Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Season Fnarg finale reviews: Doctor Who a-go-go

Wanna read the sort of reviews that shame my own?

Try some of these:

(And as if you needed another repetitious warning: SPOILERS)

Behind the Sofa
Stuart Ian Burns - for once NOT quite the most effusive episode review on BTS
Frank Collins - moderately critical with positive undercurrents
Paul Kirkley - positive, very positive
Neil Perryman - thought about it too much in advance but nearly talked himself around

Our local usual suspects
Jane Henry - converted
Medium Rob - pretty pleased, but would like less sexism and more emotion (plus the season review question of the week)

Additional reviews
Between the Hammer and the Anvil - pretty positive
Den of Geek - "Perfect? No. Genius? Oh yes."

Book Review: Maureen Carter - Death Line

There are many pleasures to be had in attending the Lowdham Book Festival: not least of these is to pick up an annual fix of crime fiction (note: I read it the rest of the year too, but I always KNOW I can get some goodies at Lowdham).

Chiefly, this comes via the regular appearance of Creme de la Crime, the publishing house that has been attending Lowdham for several years now - and to whom I run for my annual intake of Bev Morriss-ness. This year I had the bonus of author Maureen Carter speaking at the conference, in conversation with Lynne Patrick (a core part of Creme de la Crime) and new fiction novelist Chris Nickson whose book 'The Broken Token' I am very much looking forward to reading!

Anyway. Regular readers here will know my love for Maureen Carter's flawed lead character Morriss: she has so far appeared in Working Girls, Dead Old, Baby Love, Hard Time, Bad Press and last year, Blood Money. This year's Death Line is another page-turning volume. Whilst each are self-contained stories, suitable for new readers with sufficient background to fill in previous plotlines, those who read the tales in order - who develop their connections to characters - will be richly rewarded for their attentions.

Though Carter specialises in gritty narratives (Lawrence Block's 'Burglar' series is rare in driving a crime narrative with humour, though I'm up for other recommendations), at least Bev is no longer quite in the horrifically dark descending pit she was in Blood Money. By end of this novel though...

I'm torn at this point because I would love to say more about how the novel made me feel, especially by the end. Because it is one hell of an ending. In common with the previous six novels in the series, Carter constructs a tightly woven narrative where the reader is given tantalising glimpses of additional information to see inside character's behaviour - and it isn't always clearly the perpetrator. Carter always holds enough back to keep us guessing, but carefully feeds her readers' paranoia and puzzlement. Never one to shy away from harsh realities (whilst equally never gratuitous), Carter can turn a metaphorical knife into her readers within a few lines. And she certainly does that as the novel reaches its climax.

One of the real rewards of reading a series - and part of the reason why the ending of this novel cuts so deep - is that Carter is so scrupulous in constructing three-dimensional characters; each of the recurring characters especially are beautifully fleshed out as the ongoing arc of Morriss' career continues. Characters who you are initially led to feel dismissive of develop before your eyes, making you far more interested in them than you thought possible; others are brought in, but they always feel as if they can be seen and heard effectively. And always at the heart there is...

I'll leave you to read them now, catch up if you haven't read any already. But for those who have been following this through the previous volumes, get ready.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Spoilers for a thing of great beauty: Doctor Who 2010 series finale - The Big Bang






In case you can't guess....


Episode review and thoughts on the series.

(Not seen 'The Pandorica Opens' yet?

Then take your time: you really need to see that before even trying to get your head around the finale)

The penultimate episode ended with bleak with extra bleak on top.

The TARDIS exploding; River inside in, looking out the doors to... stone? The companion (Amy) dead; dead at the hand of her would-have-been husband (Rory), now reincarnated as as a Nestene duplicate [that's Auton to most of us]. The Doctor trapped; locked in a prison by every baddie he's encountered* thanks to some timey-wimey manipulation of Amy's memory enabling them to bring the Doctor to them.

It all looked pretty hopeless. Would it just be fixed by a Rusty-esque big reset button? A Pond ex machina?

Well, kinda.

Except: somehow it just FELT better.

I've already watched this episode twice and to be honest I'll happily watch it plenty more before the iPlayer takes it away from me (boxset here I come).

There was so much to love: more Amelia Pond, the fez, using a well-known wedding verse and making it just SO uplifting, two companions in the TARDIS.

I could go on: Rory staying around 1,894 years; River in a time loop (and the Doctor turning up with the best use of 'honey, I'm home'); the calcified Dalek begging for mercy (not quite getting that River Song doesn't DO that short of thing); Rory saying 'how could we forget the Doctor?!'.

And I hopefully, probably, was not alone in nerd-land in grinning when the Doctor rewound back to the Flesh and Stone setting to reassure eyes-closed-Amy with his jacket on.

Satisfied sigh.

Sure, the Pandorica escape was a bit too straightforward: given how much some doctors wave the sonic around - no sniggering - you'd have thought the collected minds of the villains would have thought about setting a prison that DIDN'T open with a bit of sonic-ing. So much for the deadlocks...

But, it didn't matter. Not to me at least.

And to top it all, have you SEEN the current issue of Doctor Who magazine? Get that plastic bag cover off with its Doc and Amy pics and promotional text and marvel at the thing of beauty the design team have produced.

It may be matt, but in the words of another much loved series: shiny.

Truly, it matches the majesty of this current series for keeping it all on track.

It has been a rollercoaster ride - one that I am sure many did not expect to enjoy so much following the departure of Tennant. But many have rightly been won over. How could we have doubted you Moffatt?

From The Eleventh Hour onwards, the series has rarely took a wrong step (merchandise Daleks and inevitably Chris Chib aside). It has been 'magic': properly family entertainment. The weather may have thrown spanners in the works, and the footie hasn't helped, but I still managed to schedule curtains closed watching of the ep on time. Hilariously, two friends were both committed to be out Saturday night - neither are late-nighters. Yet BOTH texted me between 11.30pm and 11.45pm having stayed up especially to watch before they could cope with going to bed. Such excitement.

Thank you everyone: roll on Xmas and the next special!

* Or rather every baddie that the Mill and Paul Kasey could manage to recreate on the BBC's new multi-coloured shoe-string budget. It's rather like any other shoe-string budget but with the artifice of extra whistles and bells being available...

Matt Smith and Orbital!

Oh dear lord! How much must Matt Smith have loved this!?

Friday, June 25, 2010

28 hours to go! Doctor Who Season Fnarg finale

Will it live up to expectation?

Having thrown the sink and every possible bleak plotline at the penultimate episode (RTD-stylee but somehow worth so much more), how will things work out?!

I don't know - having ducked all the spoilers and trailers so far. But once I run away from Lowdham book festival tomorrow to get home for 6pm, we will find out!


Monday, June 21, 2010

The Big Session 2010 experience (with limited football)

Arriving late (well, some of us have to work!) Neil and I met up at the train station and hopped over to Leicester, pausing briefly to drop our overnight bag at the hotel nearby (yes: in an act of utter indulgence we decided we would stay at a hotel for the duration of the festival - and you thought us sneaking home to our own bed every night was living the high life!) We heading in, grabbing a beer and cider at the Orange Tree stall and catching some background music and conversation with Nick before heading to the Big Top stage for Chris Wood.

Wood is a top-notch singer-songwriter, with kick ass lyrics.

"He took her hat and threw it hard
It came to rest in the schoolyard
So she took his specs from off his face
Sir Isaac Newton took care of the rest

She’s hard my daughter is hard
She’s only six but don’t cross her
Watch out here she comes lock up your sons
She takes right after her mother"

Brilliant. After that we hung out for the endearingly young Derby gal Lucy Ward. She was poorly introduced (frankly Howard Monk didn't say a single thing that amused me all weekend in his intros) and made a few faux pas in her efforts to connect with the audience (don't try to say that 'A Stitch in Time', the classic domestic abuse revenge song needn't be anti-men and that it can be turned around quite easily...). But she had a charming vocal style and winning musicianship. If she can calm down a bit she'll be fine, though to give her due, she was following from Chris Wood, who is VERY well established and appreciated on the folk circuit, and was playing the Big Top tent which is a cavernous space. Top marks for effort.

I missed Lucy's final song because I was determined to get settled into the Indoor Stage at De Montford for the headline act there - The Proclaimers.

Sadly, this meant I missed catching a bit of Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo whom Neil caught briefly whilst grabbing a pint at the Orange Tree stage/bar. Pity, as they sound great from what little I know of them (I found out afterwards they did the theme used on UK Wallander series).

Never mind, The Proclaimers were one of the main reasons I was coming to Big Session and although I've seen them before, they are HUGELY entertaining and there is something glorious about their defiantly nerdy style. With a rich back catalogue and a hour and half set slot they can afford to play familiar tunes and newer/more obscure tracks. Ending on established favourites - 'Over and Done With' and 'The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues' - they rocked the house and a jolly good time was had by all. 'Sunshine on Leith' still bought a tear to my eye, especially with luscious Erica Nockalls on violin.* I was hot, hot, hot from the excited room of dancing people but it was grand.**

And we ended Friday without a train rush (which would have meant missing at least 30 mins of the Proclaimers set, probably more), a bag of chips walking down the hill, AND a night in a hotel only a hill-stumble away from the festival site. Brilliant. And Algeria humiliated England with their 0-0 draw. Apparently it really wasn't in the script that Algeria should "play like it was their final". Yeah, because all England should ever have to do is turn up and be venerated. And heaven forfend that England should play every game like it means something to them... Shameful.

Cold weather. And it got colder. Bah. Still, at least we started the day with a great bacon butty at the Rialto cafe. We finally stumbled into the festival and started up with the music: a bit of Blair Dunlop (frighteningly young) kicked off proceedings in the Big Top, followed by The Moulettes who were definitely a great find. You gotta love a band with women on violin, cello AND a bassoon!

After their cracking performance - and a spot of CD purchasing - we had some food and nattering (by GOD it was cold weather) and then popped into the Indoor Stage for a bit of Damien O'Kane (latest squeeze of folk sweetheart Kate Rusby). Some mighty fine playing from young Damien but then the call came up from Neil that he was in the Big Top to see Miles Hunt (yes, former Wonder Stuff maestro!) and Erica Nockalls. Hunt and Nockalls have done a great job of reinventing themselves in a folk-stylee, even if Hunt's songwriting still retains much of the tuneful momentum of the best Stuffies tracks. Either way, it's a cracking set, with the ever loquacious Hunt wonderfully inspired by the elegance of Nockalls - both in terms of her playing AND her presence (she is utterly gorgeous, and with frocks to die for).

There was also a lovely anecdote about eating cake at 3am in a hotel room with Wayne Hussey from the Mission, using credit cards and straws as tools. Ah, how times (and a single vowel) have changed!

After a brief respite it was back to packed tent to see 'Holy Bandits' - aka the festival's co-supporters and founders the Oysterband performing one of their major albums. It was fine enough, with flashes of brilliance (actually more so when they got significantly more folky and/or their lyrics shone through) but otherwise it did feel a bit like early 1990s REM. No bad thing, but I kinda wondered how much that particular album fitted with their folk support.

We then fell down the hill - in the still freezing cold weather - and headed indoors to see the second half-ish of Chumbawumba's set. Long having moved away from punk pop, they are now largely an acoustic force but no less scathing for all that. We then settled into seats to watch Stornoway, whose inexperience (from age) meant they took way too long to set up, but whose performance was nevertheless assured folk-inspired pop.

For the finale of the Saturday, Neil and I opted to take in (from outside mostly) the Dreadzone set of reggae, hip-hop, ska funk. Thumping bass-lines. I finally managed to eat my falafals despite shaking violently from the cold. Then it was down the hill to the hotel again and catch up with the days footie. My word, are they STILL on about there being a fan in the England dressing-room? You'd think being a fan would bar you from entry given the hysteria (because surely it's unreasonable to expect England players and support staff to also be 'fans'....)

Finally, SUNSHINE! We head out after a lie-in and go to The Landsdowne, run by Orange Tree, for a big breakfast. Yummy.

We then head in, mooch about, and head to the Big Top for Kerfuffle (doing their final gigs with the current line-up thanks to the need to 'get a job' for bassist Tom. Kerfuffle have had mentions here before on Rullsenberg, thanks to fiddler Sam's stirling work with folk collective Bellowhead. Knew I'd heard of them before when I went to see them! Anyway, you have to love a band when they feature the lovely diminutive Hannah kicking her heart out in her clogs!

We then came back around to the Big Top to see Will Pound and Dan Walsh: harmonica and banjo players respectively. My word, they are YOUNG and the lungs on Will Pound?! Brilliant! And Dan Walsh cuts a fine banjo, even managing to write bluegrass that isn't a jolly tune with lyrics about death (it's quite cheery instead)

With the sun full out and some actual heat, we decide to sit amongst the teachers, who were reluctantly facing up to going home to marking***, and take in sun rather than music. Nevertheless, we do head inside for Dervish, Celtic supreme, and grab centre seats for the big finish of the Big Session with Oysterband. The Big Session is basically the Oysterband festival, set up - as has been so many of the best De Montford Hall events - by former boss Richard Haswell. So it was nice to see him being paid tribute by the Oysterband in their uproarious festival-ending gig.

At their most 'political', they're astonishingly brilliant, anthemic in a way that deserves more notice (something they ironically note in 'Uncommercial Song' - which, frankly, as a song both isn't or at least shouldn't be). They're also, despite many years in the business, still up for it. Though not violinist Neil, who still has strapping on his ankle from a break earlier in the year (didn't stop John Jones and Ray 'Chopper' Cooper from hopping off the stage for a bit of in-crowd singing!).

They ended,as has become traditional, with 'Put Out the Lights' - and it's always thrilling to hear an audience take off with a tune.

Lovely stuff. And, being a teachers festival in the summer (demographic leaning on the post-45 year age groups), we all get to go home early. Great.

Now all we needed to do was get the bags, get the train and get home to watch Doctor Who on the iPlayer. And catch the footie.

I'm amazed we didn't hear the shrieks from New Zealand. Personally, I think they wuz robbed (even if their goal was somewhat off-side).

* Sweet Erica played with The Proclaimers at the Nottingham gig. If we hadn't missed Miles Hunt on support we'd have known that the breathtaking violin solo was performed by said Ms Nockalls, complete with stunning red dress and auburn hair. Shame on us.

** Nice review of Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls, plus the Proclaimers, from their tour in October 2009.

*** I swear you couldn't have thrown a pebble without hitting at least three people working in education. Folk music and teaching: go together apparently!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The 39 Steps - Monday 14 June 2010, Nottingham Theatre Royal

The 39 Steps is one of Hitchcock's best loved 1930s British thrillers, scarcely bettered by later versions (despite the 1978 version having clockface drama).

Now well established at London's Criterion Theatre, the Patrick Barlow* version however is another kettle of pisces entirely.

Currently on tour, and in Nottingham until Saturday 19 June at the Nottingham Theatre Royal, this version of The 39 Steps is a hilarious romp full of witty visual inventiveness.

Neil and I had a great time on Monday at the show, and would happily recommend it. Worth seeking out wherever it may appear (and versions have been well received across the world), it's well written, very entertainingly played, and the (small) cast deserve awards for their near non-stop action. A hoot.

Although there are some video montages from this version, I think they give too many of the gags away but for some context, here is the trailer to the Hitchcock version. Which is still great, just very different.

* I used to know (another) Patrick Barlow back in the day. Not this one (I don't think).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Robin Hood - now with new added mud and action!

Poor Robin Hood. Ridley Scott's new film has had a troubled history - the original proposal to cast the unbelievably wooden and wimpy Sienna Miller was just the most obvious difficulty. It was also ridiculously named Nottingham in its earliest script drafts - even as a born and bred resident I get that as a title that would have just confused audiences outside the UK.

And then there was Scott's desire to work with Russell Crowe - again. Recapturing the triumphant moment of Gladiator, now 10 years ago.

Was it worth it?

Actually, it's not bad. There is an inventive narrative thread that develops the traditional background to Robin Hood, and I'm actually rather glad to move away from a Sheriff of Nottingham dominated storyline (Matthew Macfadyen is rather wasted but does a wonderfully camp turn without making you think of Alan Rickman).

Cate Blanchett offers a fine Marian, by far the best and least annoying Marian I've seen in a good while.

And the action sequences, from the hapless over-confident Richard getting it in the neck from a 'trying his luck' French cook with a cross-bow, to the recreating WWII on the beaches sequences, make for a thrilling movie.

But, especially in light of the Mark Lawson incident, never mind all these other remarks - how was THE accent?

Ah yes, Russell Crowe's accent has become almost the stuff of legend regarding this movie. Which in many respects is a real shame, not least because it isn't THAT bad -- it just isn't very consistent (there is an undeniable wandering of the British Isles) and it pretty much isn't north Nottinghamshire/South Yorkshire. He does quite a mean Liverpudlian though.

But this is actually possible to overlook. And I have several reasons for this.

(1) Crowe does this sort of film very well. He has a meanness and an action quality to him and shapes up pretty well for this film. He still has a great ability to bring out softness at the edges of his performance and their is a wry humour and sparkle when more comedic scenes demand it.

(2) There is so much to look at and enjoy about this film that if you're paying that much attention to one accent then you're missing the point.

(3) Mark Lawson's interviewing makes me want to hit things. Crowe's characteristic high-pitched giggle and 'fuck-this' attitude to the inane questions and remarks certainly had me cheering.

So, I'd say, worth a punt. Don't go expecting Gladiator and you'll be fine. Don't go thinking you're hear a pitch-perfect consistent accent from Crowe and you'll be fine (heck, even my accent wanders). Go ready to enjoy a good period action romp and you'll be fine.

Plus: it doesn't have bloody Bryan Adams on the soundtrack. Win-Win.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

NO: we are NOT "all in this together". Moreover, the cuts will not "affect everyone"

Can we just nip this utter cobblers in the bud please?

We are NOT all in this together. And frankly the only way canyone can state "cuts will affect everyone" is if you finish it by adding "... but some rather more so than others".

Millionaires: unless you are going to start getting taxed at 95% on your income and assets holding, and the loopholes get closed, AND you get prosecuted for not paying up, then quite honestly your 'fair share' of the burden of spending cuts and tax rises going to hit you negligably - if at all.


Proportionately, those least well-off will always pay a higher price for reductions in the state and increased costs.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Three hankies for Vincent (and the Doctor)

Bit quicker off the mark this time, so if you don't want to know the score, look away now.


Anyway. The Doctor is being nice to Amy: she doesn't know why but she's getting plenty of great TARDIS trips - ah, those unseen adventures - and now she's here to see the Musee D'Orsay and an exhibition of Van Gogh's work.

I'm going to take off my art historian's hat now before we get too far into things because frankly it just isn't that relevant here. I know the problematic stories and histories and 'genius' of Van Gogh and I just do not care.

There were other things I didn't care about for Vincent and the Doctor. I do not care it clearly had a really budget cheap monster (Moff didn't even need to ask). Why don't I care? Because we saw enough and it was brilliantly suggestive. Plus, as much as I love The Mill, old fashioned handmade stuff looks great. Plus the episode had brilliant gadgets. AND it had a Scot as one of the world's most famous Dutchmen. Genius.

(Actually, it must have been quite a week in the UK for Tony Curran's family: a core role in Friday's Mentalist AND a Doctor Who episode).

I digress.

Because what I am trying so hard to do is NOT burst into tears for the umpteenth time about this episode.

As my title indicates, for me this was a three hankie episode of Doctor Who and I haven't had one of those in a while. Of course it was emotionally manipulative - it's Richard Curtis for goodness sake: the man lives and breathes manipulating emotions. Moreover I don't mean that statement as a criticism. Curtis does emotional manipulation DAMN well. Bravo to him.

I liked so much of this episode. Stuart Ian Burns - in a review that frankly should be framed as a great review - has already picked out the lovely scene where the Doctor finds the TARDIS covered in posters and just cuts through the paper to let them inside --- and then on landing at the D'Orsay we see fragments of the paper burning off the TARDIS. Beautiful. Even if he did beat me to mentioning it. So I'll just pick out some of the other bits - and there were plenty.

I liked the cross references to Who-Back-Then. City of Death revisited. Monsters that you didn't always see. Visuals of Hartnell and Troughton. Neat.

I liked that there was just enough of a hint about Rory -- The Doctor cheering Amy up (though she doesn't know she needs it), Vincent's madness allowing him insight into the hidden loss and Amy's tears, the Doctor's slip of mentioning Rory in the heat of the attack from the monster. Just enough and NO heavy-handed flashbacks. Hurrah.

I liked that Bill Nighy was so wonderfully used: he wasn't the central figure, but he was so key to the tone of the piece - the bow-tie humour, the passion for Van Gogh's work, the half-believing shake of the head and shoulders against the encounter.

I liked the unsubtle integration of Van Gogh's work into the narrative - for once, that made sense to bring everything into the frame. And the scene where Vincent, Amy and the Doctor lay looking at the stars and the sky blurs and changes into Starry Night? Breathtaking.

And I liked that the Doctor couldn't, didn't save Vincent. That even knowing his brilliant future couldn't save Vincent from his own depression. Because that IS what depression can be like. Even if you were shown, if you KNEW you were brilliant, it wouldn't necessarily be enough to chase all the demons away. Strong stuff within a children's programme, for early evening Saturday family entertainment.

But all of this pales next to that wonderful scene in the gallery when Vincent hears himself described by the Curator. To say that this showcased some classy acting by Curran and Nighy doesn't get close to capturing what they could do. That this was conveyed in such a simple way - the rotating dais to allow movement around them - was delightful.

Its a great scene and I will happily admit that by the end of it I was in tears. And then for poor Amy to go back, hopeful of them seeing more great work by Vincent after their intervention... (Cloud worried for a minute that Vincent may not have ended up great at all, that they would return to an even darker future changed by their trip but I trusted Curtis and the Moff to not go THAT off-narrative)

And I'm such a soft-touch that yes, even the Sunflowers got to me. Amy's realisation that they hadn't changed the ending - that time hadn't been able to be rewritten - was so touching.

Okay: unleash hell on me for all the holes you found and the things you hated about this episode. I don't care. I loved this episode. Even if I do need three big hankies to get me to the end.

Friday, June 04, 2010

London: cricket, a party, and exhibitions (Spring Bank Holiday weekend 28-30 May 2010)

Pictures to follow - possibly.

Friday last week we did one of our regular trips to London - so we of course stuck to the routine of a meal at Pizza Paradiso (Ristorante Olivelli) on Store Street, despite most of their neighbours being boarded up for renovations.

A nice walk on a good night and then we had an early start the next day as we were off to Lords.

Yes. We went on the SATURDAY to Lords for the Bangladesh v England test, the day with the worst weather.

Oh well, least we were in the members enclosure* so it was a bit more sheltered from the worst of the rain. And we had lots of good company for chattering and food/drink sharing. Always the best bit of a good cricket match!

We were lucky and did get some play, eventually, but it was mostly just nice to be there. Its quite a place to visit.

As bad light drew the match to a close, Cloud and I had to gallop off as there was a second reason we were in London: a friend's 50th birthday party.

This would have been something to really look forward to had I not got myself in a total knot over the fact it was on a barge.

The Battersea Barge to be precise. Which, had I checked it properly in advance, would have been obviously revealed as a very dry-docked building. Hurrah. I'm not the best fan of water-based vessels.

Anyway, said party was fine but will be chiefly memorable for the Barge's resident dog, Mungo.

Mungo was a VERY cute poodle type dog, approximately 15 months old. Sweet little face; very affectionate.

Unfortunately a BIT TOO affectionate for one guest who found he took to shagging her arm as she was sitting down. So much so that she had to, ahem, clean up...

Horribly hysterical for everyone there. (Though Mungo must have thought he was on to a winner as when she went to go and clean herself up in the Ladies, Mungo followed her up the stairs and into the toilet... "going somewhere more private! way-hey my luck is in!!")

Like I say, horribly amusing.

Sunday was a more sedate affair. We packed up to leave the hotel and nipped across to see the British Library exhibition Magnificent Maps; Power Propaganda and Art.

I cannot recommend this exhibition highly enough. It is visually stimulating, full of fascinating details and just a real thrill to move around. Warning: you're likely to end up spending at least 30 mins looking at the detail on Stephen Walter's 'The Island' - an idiosyncratic map of London and well worth the FREE admission and your time in itself.

We then moved on to the Southbank. At least our intention was to get to Tate Modern for the new photography show there. Forgetting the closure of Blackfriars, we had to loop across slightly, changing at Embankment and ending up to Monument (it was a great day but I'm not good with heights so we stayed on the ground to admire its newly cleaned up beauty). From there we realised we were close enough to make ANOTHER attempt at locating the National Trust pub.

And at last we found it!

The George Inn dates from the 1600s and is not only beautiful but also does some fine food. VERY good chips for a start!

After a refueling and alcohol, we walked across to the Tate but we hadn't really left ourselves enough time to take in the exhibition. Another day later in the summer probably. Still, we now had just enough time to do a skinny around the Surrealism gallery and then take in more sunshine before heading back to St Pancras.

And home to watch Doctor Who...

*We're not members but came instead as guests of a friend of a friend who clearly got put down for membership at birth by his dad. Handy to know people...

Catching up with Doctor Who (Spoilers, SPOILERS ahoy, ahoy)

So belated that it almost doesn't make sense to write this anymore, but hey - since when does that stop me?

So: here we are in the UK with just FOUR more episodes to go before the end of Matt Smith's first season. Others will be catching up no doubt, but this means that by the end of June we'll be without the Doctor again till at least Xmas (see; I'm so out of tune with things I don't even know if there will BE a Xmas episode...)


There have been some great reviews of the episodes since I last commented on DW episodes. They're not on this site though. Therefore you need to get yourself to the usual suspects. Although MediumRob missed out writing a lot on Amy's Choice, you can get reviews with comments a-plenty over at his place on all the other eps.

I'd also recommend nipping over to Behind the Sofa - with a big 'SPOILER WARNING' proviso that it can be hard not to give the game away with some of the reviews.

Marie has chipped in a good range of commentary, and unsurprisingly Anna was delighted with Vampires of Venice (yes, it really is that long since I managed a review. Shame on you Lisa!)


I SAID ****SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!****

There was, it seems in hindsight, a logic to failing to write reviews of the episodes since 'Flesh and Stone'. They're the "Rory Arc" (so far).

Yes, Rory - hapless, sweet, well-meaning, tolerant, dressed as the 'Raggedy Doctor' Rory to please young Amy - got his own arc in the season. We don't know how it will all end - not really, and frankly *SPOILERS* so shut up if you know!!!!!!!!!! - but these were the episodes where Rory came to the fore.

Except not really. Not least because we had bloody Chris Chibnall on call for half of said episodes.

If you don't know what THAT means, then clearly you've never been subjected to the hilarious Torchwood episode Cyberwoman (note: find, if you still can, the podcast for the episode by Tachyon TV - aka the Behind the Sofa gang). I should probably add that Cyberwoman wasn't - at least I kinda hope - intended as a comedy. Then again, it is the sort of comedy where you feel tempted to pull your eyes out.

But what do I know? Chris Chibnall has, whether I like it or not, been able to get his writing on screen for three Doctor Who episodes - he also wrote 42 (which was largely redeemed by the direction of Graeme Harper), two Life on Mars episodes (though they really weren't the best ones), and EIGHT Torchwood episodes (not all of them as derisory as Cybertits). He's done other stuff too. Sigh.

In other words, I may not think much of his writing is stinky characterless cobblers but I've had precisely ZERO number of scripts taken up and produced for television compared to him.

The Chib must be doing something right.

I digressed.

A lot.

Sorry. This was meant to be about Rory.

And that in some key respects is the point of that digression.

Vampires of Venice was hilarious, just as one might expect from the creator of Being Human. It also had some of the most brilliant bits of Smith's doctor so far - the cake appearance? Genius. After the rather random regression to attempting to snog the Doctor at the end of the Angels eps (aka 'playing with the Raggedy Doctor' that Amy had no doubt enacted many a time with Rory over her younger years), it was hardly surprising that the Doctor should attempt to remind Amy of her more established life on Earth with Rory by bringing him into the TARDIS. Rory came over as terribly well-meaning, probably endlessly amazed that Amy had chosen him, and (judging by the tone of the stag do before the Doctor appeared) probably only 'tolerated' by his 'mates' (who no doubt mostly just envied him snagging Amy: they didn't see the support through childhood and teenage trauma as the Raggedy Doctor haunted her days and nights).

Rory = good bloke, rather out of his depth.

In Amy's Choice we saw a somewhat different Rory, now caught between the DreamLord's realm(s) and reality. (BTW I thought this was a cracking episode and Cloud loved it. So a win all ways round there). But as Amy's Choice proved, when it came to it, Amy DID really care for Rory. It was genuinely horrible to see what happened and heart-warming to see the TARDIS scenes.

Therein lay the problem.

Moff, dude, you're going to need to sort this out for the next season (Season Fnarg+1?).

You're running the show, you need to get the whole shebang under control.

That means thinking about what you allow your writers to do across the whole arc. If that means shuffling episodes, or telling your writers 'sorry: you can't do that' then that is what you must do.


SPOILERS (like I said)

You can't kill Rory twice, in two successive stories, once 'not really' and then again with all the 'crack-in-time-eating-memory' and expect it to MEAN as much as it needs to.

True enough, the Chibnall and the Silurian episodes weren't as bad as they could have been (or many were expecting).

The Hungry Earth especially wasn't all bad. In fact, I'll defer at this point to Stu-N over at Medium Rob's place:
The Chibnallity was definitely toned down. The plot stupidity was more of the 'hang on a minute' variety after I'd watched it, rather than the derisive laughter and yelling at the screen of Cybertits. So, watchable and fun, but below par. I'm sort-of looking forward to and sort-of dreading the next episode.
That pretty much sums it for me as well.

Cold Blood was therefore stuck in an awkward spot: its preceding episode had been a bit dull but better than we may have hoped for from his Chibness so the two-part story overall felt much better than it deserved to be. The story in both episodes - major nods to Malcolm Hulke obviously - had some nice moments. Again, it wasn't awful. But it DID have a LOT of inexplicable plotlines dropped, things that made no sense (prime Chibnality [copyright Stu_N]), and bonkers character shifts in personality. From vivisectionist to gentle hero? As MediumRob would say - 'No'.

And as indicated earlier, part of a reason why such distractions were a real shame is that they took so much away from what happens to Rory.

Thanks to a Guardian preview that said Cold Blood had a dark ending, and the limited presence of Rory in the Vincent trailer, (let's ignore the heavy-handed preshadowing in The Hungry Earth - Rory in a grave? Subtle guys, very subtle) it really hadn't been hard to predict that Rory wasn't going to leave the Silurian story as part of the TARDIS crew.

However, whilst I regretted that some of the edge had been taken off this multipled killing of his character, I nevertheless thought the death was handled as well as could be hoped within these circumstances. Yes, Rory could probably have been moved away from the crack to the TARDIS earlier and potentially have been saved, and yes, the reaction by the end felt jarringly harsh with Amy's lack of memory. Nevertheless, those few minutes of transition from realising the memory of Rory's existence was due to be wiped out to the Doctor trying and failing to help Amy hold onto the memory - AND the Doctor's utterly conflicted expressions as he engages with a memory-losing Amy - these were all fine by me.

It was just it wasn't moving enough. Whilst RTD was emotion to the max - family all the way, heartstrings as often as we can - this swung too far in the other direction and instead slapped in the emotion almost as an afterthought. What emotion was felt was almost in spite of how the episode(s) went and not as a reasonable consequence.

Oh well.

I'd also like to add that I think there is a slight OVER-DOING of the crack in time reminders. I know watchers may come in at any episode, but did anyone else think there was just too much of a reminder here? One quick shot would have been enough but it felt like a full three minute reminder of the significance of the crack (it probably was only seconds but it seemed to drag an age).

Never mind. We have Bill Nighy next week and a Scottish Vincent van Gogh. So that won't be all bad.