [says nothing, but contemplates switching to Southern Gas and Electric]

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Mattress postscript

Discovered after an intensive and frustrating web search that we have a community recycling centre twenty minutes' drive up the A30, so loaded the damned thing into the hatchback and took it there (with Alan holding it down as firmly as possible so that it didn't obscure the rear-view mirror). Now I wonder why the nice council lady didn't suggest that option straight away?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Real life update

We're moving house (hopefully for the last time for a good long while), which means that a) I haven't got much time to post here and b) once we've moved, there'll be a two-week radio silence while the broadband migrates. I'll try and keep up with the Recyclingwatch as best as I can using dialup and my work computer, but if I slip up, that's why.

On a side but related note-- the local council charges thirty pounds to recycle your mattress. THIRTY POUNDS. You could buy a new (albeit secondhand) mattress for that. I always wondered why I saw so many mattresses thrown into railway sidings; now I know. I'm off to find a friendly neighbour with a skip.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Doctor Who: Recyclingwatch: Partners in Crime

Yes, the Recyclingwatch feature returns again, to general fanfare. This episode sets the tone nicely...

Rose: Glimpse of companion's pre-Doctor life, with unsatisfactory family, lousy job experiences, and Billie Piper. Companion turning to conspiracy theory websites to explain the Doctor. Companion's Mum nagging her about her employment status. Some woman propositions the Doctor only to be bluntly turned down.

Aliens of London/WW3: Nasty things happening to fat people; cute but fatal aliens, fart-based humour.

Bad Wolf: Another Anne Robinson look alike (see below)

New Earth (and Gridlock): "I've met cat people, you're nothing like them..."

School Reunion: Doctor and ex-companion both investigating same thing at same time, with comedy hijinx.

The Idiot's Lantern: The Doctor and companion try to get to the bottom of strange happenings by knocking on the doors of ordinary people and pretending to conduct a survey.

Love and Monsters: Ordinary person whose life was briefly touched by the Doctor subsequently spends ages trying to track him down.

Army of Ghosts: Check out the advert for the ectoplasm polish, and ask yourself who that cute little ghost reminds you of (the sound people have even recycled the noises it makes).

The Runaway Bride: Oh, go on, guess.

42: Silent dialogue between the Doctor and companion, behind their own separate windows.

The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords: The villain has their own version of the sonic screwdriver.

Voyage of the Damned: Bernard Cribbins reprises his crusty-old-granddad bit.

Sarah Jane Smith: Invasion of the Bane: The plot of PIC is essentially an adult version of the Sarah Jane pilot, only with diet pills instead of fizzy drinks, and some extra added body horror. Even the two villainesses look almost exactly alike, and have a penchant for kinkily victimising nosy female journalists.

Old Skool Who: Not much, surprisingly: The Invasion (rooftop exploits with armed guards, attempt to escape in a lift). Robot (the source for all the creepy business-suited crypto-lesbian villainesses). Any story featuring an evil megacorporation with a popular product as chief villain (The Green Death, Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Autons...)

Everything Else: The sheer number of referents for the appearance of the Adipose is staggering (The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, the Scrubbing Bubbles, Pokemon, the Smurfs, the Death Guard). Gremlins (cute, seemingly harmless aliens with food-related issue). Mary Poppins (Nanny flying through space over London); Harriet the Spy (children, by implication, experiencing separation anxiety when their parents get rid of Nanny); Shivers (body horror involving beings inside people trying to get out); Alien (the scenes involving the birth of the Adipose are like a teatime comedy version of John Hurt's famous chestbusting incident). Close Encounters of the Third Kind (the giant Adipose mother [sic] ship). The Weakest Link (Anne Robinson's look/stage persona).

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I wish I'd done this...

Kind of hard to read even with large sizing, so click on it to get the full effect.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Dead Man Puking

Among all the other impossibilities regarding Owen from Torchwood's undead state-- apparently if he runs, his legs will snap.

What I'd like to know is, how is he managing to feel depressed? He doesn't have a serotonin level any more.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Cult Of... The Cult Of

Watching "The Cult Of... Poldark" on Sunday, it finally crystallised exactly what I don't like about BBC4's "The Cult Of..." series: it's that they could go in two very strong directions, but instead go in neither. They could either be a good in-depth history of the programme involved, discussing their genesis, their production, the televisual context which meant a programme like that became a hit, etc., but they don't: the "Poldark" episode mentioned a couple of times that Winston Graham (author of the original Poldark novels) complained initially about the series but later became reconciled, but never actually explained what he complained about, nor why he changed his mind (both of which are interesting stories, easily available in the author's memoir "Poldark's Cornwall").

Likewise (and perhaps more controversially), with a name like "The Cult Of..." they could do a series on reactions to programmes, why they come about and what appeals to people about some programmes, and why unexpected phenomena sometimes occur (why does Blake's 7, a programme with no explicit sex scenes and almost no inexplicit ones, have a thriving erotic-fanfic subculture attached to it? Why is Between the Lines popular in Canada and Howard's Way in Australia, but the reverse isn't true? Why are there lots of Survivors fans and yet almost nothing in the way of an organised fandom? Etc). But again, the series barely touches on what makes the programmes popular, and when it does it's usually in a fairly denigrating way: Kate O'Mara, interviewed on "The Cult of... The Brothers" the other week, said that the programme was popular because there was nothing better to do on Sunday nights in the 1970s, and the Poldark episode showed us a group of Poldark Appreciation Society members without actually interviewing any of them to find out what it is about the programme that inspires them to meet in full period dress.

The world is crying out for a good documentary series on cult television in all its various and sundry permutations: unfortunately, this isn't it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Headline of the Week, or, You Know You've Been Working on the Battlestar Galactica Book Too Long When...

From Channel 4 News:


...Gaius Baltar is reported to have turned Colonial Government's Evidence.

Funk to Funky

Okay, I love "Ashes to Ashes." But what's bothering me about it is the cognitive dissonance among amateur and professional TV reviewers alike out there. They first note that "Alex Drake doesn't really believe she's in 1981, and thinks it's all in her head," and they then go on to say something along the lines of "it's completely unbelievable that a female cop would wear off-the-shoulder shirts and miniskirts/talk to her male colleagues that way/drink bad red wine in public/whatever."

Put the two together, guys. The reason why she's not acting like a copper is because she doesn't believe any of this is real. In 2008, she wears sensible clothes and acts like a sensible police detective, but as far as she's concerned 1981 is just a dying fantasy she's having.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

RIP Kevin Stoney

...who played my two all-time favourite Doctor Who bad guys, as well as appearing in pretty much every other classic British show I like. Plus some wonderful interviews, which we used to refer to as "Was I a Doctor Who Monster?" for his entertaining take on appearing in the series.

Damn, that's gone and ruined my entire month.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Headline of the Week

From the Guardian:

FIVE FACE TRIAL OVER SECURITAS Enid Blyton. Timmy the Dog is reported to be considering turning Queen's Evidence.

Funeral Reith

Every year, around August, the newspapers continually run screechy articles about how A-levels, and indeed school curricula in general, are dumbing down and that the history curriculum has been reduced to a whistlestop "Nazis and Tudors" overview. I generally laughed this off as scaremongering, and then I did my usual tour of the blogosphere for reviews of last week's Torchwood. And was amazed by the number of reviews praising it as "educational" and "Reithian" simply for pointing out that shellshocked soldiers in 1918 often got shot for cowardice. I remember learning that at fourteen, in a Grade Nine history module, and again, in OAC North American History, and again, in OAC Social Studies (in the unit on psychology, which dealt with PTSD among other things). If people aren't learning about that sort of basic historical fact in school, then the scaremongers really do have a point.

The Stuff of Legend

The local real ale pub's latest beer is called "Legend." Every time I see it, I keep picturing a Spartacus-style faceoff between Will Smith, Charlton Heston, Bob Marley and a pint of beer, all shouting, "no, no, I am Legend!"

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Context is Everything

...and you'll never look at Mary Poppins the same way again.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Amusing product warning roundup

On a container of Tesco's table salt: "May contain nuts" (I'm still looking for a box of nuts that reads "may contain salt")
On a bag of Sainsbury's mixed nuts: "Prepared in a factory where nut-based products are handled. May contain nuts."
On a bottle of cod liver oil capsules: "Allergy warning: contains fish" (the day I find cod liver oil capsules that don't contain fish, I'll give up on the ecosystem completely)
On a bottle of Body Shop eye makeup remover: "Avoid contact with eyes."

Torchwood: the Revenge

All sorts of TV reviews are telling me that Torchwood S2 has changed, has improved, has taken notes on what people disliked from S1 and worked on it... I'm wondering if we were watching the same programme. The episode I saw last night differed only from a S1 episode in that there were more whip-pans, more lines laden with puerile innuendo (I like puerile innuendo, but this was actually getting to the point where I was going "yeah, yeah, another willy joke, let's get on with it), more musical numbers that were out of date before Kurt Cobain offed himself, more adolescent angsting on the part of characters who are supposed to be in their late 20s/early 30s, more pointlessly thick behaviour on the part of characters we're supposed to care about ("Hey guys, this total stranger has just turned up with a cock-and-bull story we none of us believe, so we'll investigate what the truth of it is by going along with his plan-- no, I don't see the flaw in that, do you?"). Plus yet another jokey "everyone in the world knows who this secret organisation are" moment, which just really looks like they're trying to imitate the running gag in later series of Buffy (surely not!) about everybody in Sunnydale regarding vampire attacks as a part of everyday life (and ignoring the fact that even in Buffy this gag caused massive internal contradictions within the setup).

The only new element I could discern is that they're now doing what I can only describe as Captain Jack fanservice-- it's like someone noticed that a whole bunch of fangirls punched the air at the same-sex kiss in "Captain Jack Harkness" and are now determined to get him to snog/flirt with/otherwise get physical with anything male (plus a token pass at Gwen just to remind everyone he's bisexual). Which I don't mind on the one hand because it gives me more material for the LGB Guide to Doctor Who, and because I think that television needs more portrayals of bisexuality as a good thing, but on the other hand I can't shake the feeling that this isn't some attempt to encourage tolerance of same-sex sexuality amongst the audience, so much as an attempt to exploit a demographic, which is just creepy.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Russell T. Davies Recyclingwatch: Damaged Goods

So over the holidays I read "Damaged Goods," RTD's Virgin novel, and just for fun I thought I'd list all the things I'd spotted in it that he wound up using somewhere else later on:

-Working-class family named Tyler (Doctor Who series 1 and 2, Queer as Folk)
-Woman cooking a man's favourite meal then lacing it with rat poison (The Second Coming)
-New York as the template for all future megacities (Doctor Who-- New Earth, Gridlock)
-Exploration of gay issues, particularly as pertains to different generations of gay men's experiences of sexuality (Queer as Folk)
-Housing estate (Doctor Who series 1)
-Future human whom 20th-century humans assume to be gay, but his sexuality's a bit more complicated than that (Doctor Who, Torchwood)
-War between Time Lords and someone else having consequences for ordinary humans (Doctor Who, particularly series 1)
-UNIT namecheck (Doctor Who: Aliens of London)
-A mother who makes, effectively, a deal with the devil to help her children (Doctor Who series 3)
-Bad guy driven by incessant sound in his/her mind (Doctor Who: Utopia, The Sound of Drums, etc.)
-Zombies animated by amorphous alien (Doctor Who: The Long Game)
-Reciting numbers to thwart a transdimensional alien weapon (Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Code, which wasn't his, but it's interesting that it turns up there)

Will edit this post as I notice others.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Doctor Who lecture

For those of you who live in this country and have an interest in this sort of thing, I'm giving a talk on "British Multiculturalism in Doctor Who" at the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology in Oxford on Friday 25th January (11 AM). E-mail or otherwise ping me if you want to go but need more details.

The people have spoken

The results of the poll last month are now in, and the blog is now "Nyder's Takeaways." Happy?