Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sleeping with the lights on full

Anyone else thinking of doing that tonight?

Not just me then.

Went to see NZ playing cricket today at Northants: very pleasant conversation, food and cricket entertainment (the middle day of a three-day match). This meant we came back by twilight and by the time the iPlayer had loaded... well it was 10pm.

There was something rather satisfying about watching Doctor Who in the dark - rather takes me back to my youth. And what an episode that was - chewing my fingers - cannot believe I have to wait 7 days to find out what is next (again, a very old skool DW experience).

And scared of the dark? Me?

Every time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Improved weekend

Well, after the Dalai Lama incident, we moved into happier territory with a nice National Trust visit (Kedleston Hall) albeit that this was via Ripley because the signs along the A52 do not quite make it clear that 'City Centre' = A52... hence we ended up trailing up the A61 to the A38 junction completely confused until we reached Ripley (way, WAY past the A38 turn for Kedleston) and had to re-route ourselves back along the A38 all the way back to where it joins with the A52 just outside the city centre and go back along the one-way dual carriageway to turn off for Kedleston hall....

Gah, you lost interest there didn't ya? Me too. Sorry about that.

What we learned from this: National Trust directions that emphatically say DO NOT TAKE A52 but take the A38 North only apply if you can stay on the A52 despite it not being clearly signposted as such.


Yesterday we availed ourselves of the final day of the free Pulse music festival in Nottingham. Paid for by the tax money of the good citizens of Nottingham City. (We live in the borough of Broxtowe). We enjoyed a lively set by The Blockheads followed by some ska fun courtesy of The Beat. Tres enjoyable even if the sun did not shone on us (however it WAS dry. Hurrah!) It has to be said that even though we do not live in the City, do not really watch local TV, do not have the local paper and do not listen to local radio, it still felt like a bit of an under publicised event.... contradiction? 300 acts were apparently performing this weekend: it just shouldn't be possible to live within a 20 mile radius of such a thing and scarcely know it's on! (We live within 5 miles) And NOWHERE was there an obvious list of running orders for the main Market Square stage: how rubbish is that?! We found out by accident and virtue of a passed on message about the website (which in itself was poor and difficult to navigate).

To end the weekend, we watched the rather confusing Kiss of Death. Not sure it worked as a pilot or one-off drama but it was a gruesomely dramatic way of spending 90 mins of tv. And Louise Lombard is always pretty watchable.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How the Dalai Lama fucked up my day

Stupid bastard middle-class twats thinking they're so 'spiritual'...

The plan yesterday was to get our next visit to the family in NZ sorted and to have lunch in town.

First was achieved with relative ease (no, NOT travelling first class).

Second... as we walked through town we kept seeing a lot of people with pink lanyards. At first we couldn't quite stare enough to read what they said. H.H. something or other... oh bugger. It's the Ice-Stadium filling crowd for His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

This meant that pretty much every snack food-selling outlet and restaurant/cafe in the vicinity of the city centre was at least 15-20 deep with queues waiting service. Where seats were available outside they were all taken; take-aways were spilling onto pavements in all directions. It was impossible to get close to food. We just about managed to break into the queues at Delilah Deli, and only just got served. There were numerous toffy-nosed voices spluttering about the indignity of having to wait 20 mins for a sandwich. The staff looked very frazzled (not a lot of Buddhist restful harmony in their lives at that moment). We made a swift exit with some humus and other counter goodies and got out.

We decided to head home for a grazing afternoon of food rather than trying to get something in town. And we had to make it fast or we would be inflicted with hearing The Displacements on stage in the Market Square as part of the free and poorly advertised Pulse musi festival. As Neil remarked, hearing The Displacements again would make it at least FIVE times too many.*

We had a nice afternoon with the doors open on our garden eating falafal and salami and bean salad. How bloody middle-class of us....

* We have 'only' seen The Displacements twice: once as support and last year at Summer Sundae. Why do I so loath them? Because their ENTIRE raison d'etre for being in a band is to get into girl's pants. As Scroobius Pip said: "Thou shalt not use poetry to get into girl's pants; use it to get into their heads". That would work if The Displacments' poor man's Indie PubRock lyrics even HAD any poetry of course....

Friday, May 23, 2008

TV writing for Adults (and for Children)

There's a pretty santimonious rant in today's Independent by Thomas Sutcliffe where he makes a good news/bad news argument about the replacement of Russell T Davies at the Doctor Who helm by Steven Moffat.

On the one hand, one of Britain's most interesting television writers has at last been liberated from the task of thinking up silly nonsense for a teatime audience and could be welcomed back to the real world. On the other hand, this had only been achieved by the cultural equivalent of a hostage swap. There are writers one would be quite happy to see chained below decks in the Doctor Who galley, so that their energies are entirely consumed in a broadly harmless manner, but Moffat – who can write for grown-ups – is not one of them. He didn't see it this way himself, of course, announcing that it was the "best and toughest job in television".
Sutcliffe thinks Moffat is wrong on that score, expounding further that what the world needs is more realistic drama about the world around us. Well, there's a place for that too and with plenty of metaphor I'm not sure that isn't what a lot of fantasy and science fiction do anyway. BGS anyone, let alone Doctor Who?

One reader (Smith) wrote in the comments:
Do you not think, perhaps, that you should let the writers themselves decide what will be a tough job that will stretch them and is worth doing? I'm pretty sure that neither Russell T Davies nor Steven Moffat really need a newspaper columnist, with an apparent prejudice against any drama that isn't fixed firmly in the 'real' world (that's Verne, Clarke, Dick and others dealt with then), to patronise them and explain what they should be writing.

That pinging sound you may hear will be the email you'll almost certainly be getting from Davies thanking you for your concern but explaining, bluntly I imagine, that he really doesn't see his time with Doctor Who as something he needed liberating from.

Really, seeing family aimed fantasy drama as automatically bad, and adult kitchen sink reality drama as the only thing 'decent drama' writers should be involved with, in this day and age? That's a prejudice so old, and so lacking in critical worth or validity, it's almost quaint.
Quite so, quite so. Moreover, isn't there space for fun as well as seriousness? For silly as well as nightmare-ish scares? (On which point I'm not sure what planet they were on but to the commentator on one site - I think The Stage: TV Today - who declared themselves unmoved by either 'The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances' and 'Blink', can I just say were you watching a different programme?! Not scary for adults? HUH?!!!!!!!!!! But I digress...)

Whilst I share the 'amazement' at a week where DW isn't mentioned or pictured on the cover of the Radio Times, part of me goes 'grrr' at the almost childish tantrum Sutcliffe seems to throw at Doctor Who. I'd love to know what it's like in his house when his kids are watching the programme...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Music Tag (sort of earwormy)

Reidski appears to have tagged me (based on the assumption I'm Lisa...).

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.
The Engine Driver, The Mariner's Revenge Song, The Sporting Life - The Decemberists (all from Picaresque)

I'm also listening a lot to the "Colin Meloy Sings!" album at the mo. I can't help it, there is something about the narratives this band weaves and his vocal delivery which just works for me. I love 'em.

The Boat Song - Jeremy Warmsley and Emmy the Great

This has been getting a fair amount of 6Music airplay and as we are currently back into a relationship with said station (after a period of disillusion) its been hitting my buttons well. It's a little bit 'Dears'-ish which is no bad thing.

100,000 Fireflies - Magnetic Fields

A lovely song from a lovely band and delightfully heard in one of my favourite stores this past weekend (Page 45 Comic and Graphic novel emporium extraordinaire).

I will Not Go Quietly - Whitlams

Acquired via the wonderful world of Shuffleathon, this often comes to mind when I am feeling a little stressed. With my recent back pain and the end of the Academic Year in sight (and, ahem, STILL no new f.... contract paperwork) it's been pretty relentless recently. Can't think why I'm feeling rather beligerant. I will NOT go quietly... no for you or anyone else...

I Can't Decide - Scissor Sisters

I will refer you to what I wrote from the Earworms I did for Swiss Toni. Me. A DVD player. Doctor Who s3 box set dvds... "You can therefore guess the reason why this is here. It's been stuck on rotational repeat in my head and is now duly dedicated to my offline pal Helen Lisette who I know will read this: it will certainly make her smile as I think she gets earwormed by the track a lot (it's the Bugsy Malone-esque qualities she loves)." Still true, oh so true.

I think that's my 7.


EineKleineRob, MunroGeorge (although maybe that should be HotHotSexGeorge which seems to give a totally different nuance to his identity!), Anna, Marie (though she may be minus her iPod so...), and... and ... hmm, that's four of you... 3 more self-invited peeps please?!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A short Rullsenberg Rant: Abortion amendments - now I can go to bed

I have to say that the debates over recent weeks and days about reducing the abortion time limit from 24 weeks have disturbed me greatly. I don't often watch Parliamentary votes, but this was one I felt I had to know before I could begin to try and rest in my bed.

No-one has an abortion lightly. The reasons for doing so are always hard and complex and have social ramifications. Frankly, I don't care how much science can advance the survival rates for a foetus; the limit is now 24 weeks and I want it to remain that and not to be reduced. Taking and thinking through the decision to have an abortion takes time; some, already vulnerable women - exactly the women that the self-same MPs voting to cut the abortion limit would prefer not to have children at all - need more time and support to get to the position to have an abortion even when it is clearly the right thing for all concerned. Making that decision harder, more rushed and more complicated does no-one in society any favours.

I'm glad that the limit is staying at 24 weeks...

Bye, bye Russell T Davies - hello, hello Steven Moffat

It was many a fan's fervent hope even as they fretted it would never be. Should have trusted Stu_n really...

Stephen Moffat told them that that was a very dumb idea indeed

Anyway, the news is out - hell, it's the breaking news on MediumRob's page as I get home - and I have to say I'm pleased. It will be a VERY tough act to follow the impetus and verve that RTD brought to the regeneration of Doctor Who, however much he has been (rightly) criticised at times.

How much will SM want to (will even be expected to?) take over the organisation of Torchwood or Sarah Jane Adventures? What's happening to Torchwood anyway? How often will SM write for the show (there is a big difference from dropping in the odd one or two episodes to getting three to six of the buggers off the ground, let alone the overall management of the whole season)?

Whatever else anvillicious RTD may be accused of (kitchen sink writing, the 'gay agenda', too many pop culture references, pretty much screwing up the whole Martha arc...), would the show even BE back without him? I doubt it. You can say the moment was right for DW to come back to TV, but without the passion of RTD to drive it forward, it would never have happened and could never have sustained its presence and attraction of a new audience.

So, with qualified boo-hoo's, it's a bye-bye to RTD. We'll probably miss you more than we would like to admit it; and Mr Moffat, you have a lot to do... I hope that everyone will cheer you on as much as I hope they will.

Finally, that Primeval Book review: Shadow of the Jaguar

Way back when, the lovely MediumRob gave me a prize of a copy of Steven Saville's primeval novel 'Shadow of the Jaguar' for... well, it was supposed to be for making an 'amusing' comment and then just turned into a 'why you should give it to me' comment (which, funnily, despite the fact I should have bought it anyway, I won...)

[I've long since been wondering in the back of my mind 'what happened to my book review?' That lack of comment would be because you have not yet posted said book review duh-brain. Still stuck, not even in draft, but on a bloody memory stick at the office. Double-duh.]

ANYWAY. The book. I really enjoyed it. I avidly turned the pages and relished visualising a hot, sweaty Nick Cutter in the heat of the night the Peruvian jungles and Team Cutter making their usual mistakes on a grander scale than the TV show will allow (with added cursing!). And this was despite not being the mid-teenage boy it was probably aimed it: plenty of military activity; significant amounts of violence and gore - more than in the TV show for sure; plenty of identification of the virtues of heroism in the modern world - intellect, emotional courage and social conscience being as prized as skills in violence. The only thing missing was any gratuitous descriptions of Abby in her panties [though on reflection that demographic is probably said teenage boy's father - or mother should she have such inclination to appreciate].

It's certainly an odd beast of a book, being exceptionally well-produced - quality paper in a quality hardback - and with an experienced writer (Steven Saville).

The plot isn't a great deal more complicated than your average Primeval TV episode, whatever that means (simplistically complex??). As mentioned, one of the joys of the literary form is that writers can work with the reader to create far more expansive vistas than the ITV budget will allow the TV programme*. In this respect, the writing is far better than I could have hoped for, even though, as MediumRob pointed out, the initial 'how many adjectives can we throw at this paragraph?' is a tad wearing. That thankfully settles down fairly quickly and though some of Saville's 'purple prose' made MediumRob wince, I actually found the character dialogue and interior thoughts rather well put together. They certainly sounded like the characters as they are written/performed on the TV show even if this did sometimes mean they still failed to be fully rounded human beings. [Almost nothing convinces me that the actor, director, or writers could do anything to make Stephen more than a cipher-esque character for endless online slash-fiction... Stoic to the point of solidifying, static to the point of being inert [even if he is busy being 'heroic'], I never quite got the point of Stephen providing some het girl eye-candy for those who failed to recognise the loveliness of Professor Nick Cutter/Douglas Henshall [fools!]. Frankly, brooding Stephen only makes sense as the central focus for slash-merchants...]


As MediumRob said, the author does seem far happier detailing the SAS soldiers protecting the dinosaur hunting team in Peru than getting to the crux of any dino scare story. That said, Saville does this so well as to not make the SAS action completely jar with the hardly-action-hero-actions of the dino crew, and given the popularity of Tom Ryan from S1 it seems well placed to have such character(s). Undoubtedly, it created a slightly odd mixture of genres, but it was enjoyable anyway. I also wasn't too bothered by the "author's over-research syndrome" - partly because it meant you did actually believe in the characters having brains that engaged with history, geography, philosophy, archaeology and all those other -ologies that aren't really science. Okay, so I've limited use for knowing what Connor et al found from all their Internet searches, but you take it in your stride. And I rather liked the extended diatribes Saville sometimes presents in the guise of character/narrative progression. Some are clearly wider-ranging social conscience issues - as in de-forestation and tourism; others more character-driven (I chuckled heartily at Cutter's frustrated anti-globalisation rant when hearing Pavarotti playing in the Peruvian restaurant. It seemed very in keeping with Cutter's general loathing of certain aspects of the modern world).

Ostensibly the boy(s) lost in Peru get a hefty share of the narrative, and the tale is book-ended, and a few times interrupted, by Lester's sneering engagement/necessary obsequiousness with aristocratic authority. However, it is - thankfully for me - most often Cutter's story. That suits me fine, as I have no objection to imagining the delivery of the dialogue and visualising his heated mannerisms and action. There are several nice little touches in Saville's writing on such matters. There's an early recognition that Cutter's "mild Scottish burr" becomes more pronounced when he's passionately discussing his work or an idea. And Cutter's ambivalent feelings about Jenny/Claudia/the timeline are nicely dealt with (though I suspect the afore-mentioned teenage boy is less than bothered about all that). Certainly, it's Cutter's emotions and attitudes that drive the other characters' behaviour and responses: everyone seems to move in accordance with his gravitational power, his moods, his heart. In this novel Jenny probably comes off next best in developing her character, but as in the series, it's hard not to feel that the construction of every character beyond Cutter is less developed on a scale of diminishing returns. Connor - as much as he initially annoyed me on TV - at least seems to have a character. But Abby seems to have less and less of one (she mostly spends the novel trying to be resilient in the face of death and destruction), and my feelings on Stephen are already recorded. The plot made the sort of sense you would expect a Primeval story to make: from the future into the past goes one more dodgy creature...

So, my overall response on this book: a solid 6.9 out of 10. I can't quite push myself to make it the round 7/10 (I'm not the teenage boy reader) but I loved the Cutter portrayal enough to go beyond MediumRob's 6/10. A happy reader!

* For those who've read Shadow of the Jaguar, I'd also venture that Henshall's vertigo, even with his frequent desire to do his bit with stunt filming, would preclude any filming of the high-rise rope-bridge scene. Not least for protecting him/stunt double from personal damage...

The Unicorn (who was scarcely there) and the Wasp with the Lead Piping (and other improbable tales of Doctor Who)

My word. There HAS been some exercising of minds hasn't there over the just-over-half-way-point-Who episode. Comments got very excitable about wasps using lead piping. Paul Fuzz duly - and wittily - slapped 'em down a tad for kinda losing the point [even if MediumRob advised him that way danger lies].

Anna loved it. Marie loved it. (Though both with qualifications).

MediumRob was more qualified still - perhaps not helped by his antipathy to Agatha Christie.

There's been criticism that it was lightweight and dull, plenty that it wasn't a Doctor Who episode at all (really? I won't be the first to cite episodes from earlier DW incarnations that do similar cross-genere things).

What I thought:
Fenella Woolgar - gah, she's divine in this. Perhaps the most perfect bit of casting they could have managed (and even if Felicity Kendall WAS revealed to have been shagging a wasp, she too was beautifully selected for the role.)

Donna - with the magnifying glass. BRILLIANT. She was just fabulous in this episode and is proving the best challenge to many new Who critics in confounding their expectations.

Comedy - you didn't laugh? Shame on you! Okay, so I doubt I would go so far as to quip you being a 'humourless muppet' (for fear of offending Muppets - when DID 'Muppet' become a term of ridicule and abuse? I digress....), but it was funny! Yes, all those cross references to Christie stories were a tad wearing - just as they were in The Shakespeare Code - but there are worse traits to keep re-using [I may slap someone if they keep doing the 'talking in exaggerated way: the Doctor tells them 'no, don't do that''] Personally, I loved the 'Ginger Beer' request from the Doctor in his poisoned state to the hapless footman. An obvious gay reference joke? of course, but it was still pretty witty.

Gratuitous Marie-pleasing action - Lord knows after her recent criticism of him, I'm not entirely sure she deserved it, but there was some seriously lovely waspy-honey-stuff licking with glasses on. In a comedy Who episode. I don't think you can complain about that.

The Wasp - the only thing that hacked me off about the Vespiform was the utterly pointless (except for episode padding) death/not-death of Agatha when the Vespiform was about to die. Wasn't Gareth Roberts under on his Shakespeare episode as well? Didn't notice as much padding there as here - all the swirly fade-outs aside - but the moment when the pink bubbling light of the Vespiform seemed to be taking the life of Agatha with him as he drowned only for LITERALLY TWO SECONDS LATER it to change it's mind... meh. Seriously weak moment.

The Unicorn - apart from lending itself to the title, there really was no point to the thief was there? She was pretty though. Not much of a mystery.

The buzzing vicar - Don't know why I didn't guess it was him earlier really...


I liked it so much that - albeit by force of timing - I watched it twice. First by iPlayer and then (because it was bang on the start time on BBC3 when we'd finished doing that) on the TV screen. Thoroughly good fun followed by the end of Indiana Jones.

Lovely stuff.

Shame we have the Euro delay after this, but I'm already freaking over the forthcoming Moffat-fest. Anyone NOT already afraid of shadows.... you will be.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lithium with sock puppets

Courtesy of Rachel, this is infectiously wonderful and charming.

Cross-posted at Music is Our Hot, Hot Sex.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

BTW apologies for lack of online presence

I've been off work much of this week with a bad back. I finally feel old. I'm not happy about this.

Val Seddon's next knitting activity is David Tennant

Could someone please send me the pattern for David Tennant (Hands off the Doctor Who knitting circle, G2, May 15)?
Val Seddon
Hee. Anyone else as charmed as they are disturbed by such a request?!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Blink BAFTA win...

Woo! Okay, so these things are in the somewhat sidelined behind the scenes/Craft categories rather than being part of the main BAFTA award ceremony, but nice to see Blink boy Steven Moffat getting the nod - especially over such illustrious nominees. Second time in as many weeks since he also got the Welsh BAFTA as well...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Doctor's Daughter - dividing opinions across the interweb thang

Ouch! MediumRob really REALLY didn't like it. You can tell this because... well, the review is lacerating throughout but mostly the clue is in him alikening it to 'Evolution of the Daleks'.

That is beyond harsh! (And I speak again as one who did not throw all my toys out the pram on watching that episode).

Anyway, I said most of what I wanted to in MediumRob's comments so I will hold off giving a recap here. If I had been thinking straight I would have done my review here instead of there. What can I say? I was mostly distracted by listening to the Doctor Who podcast commentary and then the lovely Colin Meloy of The Decemberists on my iTunes.

It's at times like this I'm glad I only read 'Behind the Sofa' as a kind of Outpost Gallifrey-lite rather than the full-on fanbase yarling at full fevered pitch about whether they wanted to know if timelords reproduced by the loom or by actual, you know, S-E-X (*shudder*). Get over yourselves boys: you just knew RTD was gonna being yanking ya with a title as obvious as 'The Doctor's Daughter'....

I will say something though: wasn't David Tennant just bloody MARVELLOUS in his performance this week?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lynsey Hanley's "Estates" - a personal review

I wanted to write something in praise of Lynsey Hanley's incredible book 'Estates' which I have belatedly just finished reading (having started it earlier in the year).

I wanted to praise her eloquence in articulating such an excellent analysis and history of council and social housing in the UK (and to some extent placing it in a broader global context).

I wanted to praise her wit and dark turn of phrase for describing the utterly soul destroying poverty of body and spirit that encompasses the lives of 'estates': those visibly different worlds on the edge (even when they're in the centre).

I wanted to acknowledge how she doesn't just rail against the iniquities established and reinforced almost from the very start of the concept of 'estates', but also manages to offer inspired hope and vision for the future.

I wanted to say so much.

On finishing one particular chapter - "The Wall in the Head" - I tried to read some passages aloud to Neil. Even as he unwittingly said aloud 'that sounds like you' I was already breaking into tears and before reaching the end of the passage I was choking and had to put the book into his hands instead.

I know that my education, my experiences, my cultural and economic status no longer keep me 'working class'. But the rawness remains with me of my early education (till at least 20+), my early experiences (at least till I left home aged 25), and my early cultural and economic status (both personal and familial household status till at best a decade ago and probably till just half that).

And so in reading her words I was transported back to feeling the same emotions that she captures so well.

Will Hutton cited the following extract:
'If you attend a school on a council estate,' writes Hanley, 'having come from a housing estate, you get a council estate education. It's not so much that you get told kids like you can't ever hope to achieve their full potential: it's just that the very idea of having lots of potential to fulfil isn't presented... inculcated into every child at a council estate school is the idea that you shouldn't hope for too much.'
But it was this from the follow up passage that broke me:
Unless you show extraordinary levels of ability, initiative and maturity - in a school context where 'extraordinary' can mean anything from merely turning up, to showing an interest and then applying yourself - you are unlikely to be let in on the little secret that is the World Beyond The Wall. I am a child of the little secret, which is not to say that I showed extraordinary levels of ability, unitiative and maturity. Indeed, I showed the sort of qualities that most middle-class parents would regard in their children as deeply average, which is to say that I was quiet, conscientious, anxious to please, anxious full stop [my emphasis added]. My teachers - the only middle-class people I knew - let me in on the whole thing purely because I stuck out. I showed signs of knowing, or suspecting, what was possible if I put my mind to it: signs that the wall in my head was lower than can usually be expected in a place like ours.
I couldn't help my reaction. Sure, generationally, Hanley comes from the GCSEs era rather than my own CSE/O level life. But the sentiments she expressed when she wrote she "was told by some that, 'Oh, but you were the sort of kid who would have done well anyway'..." rang very true for me. When I first started reading the book, I kept marking passages in pencil, highlighting lines that dug deep into my psyche and my history. I had to stop by the end of the introduction: I was picking out almost every other line.

So, Lynsey, thank you for writing the book I wish and probably could have written (though I doubt half as well as you did). And if you haven't already read it, then buy a copy now and read it. It is a brilliant piece of smart historically rooted and personal analysis of housing today.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Fragile! - a radio 4 play

I can't urge you enough to listen to Tena Stivicic's excellent play, Fragile! which was reproduced for Radio 4 this evening.

It will be available for the next 7 days on listen again (so until next Friday 16 May 2008). Catch it while you can.

It is an endless source of frustration to me that not all plays get a second life on CD recordings: there have been so many excellent plays over the years broadcast through such slots as Radio 4's Friday Play.

And yeah, Douglas Henshall stars in this one. It's damn good: he is damn good. Get over it.


Confession: as you may know I got to part 2 of this two-part Helen Raynor story a little late: what can I say? If my boys will have a scrap about who gets my attention on a Saturday night, I have to work around it (for the record it was Cloud's interest in seeing 'The Last Days of Judas Iscariot' at the Almeida theatre that got me down there for a second visit... it was a real hardship to spend three hours in the theatre again.... mind, I could have done without the predictable nudges and grins from Cloud when Dougie came on stage... ah, what do I mean: I know that I love the teasing...Sorry, got distracted then!)

ANYWAY. Doctor Who. Thank heavens for the iPlayer is what I say, since even with Premier Travel Inn now having full Freeview availability with our other commitments during our visit I couldn't quite manage any of the weekend repeats. So it was Monday night before we caught the episode.

I have to admit, even as someone who was more positive than most about the last Helen Raynor 2-parter, I did wonder how this would pan out. There were a few bits in last week's ep that could have led to a disappointing conclusion [e.g. there were some worrying signs, mostly with the music, of how Donna's character is being played out - Murray Gold, STOP IT!] but I have to say that - again - the episode worked really well for me.

It's interesting that MediumRob thought the continuity refs would have confused many NuWho fans (though he was pretty on the money about the OldSkool having orgasms - even the Behind the Sofa reviews only capture half of that... if I ever got on Outpost Gallifrey I dread to think what they're saying there). I'd actually say that maybe doesn't give them due credit since one of the things that has come out of the relaunch is an extended amount of rediscovery of ClassicWho for a new generation. Sure, some are getting the back catalogue DVDs, but many more are at least brushing up via the BBC website etc on the history of the Doctor and his companions/foes. Sarah Jane has helped with that as well. It may not be fairly indicative but Anna for one was way more impressed than I anticipated she might be (given it was a Helen Raynor story) and she seemed to get plenty out of the cross-references.

So how did things work in this episode?

UNIT and the military thing - Raynor seemed less prone to bang quite as loudly as last week about the Doctor and guns and the military. Either that or I was too excited to pay it much attention. Loved the use of The Valiant; squealed about the Brig.

Martha and CloneMartha - bless her: writers, directors, even the actor herself just can't quite seem to enliven this character in the way that we would all wish her to be. Nevertheless, as CloneMartha (just the right side of hard but still way too un-Martha-like to fool the Doctor) she turned in a pretty convincing performance. She even managed a touching exchange with her (real) self before croaking. I best liked that Martha couldn't help herself when she snuggled up to the Doctor when he came back from the Sontaran ship. Tom is always gonna be a little second best isn't he poor lad?

Donna - shame that they don't always know what to do with her (Tate doesn't have to emote every episode to prove she can act: we get this) but aside from the somewhat pointless abandonment scenes in the TARDIS she's proving to be a very enjoyable companion. Right down to the thump on the arm before she too sits next to the Doctor with Martha, she continues to be a much more adult companion albeit with endearingly 'wow-ed' responses to the experiences she is now having ["back of the neck!"].

Sontarans - not given a lot to do but these potato-heads were never really scary were they? - just weird and potato-like. Anyway, what they did was well done and to give credit where it's due the Clone Feed gas thing was about the most convincing plot element Raynor has written in Doctor Who. It also reasonably explained why they were behaving in an un-Warlike way [plus, without being heavy handed, why do they want/need a new planet's worth of Sontarans? A lost planet anyone? That's four for four if you take it that the Ood had been separated from their planet by slavery].

Supporting cast - twatty 'genius' (read: moron) Rattigan redeemed himself with a glorious "Sontar-ha!" which just about justified the war-cries repetition through these two episodes. Bugger that they killed off Ross though: there's a real tendency in NuWho to bring in minor characters, make you like them, and then kill them off (Lynda with a Y anyone?).

Uncle Wilf - Bernard Cribbins is a god. Bless him still encouraging Donna and trusting in the Doctor despite everything.

The Doctor - ah, the Doctor. Although Doctor Who fans have coped (by and large) with the diversity of Doctors who have inhabited the role, it has to be admitted that for all his acting chops Tennant has divided some opinions about his Doctor. Too emo, too Essex, too pop culture, too wild, too ranty, too 'sorry' ... Well, I'm sorry, because I think that criticism is pretty much wrong. I'm not saying he's note perfect all the time, but he is so the right Doctor for right now ('course, it does no harm that, you know, he's perty with gangling height and rufflesome hair...). In this episode alone we had witty self-referential Doctor ("Are you my Mummy?" - okay, only witty for the audience but still), impressed Doctor (with UNIT), not entirely convinced he is always right Doctor (crossing his fingers at blowing up the gas), self-sacrificing Doctor (with the goodbye to the gang and transporting to the Sontaran ship). All delivered with conviction and charm. More please.

The 'Rose' arc - yes, Rose was there again in her one blink vid screen yell. I think the amount of attention this is getting (after the frankly-took-us-all-by-surprise first ep appearance as Bin Girl) probably negates us still being able to call these appearances 'subtle'. Nevertheless, it does given a certain frisson to spot and anticipate the weekly Rose reference whether in person/image/sound. She just can't quite get through can she? And will the Doctor still feel the same way - if indeed it was ever fully as so many read it - if she returns [those of you with spoiler awareness of what's to come can just Fuck Right Off. Sorry, but as much as I can I want to relish the series as it happens.] Don't get me wrong, I still choke at Doomsday's ending and the Rose references in The Runaway Bride. But after the debacle that was how the Doctor treated Martha (only just about recuperated in the new series in acknowledging how badly that worked out) I'm not sure they can go back to a great romance rekindled or separated again...

So, overall, good. As Rob says so far so good. Remarkably consistent and with The Doctor's Daughter ahead AND the Library story still to come... woo-hoo!