Thursday, January 24, 2008
DeBurgo - A series of twelve novels, following the adventures of a brash and daring Australian with a poofy surname whose chaotic adventures take him across every theatre of WWII.
Greenhorne - Exactly the same thing, except it was something I thought of submitting to the BBC Writer's Room - instead it's a pommy kid who joins the army underage and ends up with the Ghurkas. Loosely based on the actual army career of Robert Holmes.
Mycroft - another BBC Writer's Room idea, a 'modern-day' version of the Sherlock Holmes mythos, mirroring those weird-arse Rathbone films set in WWII, a mini-series where Mycroft is the main character, trying to work out how exactly his brother has vanished off the face of the world. Trying to find a way to make it seem not exactly like Jekyll, because then the comparison will make it automatically shit.
Sharkey's War - a spin-off to DeBurgo, but set in the morally muddied hellhole of the Vietnam Wars. Yes, I am insane.
Some guy kicks serious arse in the Seven Years War - working title.
The Hubris Trilogy - an idea for a Sci-Fi trilogy written in 'steeped in mythos' style, on the frontier of human expansion where things have gone terribly, terribly wrong. Yes, chances are that it would be terrible.
The Riding Officer - Well, it's The French Connection set in London and Cornwall in the early 18th Century. Yes, I do have a thing for period action stories, however did you guess? The Boer War could also be cool...
The Cutting Room Floor - a guy's hilariously ill-fated attempts to become an actor. Yes, I have heard of Ricky Gervais.
In the Valley... or something like that - sitcom which has it's idea based soley on the mountains of embarassing true stories from my ultimate inbred hillbilly stereotype. Think Monarch of the Glen set in Australia, only actually funny.
Calypso 5 - a sci-fi that would pretty much be exactly the same as Blakes 7, just with better special effects.
Most Honourable Pete, Ninja-Pirate Detective - ...no comment.
The DVD Store - I'm just going to start listing titles from here on...
The Adventures of Dr Chingo, Foreign Investor
Andrew Morrissey Investigates
The Fool Errant
Iron & Oak
Conversations with a Messiah
Time Paradox With Extra Salt
The Valley of Lost Children
Doctor Who and the Phonecians
The Heretic King
The Return of the Empire
The Clouds of Jupiter
The Revenge of the Quarks
That should do for now.
PS - please do not steal these ideas and subsequently profit from them.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
What I loved was the revelation that the 5% (or less) of the global scientific community who DON'T believe in global warming are the good guys. They're just swamped over by... well, it depends on which angle Durkin takes at that point in the film. But the rest of the worlds scientists are occupied by:
a) Malpractising amoral bastards bribed by Margaret Thatcher to help her bring in Nuclear Power
b) Communists fleeing the Soviet Union (??)
c) Fascists working for big corporations who want to kill African babies (???)
This was enjoyable enough in itself, making Michael Moore look like the most objective and level-headed journalist in the world, but it was afterwards that it really became entertaining, with firstly a round-table debate between people who actually knew what they were talking about (Robin Williams and Professor David Karoly) and sloshed-up angry old men who could barely control their slurring and itchy fists (Prof. Rex Hunt and replicant newspaper columnist Michael Duffy because they couldn't find a second scientist mad enough to fill the 'affirmative' slot). The fact that Karoly had a response ready for every argument was delicious, and the ineptitude of the response was a balm for climate-aggrieved soul, especially when Michael Duffy effectively painted 'I am a tit' on his forehead, pulling out a book about "The Green Economy" and shouting out that there's money to be made from Global Warming.
You know, because there's no money in the oil industry.
By the time that the debate opened up further, I was writing a direct transcript...
Tony Jones: Okay, it's now time to open the debate up to the audience, as we promised in our ads and are sadly contractually obliged to do. Try to keep insanity to a minimum. OKay, nondescript guy first.
Nondescripto: Just checking you're aware that the WWF was partly founded by Prince Phillip, a member of the Eugenics society who once commented that he would like to be re-incarnated as a highly contagious strain of bacteria?
Tony Jones: Yes EVERYONE knows that. Jesus, get with the program. Yo, Fatso.
Fatty Vaughtan: Alright you garrullous prick in the middle of the table-
Prof. Karoly: Me?
Fatty Vaughtan: Fuck you and yes. Carbon 19! They've found that shit in the rocks! CARBON 19! Not Carbon-2, Carbon-4, CARBON 19! You say rocks are old and shit, what does CARBON 19 have to say about that? CARBON 19!!!! You guys are morons!
Tony Jones: Hmmm, yes. Professor, what do you say to that?
Prof. Karoly: I, erm, sorry I don't know what the question was.
Fatty Vaughtan: CARBON 19!!!!!
Tony Jones: Moving on now, to...and I know I'm going to regret this... the blatant student in the beanie and Che Guevara T-shirt.
Anthony P. Snidebucket: Yes, thank you Tony. Well I am a Sophomore pre-Baltic Anglo-Slovakian Communist pseudo-bisexual Catholic missionary studying astro-physics, communism, my own magnificence and classical guitar, and mostly I came on this show to brag I have to admit, but partly to channel my grievances with 'society', as I like to refer to my own parents. While I'm here though I'd like to ask a brief question... Tony: don't you think this is all just the caveman seeing the shadow on the cave wall, that is himself dancing by the fire and misinterpreting it. I mean, sure, we can blame the Marxist transgressions of the Kyoto protocol and its soft measures on NAMBLA and other pedophile support lobbies, but when it comes down to it isn't it really a matter for Occam's Razor, vis-a-vis the Strawman argument of the Chewbacca Defense Professor N'ghi'nghiiin'gh of Bhutan has attributed to the falsification of String Theory? Also, do you like my T-shirt?
Tony Jones: Whatever. Woman in scarf.
Woman in Scarf: It's a caftan, arsehole.
Tony Jones: Fair enough. Do we have any more nutbags who think that getting their own insane ideas on TV will somehow legitimise their warped global perspective?
Mormon T. McMormon: Yo, right here.
Tony Jones: Right, let rip.
Mormon T. McMormon: You are aware that the WWF, represented here by a man, hilariously, wearing a suit-
Tony Jones: Hang on, is this the Eugenics thing?
Mormon T. McMormon: ...maybe.
Tony Jones: Oh, for Christ's sake we've already had this one.
Mormon T. McMormon: Yeah, but I've put a fresh new spin on it! Trust me!
Tony Jones: Really?
Mormon T. McMormon: Pleeease?
Tony Jones: Fine.
Mormon T. McMormon: So, Prince Phillip and his Eugenics friends, who are all into killing babies and stuff, decide to kill JFK. To do this they-
Tony Jones: Snooze!
Mormon T. McMormon: THIS IS MODERN-DAY NAZISM TO DESTROY AFRICA!!!
Tony Jones: That's your angle? Insane yelling? Does that impress me? A clue: fuck off. You know who else was into Eugenics? Winston Churchill. And your mother. Together. Every goddamned night.
Mormon T. McMormon: You're not my real father you arsehole!!!
Tony Jones: Yep, that's what the court decided and I'm not gonna rock that boat. That's thankfully all we've got time for so I'll see you in Hell, bitches.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Why, David, why? You were doing so WELL. I was really into this book. The era of history I knew absolutely nothing about, the rich characters, the kick-arse French mercenary who is blatantly an ancestor of Sir Richard Mace given the ease with which he hijacks the plot. The dark Doctor stuff actually done well, the unavoidable disaster... it's the best Aztecs rip-off I've read yet.
But... I'm going for a marathon push to end it and 255...
There is no other way to phrase this. Pure balls. Balls in their most undiluted form - text. The most testicular piece of writing ever.
We know that there is a spy and a murderer in the castle - most likely the same person. We know that the spy is Robert the Apothecrary because he is a) Way too nice to everyone and b) A CHARACTER SAW HIM FOR CHRIST'S SAKE IT ISN'T A MYSTERY! But at the same time some evidence suggests that the killer is female. This ties in with the fact that Giselle is stressed out in every scene since the murder and keeps saying stuff like "OMG the Doctor's going in the library hope he doesn't find anything incriminating."
So... the Doctor goes and reveals that Robert is the spy, why what a frigging shock, and then Robert just happens to walk into the room and go "Yeah, I'm the spy" causing de Carnac to kill him instantly thus meaning Robert's motivation will forever remain a mystery. The Doctor then reveals to the room, who really aren't listening to him, that he knew this was the case because the Castellan kept a book of the herbs that Robert said he would pick against the herbs that he actually picked and knew that the two didn't match up. (?)
Which implies that the Castellan had the carefully compiled evidence that Robert wasn't leaving the castle to pick herbs but didn't realise this meant he was the spy. (??)
And he didn't draw the conclusion until the night Girard was murdered where he co-incidentally saw Robert send a message to the Church. And his first action was apparently not to tell Hugues as his inner monologue suggested but rather to get his herbs spreadsheet from his room. (???)
Whereupon despite being a former soldier and heavily armed he was easily overpowered an inexperienced and apparently unarmed apothecrary leaving no signs of a struggle on his body which is hung from the ceiling. (????)
Unless he was killed by Jeneane but she had no reason to do so and how the hell could she do it anyway?
At that moment de Carnac gets shot by Jeneane. No, not the one that was acting shifty, of course, but the one who just had the inner monologue about giving back-alley abortions to fill out some pages in a mildly 'adult' way.
Jeneane is the murderer! She did it because she wanted to steal the skull! The skull that only got mentioned about three chapters ago and is meant to be a Cathare relic - but now we're told is THE SKULL OF JESUS CHRIST! Except it's the skull of a woman. But that doesn't matter because she was going to sell it to the Church who would pay her millions! Or just kill her and take it in a couple of days time, but she didn't think that far ahead. But the Doctor reveals that the skull was planted on the Cathare's by the Church in the first place, as it so clearly isn't Jesus' skull the religion would have to disband immediately. Presumably it went a little like this:
GIRARD: Not much. What you packing?
GUZMAN: Skull of Christ. 6 dollars, take it or leave it.
GIRARD: Hey, if Jesus left behind a skull that would mean the Resurrection couldn't have happened..
GUZMAN: HO-YAH! I-HADDEN-FORTA-DAAAAT!
GIRARD: Don't you look a little familiar?
GUZMAN: Er... maybe I'm a fisherman or something. Anyway, take it, the skull's free! Hellfire Sale, everything must go!
GIRARD: Awesome. Now to start the coolest religion ever...
This is the plan that will make Guzman the new Pope. That, and the fact that he has killed everyone else elligible for the position.
BALLS! BALLS! BALLS!
This is just the peak of Sanctuary's falling apart, unfortunately. McIntee also started killing off characters simply because he was bored with them a few pages earlier (often involving them behaving in improbably stupid ways), padding out the story with endless scenes of Benny trying to crack Avon-style one-liners in spite of the fact the book is already over-length, and upping the number of continuity references five-fold. Yes, it's McIntee so you EXPECT continuity, but what I'm saying is that it's gotten worse. And this is a book that began with a character who was a childhood friend of Guy Estram, The Doctor bragging about his trip to Jaffa, and Benny having nightmares about the Daleks.
Also there's like three different explanations for the 'locked door mystery'. THERE'S ONLY MEANT TO BE ONE!!!
Perhaps I should take this moment to look back at the books of David A. McIntee I have read:
First Frontier: Well, only read the first 50 pages but they were unutterably terrible.
Lords of the Storm: To create the ultimate Sontaran experience McIntee has them explain their plan half-a-dozen different ways and times before they get their arses kicked by Indians.
Mission Impractical: ….hmmm.
The Face of the Enemy: Jaw-droppingly wonderful masterpiece!!!!
It’s at this moment that I have to suspect that I just keep buying the wrong McIntee novels..
Shadows of Weng-Chiang had better be good. That did not come cheap of eBay...
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Re-watching Hornblower: The Even Chance today, I can only think that it is criminal in the glorious moment where Pellew shoots M'man Simpson down with a bloody big musket he doesn't get the line "Rule 1: Don't fuck with the best shot in the navy. Rule 2: ... we don't need a second rule."
But then I think like that a lot. Whenever I think about how Lord of the Rings the film would have been like if I wrote it, I would have to find someway to tide my overpowering disaster to hear everyone speaking in gagnsta slang.
Speaking of Hornblower, it's one of the great shows with truly awful titles overseas. It is something that interests me a lot, because the expense of international titles is quite hefty: the credits, merchandising and all publicity needs to be done again. Yet, without fail, the new titles are worse.
Hornblower only suffered the indignity of three title changes:
The Even Chance = The Duel
The Examination for Lieutenant = The Fireships
The Frogs and the Lobsters = The Wrong War
This was before the second season where someone decided that two words in the titles were too much for the Americans to handle and the only answer was to employ B7-style titles for the remaining four eps. Fair enough.
My other favourite 19th-Century tale of British asskicker, the chronicles of Sharpe underwent the same indignity. Not in America, where barely anyone except the PBS eccentrics saw them, but in Germany. Where, curiously, the entire idea of naming a series after the main character who has literally all stories revolve around him was somehow objectionable and it become Das Scharfschützen, or "The Sharpshooters".
On the face of it, this seems like a decent enough title, because Sharpe is, of course, a Lieutenant in the 95th Rifles, the first ever equivalent of a sniper unit due to the unprecedented accuracy of the Baker Rifle. But I suspect the Garmans only saw a few minutes and read up a little before giving the title because Sharpe's company in the Rifles is massacred about half an hour into the first episode and he is then attached to The South Essex, a regular infantry regiment. Yes, he keeps a handful of Riflemen under his command, but they usually don't play a particularly large role in proceedings.
It also causes an interesting dilemma, in that none of the original titles can now be used due to the fact that every episode is "Sharpe's [Noun]" So... I present 11 titles that have gone through Free Translation...
1. The Banner of the Blood
2. The Eagle of the Emperor
3. The Command of No Return
4. The Army of Terror
5. The Price of Honor
6. The Bloody Gold
7. The Wolf Hunt
8. Hereafter of the Death (???) [Possibly 'Life After Death' - Sharpe comes quite close to dying in this one]
9. The Missing Battalion
10. The Death Enemies (?) [I think it may be 'The Deadly Enemies'... a bit of a bad sell because although Sharpe's nemesis Ducos features but they never meet one another]
11. The Traitor
The final four episodes, for whatever reason, were never shown in Germany, so we can only imagine the titles that they would be given. Hmm, let's see...
12. The Enemies of Death
13. The Coming to Home of Darkness
14. The Battle of Hugeness
15. The Bloody India
I do kind of like the cheesy B-grade feel that a lot of them have.
One of the unfortunate side-effects of this is that when I was looking up info on the German broadcast, I found a post from a German guy on a message board about how much he liked the show but was unable to find Das Scharfschützen DVDs anywhere. And he posted it a few years ago so I couldn't point him in the right direction. Because of the sentimental value screen-entertainment holds for my socially-malformed soul, this made me quite sad..
But not as sad as the recent Ben Chatham threads. There's something about them that brings out the worst in people. The thing that gets to me that people who laugh along with Spara (or believe they do, as this is actually impossible to ascertain for certain), naming no names but hopefully making it clear who I mean, have the irritating habit of getting over-defensive to the point they are more ludicrous than the people who criticise Spara in the first place.
It ends up like 'Look, I read these stories for FUN! FUN, YOU BASTARDS, I'M HAVING FUN!!! AND HERE'S A 12-PAGE ESSAY ABOUT HOW MUCH FUN I'M HAVING!!!' and the whole thing deteriorates into a battle of the massive lists and rants, just like everything else on the internet.
It's the main reason I haven't been on OG for a while. At least, not under my usual pseudonym. It's getting so heated there that you'd have thought that we just beat India...
Just like Ricky Ponting! Man, this segue thing is hard. But anyway, my rant the other day mysteriously has failed to extinguish flaring tempers in the cricketing community and now papers are running as many anti-Australian slurs as possible. There is clearly nothing short of an apology from Ponting himself and a clandestine back-door arrangement with the Board for Cricket Control in India to dive the Perth match that will absolve the situation - and rest assured, this will be in place given that the BCCI is essentially in control of 70% of the game's global revenue.
(Incidentally, anyone find it ironic that a corporate body accused of match-making conspiracies so often sould be named the Board for Cricket Control?)
It seems that nobody is happy with the fallout of the Sydney Test Match, but I'm certain it is of relief to a certain ABC commentator, who stated after Ricky Ponting emerged from the group hug following Australia's victory and raised his fists in trumph to the stadium that 'Ponting has now turned, and is fisting the crowd' in a rather frighteningly loud and proud voice. Funnily enough, some of the aggreived cricketing efficianados could well use those exact words to describe Punter's conduct in the game.
The gaffe, however, seems noticed by NO ONE. Even in the commentary booth, the surefire stream of inadvertent references to gay pornography was tragically cut short by Peter Roebuck, a former ODI-captain and alleged abuser of teenaged boys, screaming that "THIS IS A TEST MATCH WITH NO JUSTICE!!". Roebuck, of course, immediately went on to write a crackpot column saying that the only solution is firing Ponting immediately, which somehow ended up on the front page of the paper.
That same newspaper stated that the most embarassing possible song to sing along to on an iPod in public was Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing. This is a song I have on my computer and I listened to it just a few moments ago to try and scale the embarassment factor. And I have to say that now the lyrics seem rather mild. Unless the article was referring to white guys trying to sing like a seemingless balless black guy. But just a cursory glance at my own .mp3 collection has revealed far more embarassing songs for a guy to sing along to in public:
* Anything by Brad Neely
* Eminem - Toy Soldiers (Yep, I know all the lyrics)
* Ben Folds - Bitches Ain't Shit
* Fat Boys - Wipeout
* Missy Higgins - The Special Two (I know as I sing along to this a lot)
* Kanye West -Heard 'em Say
* In fact just about anything by Kanye West
* D12 - My Band
* Who Cares? - Doctor In Distress
* Outkast - Roses (The one that has the chorus starting with 'I know you like to think yo' shit don' stank...')
* The Veronicas - 4eva
* The 'All Your Base Belong to Us' Song
* That KLF Doctor Who theme mix, thing whatever that was..
* Kid Rock - The Midnight Train to Memphis
Not all of those reading this blog, especially the one bloke who I know does read it, may be familar with the last entry. Or with Kid Rock for that matter. He's one of the many white US rappers doomed to a life of obscurity due to a variety of factors, among which are
i) The flavour of the month attitude prevailing over all 'R & B' artists
ii) The natural ostracisation caused by their skin-colour
iii) The fact that they have a knack for sucking.
He's also a Southerner, which adds an interesting touch. Or doesn't, depending on whether you choose to look at it from a viewpoint of rap buidling bridges between cultures or of Rock needing to fill the economic role of the latest lynching victims. But, anyway, this fact was presumably the reason for the song 'Midnight Train to Memphis' which was a laid-back and borderline insipid pseudo-country song played on the acoustic guitar, with lots of soft-tone singing about missing his girlfriend and what not. This ends abruptly after the bridge, though, where he sings a lyric about hitting the bottle again...
..and the music stops ominously...
Before hitting back an ear-bleeding beat, with Kid Rock screaming "COS THAT'S THE WAY I AM! ROCKING IT UP, FUCKING SHIT UP - WHAT?!?" with naught but pure rage pumping through the amp.
Hopefully you can see the embarassment factor. As I can in the fact I used to listen to that song all the time.
In much the same way that RTD pisses me off all the time. And I'm sure without even trying.
In the end I enjoyed The Voyage of the Damned, but I was surprised that I actually enjoyed The Infinite Quest more either in spite of or because of its immaculately retarded storyline. And I hated the first half of Voyage. In fact, the first time I tried to watch it I stopped after thirteen minutes in disgust. (No idea what happens after 13 minutes I found so offensive... possibly nothing)
I was struck by the fact that there was nothing holistically wrong with the episode, but just lots of small, ultimately unimportant things that annoyed me. I'll see if I can work them all out:
1. Well, there's Rixton's characterisation for a start. He doesn't like fat people ergo he deserves to die. Deep.
2. The fact that all of the aliens look, dress and talk exactly like humans save for Bavakavalata.
3. The endless continuity references to Davies' own stories. (Specifically ones that ignore the decades of the show before RTD came along, such as "Yeah, every Christmas is like this for me..")
4. The jokes about Mr Copper misunderstanding Christmas were crap and had already been done so much better in The End of the World.
5. The fact that the alien ship is called The Titanic is... well, just another unfair trick on the audience. Or did RTD come up with the gag before he had the story?
6. It's so obvious that Geoffrey Palmer is going to crash the ship from his first scene. Could he be any more frigging transparent?
7. You get Kylie Minogue, a singer whose only strong attribute is the fact that she is hot, specifically in the rear baggage compartment, and give her the frumpiest look a companion has ever had. Have you EVER seen such an unflattering French Maid costume?! And such a roadkill-esque wig has not been seen since Tegan's last days! I had nowhere to look BUT her acting!! (Incidentally, I did learn something from this episode... although I know her arse, I had no idea what Kylie actually looks like. I thought I did but I was thinking of those photos where she looks just like Madonna. Because I thought Kylie played a lounge singer in the episode so kept waiting for her to show up while the Doctor talked to the boring waitress)
8. The Doctor specifically stating that he is 903 years old. I'm sure there's another angle to look at this than RTD attempting to erase Colin-PMG from the canon but that's the one that keeps sticking in my mind. And the suggestion that the seasons take place entirely in realtime is also one that irks me.
9. The whole Poisedon Adventure thing. I don't even know why but it just pissed me right off.
10. Is RTD in a contest with Moffat to take his mantle as most sex-obsessed TV writer? Because I don't care how much women like 'metal', I'm having trouble imagining a woman copulating with an upright coffin on golf-buggy wheels. And I think having trouble with that image is the best way to go...
11. So... Max Capricorn kept a replica 21st century forklift fully powered and with the keys in the ignition right near him WHY?!?
12. So... Max Capricorn's hidey-hole was directly across from a gigantic shaft down to the core of the enginge WHY?!?
13. So... Max Capricorn decided NOT to order the engines off right after the crash WHY?!?
14. So... Max Capricorn. WHY?!?
15. The bit where the Titanic didn't hit the Buckingham Palace really pissed me off when I watched it - I'm not sure why now. I think the idea that you can blow up everything else in London but the Royal Family themselves are out of bounds pissed me off. Maybe I was just in an irate mood.
16. Again with Rixton... how can Davies write anything so clumsily? He's meant to be a character writer! But no human being (yes, they're meant to be aliens but they never behave as anything but human) would ever go to a man in tears and start bragging about how much money they have for no reason, say "What do you think about that?" and strut off again after going through a harrowing disaster. Never. We all now Rixton isn't particularly nice but we don't need him to transform into a moustache-twirling cartoon character against all logic - Copper's little speech about not choosing who should live or who should die would have worked just as well if Rixton had just said how sorry he was about Astrid. Or maybe just mentioned the money off-handedly, rather than gloating about it.
But in the end I think I ended up liking it more than I disliked it - I think a big part of it was the inordinate number of return-performers. (Geoffrey Palmer, Clive Swift AND Bernard Cribbins? Is this a reunion special?) And the fact that Copper is the best one-off companion the Doctor has had.
What? Astrid? Who the hell is Astrid?
Actually, no, that sounds a little pompous and overbearing. Hmmm... wait, I've got a better intro..
If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that Gary Russell is a talentless hack.
No wait, that sounded hostile as well. Sod it - listening to PMG's season in order, here are my thoughts:
It's at this point I should admit that I'm lying: I'm listening to the ones that I haven't listened to yet in order. Or at least I was: I've now committed myself to doing the run properly, so I shall be re-listening to Zagreus, Scherzo, The Creed of the Kromon and... okay, all except Next Life. That can piss right off.
So, anyway... Shada. Lisened to this one about half a year ago and only a few moments ago realised that it belonged in this list: at the front of it, in fact. The main problem, of course, instantly clear, is that it isn't really a story for Paul McGann. It is the ultimate S17 story, that does nothing at all save for celebrate Douglas Adam's take on Doctor Who - this is what has made it such a controversial story, as some people think that it's the purest period of the show's history in terms of embracing its ethos of fun in a cruel universe, and others thing its just a load of drug-fuelled balls. These two groups are, I theorise, respectively those who vandalise and those who moderate Wikipedia.
Dropping Paul McGann into the mess seems an odd move. Okay, he's described by some as the most Tom Baker-like Doctor, and this could be true... but then no other Doctors are really anything like Tom Baker so it's like judging which of your friends best resembles an ant. But, essentially McGann has an equivalent laid-back view of things and has patches of tremendous frivolity, so he ends up working quite well as a substitute (I'll choose here not to assume cynicism on BF's past by casting a Doctor nobody knew at this stage to ensure no-one complained it was out of character)
The next decision that's a little odd is to maintain Romana and K9 as the Doctor's erstwhile companions. Actually, it isn't odd at all because it means the story will require the bare minimum of re-writing BUT it does lead to a set-up that seems more than a little convoluted, of the Doctor showing up on Gallifrey and going "HEY! Romana! How've you been? Remember that time about, ooh, three hundred years ago when we were in Cambridge? I think we were meant to, you know, save the world but I get this feeling I forgot all about it..." Being Lord President, it seems, either doesn't have much workload or Romana is sick of her own planet because she takes very little convincing.
And this week's award for my least favourite humans on Earth: people who complain that John Leeson is used instead of David Brierly. I would be happy if they simply used anyone BUT David Brierly. For some reason an impersonation of John Inman after being hit in the balls by a meat tenderizer really doesn't say 'Robot' in my head.
But enough of this insipid prattling! What do I think of the story? Well, ever since reading the script I really liked Shada as a story. But realisation is the thing with it. Douglas Adams has tonnes of ideas, and is very inventive, so the odds are that if it was completed the results would have been terribly constricted by production and not the brilliance fans were (for some reason) expecting. BF, of course, are known for their production... but they are constricted by their medium. Shada was meant to be the event finale of S17, and as such it is tragically one of the most visual stories since Feast of Steven, with a bicycle chase, punting, flame-monsters, and a climax entirely reliant on a large group of extras grinning madly in exactly the same fashion that Tom Baker does. Suffice it to say, little of this makes it into the BF adaptation, and all that does ends up being described quite loudly but observing characters in a manner that you think would be fairly extraneous from their point of view.
The biggest problem is a scene where Skagra throws a man out of a car in order to steal his suit... okay, you should realise that the plan doesn't make much logical sense. Very good. It was clearly scripted to a. Ensure that a nons-peaking performer (aka. a cheaper one) could play the be-suited victim, and b. The confrontation could be filmed on location in a short space of time. Despite the complete lack of logic, the scene is maintained, with dialogue added to explain what is happening. Lots of stuff like "No, what are you doin-AAAARGH!", "Throwing you out of the car, mwuahhahah"
Come to think of it, why couldn't Skagra just arrive wearing a suit? Or not get a suit because he is a bad-arse alien warlord mofo who takes no shit from nobody? It's in small aspects like that that the adaptation is lazy - an effect that is frequent given the intimidating effect of Douglas Adam's writing that provokes most of mankind into becoming its bitch in spite of its occassional shortcomings. (SEE: Every review of the H2G2 film.)
Anyway, apart from the ball-less adaptation, what is wrong with Shada? Hmm - well, the Krargs kind of suck, and the cast is... imperfect. The young characters are fine as far as I'm concerned - Sean Biggerstaff does a good job - but the older ones... I dunno, it could be the mantle of needing to re-cast characters played by Christopher Neame and Denis Carey, but Andrew Sachs and James Fox don't do it for me.
Andrew Sachs... well, there's nothing wrong with the performance aside from its context. Adams often spoke of the trap for performers of putting on a silly voice and hamming it up because it's comedy and that's precisely what Sachs does... he doesn't play Skagra, he instead plays the stereotypical ultra-camp Doctor Who baddie. (I suspect his groundwork for the part consisted entirely of watching Paul Darrow's work)
And James Fox... he gets the doddery old man bit perfect. A little too perfect, maybe. After all Chronotis is meant to dazzle everyone with his presence and powers revealed at the last minute as he unveils his true self as the most dangerous genius in Gallifrey's history (which IS saying something) and he doesn't quite carry it off. And again, I suspect that he's hamming it up a bit on purpose.
All the regulars, though, carry things beautifully, and as a result the odd mix and dodgy bits all hold together in the finished product - a long way from classic material but quite enjoyable in the right mood and a must for Adams fans. Especially the areshole Adams fans who weep blood whenever a line he wrote is cut from a script. So all of them.
Paul McGann's big step into the world of undisputable canon does not seem to have a promising start, exposing the limitations of the audio medium terribly with several minutes of him mumbling to himself, in extreme detail, about all the things that he can see on the scanner. Hmm. Not a good sign. But lo - this is a pseudo-historical, and as we all know these tend to be good more often than not. Within moments (well, about fifteen minutes but anyway...) the Doctor is aboard the dirigible R101, meets the blatantly female stow-away Charley Pollard and a very colourful cast...
Again, BF seem to be selling themselves regrettably short on this debut by displaying a fairly narrow spectrum of what audio can do (it feels PRIMITIVE next to later efforts) with lots of unrealistic exposition and overly-silly voices to make the different characters apparent. (Chief Steward Weekes sounds like me attempting to give voice to a Geordie Kermit the Frog and the Saaaarth Effrikeeneh Rathbone is probably best not mentioned) But the plot all too soon becomes convicting, and the twists and turns keep us following it closely - Rathbone torturing a young lady in his room - No! An alien!
In no time at all we're knee-deep in 1930s X-Files shit, with Brigadier Gareth Thomas (impersonating Bill Oddie for some reason but still giving a brilliant performance) setting up a rendezvous with a race of aliens - who turn out to be mostly impotent because of the desperate measures taken to stop their war-like caste from commiting galactic genocide. But lo - the whole thing has been a scheme by Undestroyer Prime to create a war with the human race. Why? BECAUSE HE CAN!!!
And then - screw it. Storm Warning is too frustratingly good for me to review in full. Aircrash blows up, Charley joins the crew, end of story.
(NOTE: In keeping to tradition, I have not mentioned Ramsay at all in my review)
SWORD OF ORION
In a word: LAAAAAAME!
My mind boggles trying to work out what was going on behind the scenes in this story. First, there's the decision to make a Cyberman story in which the Cyberman barely make an appearance. Then the decision to make the entire human cast cockneys who sound remarkably similar and have names like "Voc", "Grash", "Chet", etc. And the apparent selection of cliffhangers via throwing darts at a storyboard. Not to mention the fundamental choice to make Charley's, you know, the 1930s adventuress, second story a sci-fi melodrama and barely have her do anything.
To start with the treatment of Charley... she doesn't even get to go "Oh, what's that?" a lot. Which would be understandable in a far future story. No. Bar the first episode, in which a lot of clearly script-edited scenes appear of her and the Doctor going around an alien marketplace and talking timelines take place that are interesting, but even so Charley really doesn't seem taken aback or really amazed any of the developments that mankind have been through. She isn't especially impressed with spaceships, not very curious about Cybermen, not really anything overmuch. And, in the end, she contributes nothing to the climax... she spends almost the whole thing just staring at Cybermats while the Doctor goes off with a substitute companion. Hel-LO, Briggsy? This is meant to be the new companion that we're all meant to love - she's supposed to do the 'state of wonderment' performance on her first adventure, she's meant to be affected by her adventure in a marked and profound way... she isn't just meant to be baggage that gets thrown in a corner!
But then maybe I'm being harsh unnecessarily. After all, the Doctor himself doesn't do much. He spends the first episode just getting to the ship. He spends the next two walking around in the ship, talking to Captain Deeva who for some reason is the substitute companion, and distinctly avoiding meeting any Cybermen, and also avoiding making any jokes or otherwise doing anything interesting in the off-chance that people listening will get themselves too excited.
The Cybermen also don't do too much. Generally they spend their time sending out Cybermats for some reason, talking about what the Doctor is doing right now ("Hey, is the Doctor doing anything?", "Not really", "Fuck") and stating that they will do things about ten minutes before they actually do it. I'm thinking specifically of the mind-blowing episode 2 cliffhanger, where the Cybermen talk about releasing their Leader from hibernation. And, incredibly, just half-way through the next episode he's there! HOLY SHIT!!!
Because of the glorious eighty-minutes of 'build-up' (or 'padding' as it's known when it isn't a BF story) it isn't until Episode 4 when there's any semblance of plot. Ahh, plot, how I have missed you... okay, the humans create androids. Androids that are so good they become just like humans - and they decide "WAR!". Relax, this was before the new BSG so it wasn’t a rip off back then. And because of this THE HUMANS WANT TO ENLIST THE CYBERMEN TO FIGHT FOR THEM!!! OMFG! This plot conceit is so awesome your brain may Sparacus-style ejaculate on the spot at it’s very mention… but there’s a problem. This is the last episode and there’s absolutely nowhere for this idea to go. Literally nowhere. Interestingly, it does introduce some themes for the story but more than a little too late.
The observant person may notice that the idea, introduced as it is at the last minute, allows for an incredibly transparent and arsey way to bring a twist into the story, by revealing the substitute companion to be an android herself. Well, whaddaya know?! Pity that the Doctor is too thick to spot it until the final minutes, even though he reads a message addressed to Deeva which names her by a frigging bar code. SIGH.
Okay, what could make the blend that I have outlined even worse? Let’s see… how about a scene where a bloke is being converted by the Cybermen, and decides to react to this by shrieking that he is the most hard motherfucker in the galaxy and will kill them all afterwards. For three minutes. At an amount of decibels so great that if you’re, say, in a position where you’re unable to reach the volume controls and so take off your earphones it will STILL be too loud! Yeah, that's in there.
Not quite enough for you? How about this - the Doctor doesn’t defeat the Cybermen. In fact, I’ll go further than that - NOBODY defeats the Cybermen. The Cybermen just fly into an Ion Storm or some such shit and their ship is as good as destroyed. And then the Ion Storm comes back at the end of the story and does destroy them. Yes I am fucking serious.
What I really, really, REALLY don’t get about this story - apart from the one genuinely terrifying thing about it, which is that it is an adaptation from the most popular of the AVs (???!) - is that every sad, fanboy who loves the Cybermen to such a degree that anything at all that features them is seen as brilliant - to the point that they would have given this shit 12/10 if it was just Nick Briggs and a voice synthesizer playing three Cybermen playing poker for 2 hours and the Doctor wasn’t even in it - justify the horrendous boredom of it all with the following words:
"It’s as close as Doctor Who will ever get to Alien!"
Setting aside the fact that if I want Alien I will rent the fucking DVD, I can only feel that this statement is a grave insult to either, if not both, of these fine franchises. Firstly, watch Arc in Space. Secondly, you are retarded. Alien is notable for a few reasons. The first being that it is terrifying. The second being the high amount of gore juxtaposed with a limited amount of onscreen violence (until the end). The third is a kick-arse modern heroine. Sword of Orion has fuck all of this. The fourth thing is… it’s set on a spaceship.
So… yeah. Sword of Orion is exactly like Alien if you think that the main point of importance that a lot of people walk around a spaceship talking. In that sense, however, Red Dwarf and Star Trek: Voyager are far more like Alien.
My hatred of this story fuelled the latest of my erratic OG-sabbaticals when I was told by someone to go and listen to this story again to pick up the subtleties. What?!? For a start, I listened to big chunks of this twice as it was, because I kept having the niggling feeling that something interesting was happening somewhere… no dice. What are these subtleties I’m not picking up? In the background is Nick Briggs rubbing felt on linen in Morse-Code to give us the real script?
Of course, I will be molested by Alicia Molik before I listen to this audio again, a position that was re-affirmed by said slag that the following story was rubbish…
STONES OF VENICE
As I'm realising, though, I find it difficult to do a positive review of a Big Finish audio, because I do these reviews entirely from memory and crap bits both stick in my mind longer and are easier to riff on with long chains of insults directed at Briggs, Russell or people I believe to have been involved with the writing of the audio but who turn out to have been in a whole other country at the time.
Stones of Venice is good, though. This is what has made me like Paul Magrs, in spite of the fact that he went and created Iris for no real reason. When I discovered that he can write a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, in that order, and still entertain. No robot sheep, no dream sequences, no parallel universe versions of characters we all know and love..
The great thing is that the story is deliberately theatric to a degree you'll never see anywhere else. It mightn't be Shakespearean in vocabulary, but certainly is in scope, range, and passion - the Duke and Churchwells' conversations have absolutely no semblance of reality, but are brilliant to listen to, and the plot itself has the many twists of a Shakespearean tale...
The real thing I was listening for when I re-listened to part one the other day was Charley. Because, as said above, there are guests to Neverland Ranch that are abused less than her character in the preceding Nicholas Briggs dreckstorm. And also because Paul Magrs has something of a reputation as treating companions as nothing but human-shaped meat puppets that he can use to disperse post-modern japery to the ungrateful fanbase.
But Charley feels right here. Okay, she still makes the postmodern jokes, but they play on the character's naivety and lack of understanding about the Doctor's adventures.. the scenes where she is confused about the aliens lack of gratitude for saving them from a totalitarian regime is splendid, and she really does embrace the adventure with the full enthusiasm and innocence we glimpsed in her opening story.
This continues through the adventure, with her cluelessly siding with the badguys when she agrees to impersonate the Duchess rising from the dead, seeing it as just a fun little game to play rather than anything serious - the moments where she is momentarily possessed by the Duchess and has no idea why are particularly good.
The whole story is good, in fact. So I'll just quietly move on to...
MINUET IN HELL
I'll assume that this is like Sword of Orion, in that something elusive was lost in translation when it was adapted from the AV of the same name, as this story turns out feeling a little garbled. It is being pulled in a few different directions:
1. A story looking at the idea of Hell as it might exist juxtaposed to how humans see it
2. A cheesy-as-all-fuck Buffy the Vampire Slayer parody/homage (no idea what angle they were trying to take as I hate the show anyway)
3. A Brig/8th Doc story
4. A chance for Nick Briggs to pretend to be the Doctor for far longer than is really necessary
To address these points from back to front:
4. By far the most objectionable part, that feels absolutely crowbarred in. I understand it was in the original, but maybe it drove the story or felt in context there. In this... it feels strangely irrelevant. The entire subplot of the Doctor being insane is definitely gripping in Episode One (which is, incidentally, 43 minutes long - that's a hell of an over-run!) but it soon seems to be nothing but an excuse to keep him away from the main plot because the villain is so piss-poor that the Doctor is able to foil him in the space of 5-minutes when he stops thinking he's The Walrus nee Eggman.
The whole idea of another character showing up and saying "You're not the Doctor - I am!" is stupid for the simple reason that the audience knows that he isn't and is a completely un-dramatic event - if this was some sort of post-modern satire then it would fit.. in fact, maybe it is meant to be post-modern but it definitely doesn't come across. Then using this fundamentally drama-free moment as a cliffhanger ending is ludicrous, unless the audience is given a reason to be afraid of the nutter thinking he's the Doctor... but we aren't. He's a middle-aged English journo locked in a cell - no matter who he thinks he is he isn't in much of a position to achieve anything.
The casting is the biggest problem, though. Really, what the hell were they thinking? Maybe it was meant to be cute, I dunno. But when a group that has recorded their own stories for years with their own Doctor goes on to produce stories for the proper canonical Doctor, you don't expect them to have a story where their Doctor plays a bloke saying that he is the only real Doctor, and then proceed to bag out the actual Doctor ad nauseum for three episodes. (Hope that sentence came out right because I got confused as hell writing it) By the time Briggsy is gloating over beating PMG in a game of DW trivia, you might just feel like punching him in the face...
3. Since the Brig retired it has been harder and harder to fit him into stories. This isn't helped at all by Battlefield which, in addition to being a piece of television banned by the Geneva Convention and a harbinger of the sheer horror to be expected when some lunatics let Aaronovitch near B7, was quite clearly the Brig's swan-song. So... we cut writers a little slack when they have, say, the Brig being asked by a military contact to pretend to be a visiting businessman to a software company that might just have connections to weird stuff and is then locked in an attic for almost the whole thing anyway.
Even so... The Brig does not belong in this story. Unsurprisingly he doesn't feel quite as crowbarred in as Nick Briggs screeching Gollum-esquely that HE is the one true Doctor but the whole premise of his appearance in this story is dodgy - that he proved instrumental in Scotland seceding from Great Britain at some completely unspecified point in the future. ? The Brig is a military officer, not a politician, and one who in the eyes of Scotland might as well have never existed due to the fact that every scintilla of work he did was top-secret. And then he retired and became a maths teacher. Doesn't leave much room for radical constitutional reform on the horizon.
There is a subplot that could explain this, but really makes it all the more confusing - the Brig is working undercover, most likely for either UNIT or C19, a fact that is hammered in over the course of about a dozen scenes of the Brig typing in stuff we've seen happen into a laptop very slowly, waiting a moment, and then reading back the unhelpful correspondence he's recieved and moaning. Great drama. This could suggest that the Brigadier's entire excuse for being there is bullshit... but that would mean that the American badguy is even stupider than he appears (More on that later) and also causes problems when it is revealed that he's been sold out by whoever he's working for anyway.
Then the simple fact that there is very little for the Brigadier to do in the story. The story has themes of Hell, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer - two things that are instantly connected in my mind. (Baddum tish - last of those comments I promise) The Brigadier isn't religious (Though he suddenly starts quoting the bible in this which is a bit worrying) and also isn't active enough to keep up with a young, fiery female lead. He becomes the third wheel fairly early on, especially when things are compounded with that old caveat that, kick arse as he is, the Brig is never allowed to actually save the day for the simple reason that that is the Doctor's job. His role is mostly confined thusly to talking to Senator Foghorn Leghorn (actually named Waldo Pickering but the voice is pure Warner Brothers) and exchanging a few affable, jokey, words with Paul McGann in Episode 4 to keep the fans happy and cement the fact that the Eighth Doctor has met his old friend.
There's something I find maudlin about shoving poor old Lethbridge-Stewart into a story which clearly has nothing at all to do with his character... there's only one reasoning I can see behind it, and that is 'come on, he's going to die soon we need to get him in a story NOW!'.
For the record, eight years down the track and Nick Courtney is still alive and well and under quiet pressure from fandom to appear with David Tennant. (But not Eccleston. Fuck him. He doesn't DESERVE the Brig!)
2. I am completely unqualified to judge this aside from the rather obvious fact that Nicholas Briggs is patently doing an Anthony Stewart Head impression on top of all his yelling about being the canonical Doctor. Even so, Becky-Lee Stamos (or whatever her name is) is a fun character, especially in the lack of any believability that plays off Charley quite nicely and manages to overcome having Senator Leghorn for a legal guardian.
BUT... even from my rudimentary knowledge I realise that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is very American... and not in a self-conscious way. It's nothing but a matter of fact. Minuet in Hell on the other hand, is so self-consciously shouting "THIS IS AMERICA!" it is awkward. And then there's the fact that it is quite plainly written by somebody who hates America.
And I mean really hate. I thought I hated Americans until I listened to this, but no. It turns out I don't mind the guys. Or at least I would never ever ever, ever, EVER write a story in which their entire population is depicted as a bunch of poorly-educated, morally bankrupt bible-bashing scumbags.
The central antagonist is Brigham Elijah Dashwood, the prospective Governor of the USA's new 53rd state Maryborough (Have I mentioned how ridiculous that idea is?). Dashwood is a televangelist who doesn't read the bible and secretly harvests prostitutes and worships Satan. There. You should get my point. And it is amusing that all the 8th Doctor has to do to defeat him is talk to him for 15 seconds while the cameras are running.
1. Barely touched upon at all. There's a 'demon' in the story, but he does very little except enter into a hamming it up battle with Senator Leghorn and killing Dashwood's token-scientist and pitifully-optimistic-sextoy Dail Pagiter. The last episode contains a long explanation of who the Demons are... but it feels a bit lame. Something about creatues that feed on thought patterns and appear as you wish to see them... feels a lot like a cop-out after characters talking about 'hell' for a great deal of episodes.
It does lead to the brilliant scene where Charley gets sucked into 'Hell' and the demons there reject her because she 'is already dead'. Brilliant.
Speaking of Charley, she gets something of a raw deal in this audio. Yeah, her character is amnesiac but I thought she'd have been slightly more affronted by people in the future being taken to a brothel for training from a dominatrix when arrested for vagrancy. I know I was!
Hmm.. anything else to say... anything at all?
Damn it, I can't hold it in... WHAT THE FUCK IS THE DEAL WITH RAMSAY?! Is THAT meant to be some sort of plot arc?! It has NOTHING to do with ANYTHING! It's just giving a link to past stories, but it doesn't make them RELEVANT because he's not RELEVANT! SELF INDULGENT TRIPE!!! AAAARGH!
Phew, sorry, lost my cool there. What better to calm me down than a nice, relaxing slab of Mark Gatiss?
INVADERS FROM MARS
... anything else it would seem. At all. In the whole world. Including sodomy.
More on that later, however...
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
This week Australia defeated India by nearly 200 runs in the second Test Match of the Series, sealing their overall victory and equaling the record for most Test Matches won consecutively. The victory looked entirely impossible until the last over of play, where Michael Clarke, a part-time left-orthodox spinner who spends most of his time as Lara Bingle's sex-toy, bowled three wickets for zero runs, only just missing out on a hat-trick. It's hard to cut that so it sounds bad as far as I'm concerned, but the media are doing a good job to try and guilt us into hating our team as they do all the fucking time.
The first matter is that the media is constantly telling us that our team is completely evil by suffocating the great game. Yes, our team is 'too good' for the rest of the world to have a chance, and all other countries are going to cry like toddlers with sprained ankles before taking their bat and going home, never to play with Australia.
The second matter is Anil Kumble, a solid spinner and India's captain, who has actually gone and done just that. Shortly after the match he seems to be attempting to quit the entire series, get the umpires sacked, and what's more, stating that our team is unsportsmanlike.
Let me repeat that: the guy who has taken umbrage with all umpirial decisions, who clearly ordered his team to make the over-rate as slow as possible on the final day to give Australian bowlers less oppurtunity to take their wickets, and is now flying in the face of his own countries cricket board to try and NOT continue the tour, is the one who IS sportsmanlike. What have we done?
According to some guy who looked like Professor Adrian Franklin (fromCollectors)'s younger, whinier, more-beat-up-at-school brother on last night's 7:30 Report, we are responsible for using 'tough standover tactics' by following the standard rules of cricket and reporting an unethical insult to the Umpires. Yes, following the rulebook word for word is NOT in the best interests of the game now.
To digress from the main body of my rant, the unethical insult was calling Andrew Symonds, the only black player on our side, a 'monkey'. Even if Harbhajan Singh genuinely meant it as a term of affection, as claimed by the slightly-mad Hascha Bogley, (REEEALLY likely. Ha fucking ha) he could not possibly be ignorant after Symonds was called a monkey by the crowds playing at India, and made headlines with his disgust at their behaviour. Hence, Harbhajan was an idiot and has been suspended for it - that's the way the game works. The Indians are clearly blessed with short memories, otherwise they would remember that Shane Warne, reckoned by everyone to be one of the greatest players ever, was banned for a year after taking a diet pill. Puts things into perspective, don't it me old china?
The main issue, though, is Ponting not giving India a chance to win (ie, doing his job) as if Kumble would have had any mercy at all in that position, and the idea that our side claimed non-existant wickets with Gilchrist shouting for appeal off a ball that came of Dravid's pads rather than his bat. The only conclusion any commentator can come up with from this is 'Gilchrist is an entirely amoral fuck'. Having seen several balls that would have been called wickets if Gilly DID raise in appeal but did not, and knowing that Gilly is famous for 'walking' when he knows he's out rather than waiting for the umpire my conclusion is different - he made a mistake.
It's very easy for cricket writers/ commentators to say that he had to know, as they're safe and sound in their test-white ivory towers, seeing nothing of the game but the TV footage, distilled from a camera at every angle slowed down showing every tiny detail. For Gilchrist, focusing on catching a slow ball still travelling at 96 kph, he wouldn't necessarily have made out what happened - especially since Dravid was holding his bat directly behind his pad.
There's some similar bullshit about Michael Clarke and various LB decisions, but I remembered what blog I'm on so forget about it. Suffice it to say I hate pretty much everyone in the media right now and the Indians should just get the fuck over themselves and play the sport.
And sorry for writing an entire post about cricket AGAIN but this shit has been getting ridiculous.