Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mary, Queen of Shops

Tonight, a brand new programme starts with the above title. Apparently it's all about a retail guru called Mary Portas, whose mission is to help struggling fashion shop owners find ways of reclaiming the market.

Mmm. Frankly the label "Mary, Queen of Shops" suggests something else entirely to me and when I first heard it, I cracked up with laughter. I'm willing to bet that some of my fellow bloggers will see the funny/ironic side too. Any suggestions, readers?

And they say, why, why? Tell 'em that it's Human Nature...

There seem to be an inordinate amount of things requiring my attention at present. In a few weeks’ time I’m supposed to have produced a website as the final assessment for my night class. A complex task and one which I’ve barely got started! I’m finding Flash and some of the other aspects rather tricky to grasp, so some further revision/reading up is necessary…Then in a couple of weeks I start doing some extra work for an examination board which will keep me snowed under for a good few weeks. Plus we have Gustavo’s cousin staying with us at the moment and it doesn’t do to be sat at the computer whilst she’s there, being anti-social. Some trips and outings are scheduled (she’s never been to the UK before!) Oh yeah and I also have a full time job to keep me occupied during the day! So everything’s kind of happening at once! How WILL I fit it all in? (A question George Michael also probably pondered on numerous occasions).

I guess it would help if I didn’t spend so much time writing very long blog posts. But when it’s on a subject that inspires me I find it too damn hard to resist. We all have our passions. Take for instance, my last marathon “Dallas” post.

But time, as that bald-headed fella from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” once said, is fleeting.

Hence I will attempt to keep this post on the latest episode of “Dr Who” a little bit…shorter. Already I can picture all of you collapsing into fits of laughter at the audacity of this statement. I kid you not, my fellow readers. Standby for a new, more accessible format…

Episode: Human Nature (first of a two part story)

Writer: Paul Cornell

Plot: The Dr and Martha, on the run from a group of aliens known as the Family of Blood, are hiding out in early 1900s England. In order to avoid detection, the Dr has literally rewritten his own biology to become a human being, his Time Lord essence now contained within a small pocket watch. On Earth, the Dr and Martha take up positions of employment within a boys’ public school – the Dr as John Smith, a schoolmaster and Martha as his personal maid. Whilst at the school the Dr meets Nurse Joan Redfern with whom he starts to form a relationship, much to Martha’s dismay. And the aliens the Dr was hoping to evade soon arrive…

Story:

Excellently told /portrayed, emotive and well-paced! Lots of time was devoted to developing the characters and relationships – especially the Dr and Joan – before the aliens actually arrived, giving the opportunity for events to unfold at a decent pace. This episode also felt much more “adult” and mature than some of the other more obviously kiddie-focused episodes, like one of those period dramas that the Beeb excel in producing. Paul Cornell is a class act (WHY isn’t he writing for the next season?) The aliens were both creepy and fascinating (are they without substance? What is their reason for wanting the blood of a Time Lord? I hope all is revealed…) There was a real feeling of impending doom and uncertainty when the green lights were seen in the sky and Baines enters the spaceship for the first time - akin to HG Wells’ “War of the Worlds” when the Martians land on the common. And I liked the bits with the Dr’s journal too, a great blast from the past that was also relevant to his “forgotten” existence. Oh and great cliffhanger!

Period:

Convincing period recreation with great locations – a lovely old country house as the school, excellent interiors and scenes in the local village/hall too. Great costumes – the cast all looked very authentic, especially the school boys in their jackets and ties. And the attitudes and behaviour that the characters exhibited were in keeping with the time, some of which were positively outrageous by 2007 standards e.g. Hutchinson’s comment to Martha as she scrubs the floor: “With hands like those, how can you tell when something’s clean”? Compounded by Jenny’s comment: “Just think in a few years time, boys like that might be running the country”. What a nasty thought.

Guest cast/supporting characters: An excellent cast list that played their roles to perfection.

Jessica Hynes was very good as Joan, slightly prim and proper but a decent, pleasant sort, whilst projecting an air of sadness and loneliness too.

Harry Lloyd as Jeremy Baines was a revelation – snotty, condescending and arrogant – as upper class youths of that day and age undoubtedly were – and even more unpleasant once possessed by the aliens. He was just right for the role (and who would have guessed that he was recently in "Robin Hood" – he looked totally different in that, the sign of a versatile actor…)

Thomas Sangster as Tim Latimer was damn good too for an actor so young, coming over as older and wiser than his actual years. He was the one who picked up the Dr’s watch and became privy to the Time Lord’s past…And what’s going on with Tim? He seems almost psychic e.g. his “flash forward” to when he and Hutchinson are fighting on the front line and killed. Mmmm. Is there more to this boy than meets the eye?

I also liked Jenny, Martha’s fellow workmate, pal and drinking partner, who started off wholesome and cuddly and then turned nasty and sarcastic when possessed by the aliens. Her northern accent seemed to vanish though which was a bit odd.

Even the little girl with the balloon was creepy (a word I seem to like) - shades of the girl from “Remembrance of the Daleks”? I loved the bit when she, the possessed farmer fellow and Baines all tilted their heads to sniff out the Time Lord...

Regular cast:

Very interesting to see David Tennant bringing a totally different interpretation to the part of the Dr – literally a new man. He played the part of the refined schoolmaster well. And proved that even when human you can still be a hero e.g. his ingenious use of a cricket ball to stop a woman with a pram from being crushed by a falling piano – kind of reminded me of “Ker-plunk” – great scene. And did anyone get the in-joke/reference to his “parents” Sidney and Verity? Ha ha.


As for Martha, the pining over the Dr thing is definitely getting tiresome and a fair element of this story was focused on her frustration when the Doc gets together with Joan. But given the constraints on Martha’s character she was still pretty good in this episode, and like the Dr given a new dimension, reduced to playing the role of a servant and having to endure put downs from stuck-up school kids. I liked her relationship with Jenny although was she maybe just a bit too quick to twig that she’d become an alien? And the scenes when Martha goes back to the TARDIS worked really well – I loved the juxtaposition of then and now - with the Dr saying that he had to stop being a Time Lord and screaming in pain as the chameleon arc scrambles his brains – and jumping back to now with Martha alone in the TARDIS, looking wistful: “I wish you’d come back”. Okay let’s cut Ms Jones a bit of slack, it’s not easy being abandoned and of course she has to face the prospect of being permanently stranded in 1913!

Dialogue: I’ve already quoted a few choice bits. And there was more e.g. the conversations between the Dr and Martha:

The Dr/John Smith: Last night I dreamt I was this traveller and you were my companion.

Martha: A teacher and a housemaid, sir, it’s not possible!

Special / visual effects:

The alien spacecraft looked good – the interior was quite organic and reminded me of the Zygons. There was a good sense of anticipation before Baines "broke in" and the green beams sweeping over the darkness of the countryside looked menacing and weird. Actually this was kind of reminiscent of “The Tripods” as well. The much hyped scarecrows were...scary, probably more so if you’re a kiddie though. The alien family’s guns looked rather plastic however, like something out of a toy shop. And was it wise for them to go around brandishing them so obviously and disintegrating people? Surely they’d get caught? And I loved the trippy flashbacks to past monsters/foes - Daleks, Cybermen, Ood etc - when Tim opened the watch – reminiscent of the JNT era but not superfluous as these bits were actually crucial in telling Tim about the Time Lord and his background…

All in all a superb, maturely handled episode and the best Dr Who story in absolutely yonks. I just hope Part Two delivers on the promise.

There. Mmm. Not that concise really, was I? Well, I still reckon it's shorter than some of my other reviews and it didn’t take me half as much time to write it...If you did a word count I bet it would be shorter!! Honest!!

Oh dear. Methinks the Cheeser doth protest too much...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dallas: the lowdown

And talking of "Dallas", how many of you watched it or are familiar with its characters? Want the ultimate lowdown? I caaaaan't resist. (He said in a Deep Southern accent).

Dallas” started off as a relatively mundane drama, relating the ups and downs of two feuding families living in the great state of Texas: the Ewings and the Barnes. The plotlines were pretty average, run-of-the-mill fare, dealing with “issues” like who owned which oil well, problems with the cattle and working on the ranch. Okay that’s a slight exaggeration but you get the picture. However as the 1980s kicked in, the storylines became more melodramatic and OTT, with an ever increasing quotient of kitsch and camp thrown in for good measure ("Dallas" was never quite as camp as its sister soap, "Dynasty", but it came quite close at times). And glamour was a mainstay of the soap too – particularly amongst the female characters. As the decade moved on the hair got bigger and the shoulder pads wider.

So, WHO were the men and womenfolk of "Dallas"? Hold onto your Stetsons for the definitive lowdown, cowboys and cowgals…

Miss Ellie Ewing (Barbara Bel Geddes; Donna Reed). The matriarch of the Ewing family, often to be seen at Southfork, the Ewing’s perennial home (that’s it above – big ain’t it?) Miss Ellie was certainly no Margaret Thatcher – she was homely, kind and cuddly – but neither was she a pushover either. Contrary to appearances, she ran the roost and usually had the final say so, especially where family matters were concerned. For instance, JR might have been the meanest son-of-a-b*tch going, but he always deferred to his Momma. Miss Ellie also suffered the indignity of soap opera re-casting. When actress Barbara Bel Geddes fell ill, she was replaced by Donna Reed, who unfortunately was not a hit with the viewers (rumour has it that the cast didn’t take to Ms Reed either and snubbed her on set – nice!) Neither did she particularly resemble the old Miss Ellie, prompting comments like: “Miss Ellie – you seem SO DIFFERENT since coming back from your honeymoon!” After one season, Barbara BG thankfully returned to the role and “normality” (always a questionable term where soaps are concerned) was restored.

Jock Ewing (Jim Davis). The founder of Ewing Oil and JR and Bobby's dad. Rather a staunch, serious type. To tell the truth I don't remember his character that well, as Jim Davis sadly died in the early 1980s and consequently the writers had no choice but to kill Jock off in a plane crash in some distant jungle. Or DID they?? Cue several years later when a ranch hand with the bizarre name of Wes Parmalee (?!) turns up at Southfork, claiming to be Jock with plastic surgery. Er, right. But this man seemed to know everything about Jock's life and more. Even the disbelieving Miss Ellie ended up falling for him, hook, line and sinker. It later transpired that this man had met the dying Jock and, suffering from schizophrenia or some such mental illness, assumed Jock’s personality and believed he really was him! Eventually the pseudo-Jock was exposed and driven out of town. Yeehaah!!

Clayton Farlow (Howard Keel). Jock's replacement and Miss Ellie's second husband. A dignified oil baron who was a bit more refined and well-mannered than Jock, although perhaps a tad dull too. At first Miss Ellie resisted his charms but eventually they got hitched. JR however did not take to Clayton – his dear beloved Daddy was always the apple of his eye – and the two had a fair few fights during the course of the show...

JR Ewing (Larry Hagman). The ultimate villain and the patriarch of "Dallas". Every good soap needs a character you love to hate and John Ross II fitted the mould perfectly. Even the dreadful country group “The Wurzels” were inspired enough to bring out a ditty entitled "I Hate JR." JR was a wheeler and a dealer, always looking to pull off a business deal that would leave Ewing Oil on top and streets ahead of its rivals and he didn't care who got screwed in the process. Talking of screwing, JR was rather fond of mucking around with the Dallas ladies too, much to the chagrin of his longstanding, long-suffering wife Sue Ellen. She and JR broke up and reunited probably more than any other couple in soap history. And WHO can forget the most famous storyline of all, the one that kept us on the edge of our seats, WHO SHOT JR?? JR had made so enemies with his despicable ways; virtually the entire cast had a motive for shooting him. Not to mention the guest cast and the extras.

Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Gray). JR's long-suffering wife and one of my favourite characters. A classic drawling Southern belle (although her accent dwindled over the years) dark haired beauty and former Miss Texas. Also an alcoholic who hit the bottle at regular intervals (well wouldn’t you if you were married to someone like JR?) Famous for her quivering lip and declaration: "You're a bastard, JR." Sue Ellen endured JR’s mistreatment and indiscretions for a number of years before finally getting it together. She ditched the drink once and for all and set up her own business, a sexy underwear company called Valentine Lingerie. Later on she finished with JR and hooked up with Ian "Lovejoy" Mcshane, a movie producer who helped her make a "Citizen Kane" type movie, closely modeled on her life with JR, which set out to publicly humiliate him! You GO girl!! I was so glad to see Sue Ellen become empowered and gain a proper sense of self respect in the last few series - even Linda Gray who played her admitted that the character was going round in circles and was on the verge of quitting the show so the change in character was timely. Although I must add that some of Sue Ellen’s “drunken” scenes were quite memorable, in particular one from the “Dream” season in which she hangs out with a load of drunken derelicts down a back alley. And two other great Sue Ellen clips are here and here.

Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy). The white (or should that be black?) sheep of the Ewing family. A real goody two shoes who you couldn't help liking even if he was a bit TOO nice at times. Bobby wasn’t bad looking either, with quite a nice bod (anyone remember him in "The Man From Atlantis", in those yellow swimming trunks?) The true love of Bobby's life was Pam, and when Dallas began, they’d just got spliced. However there was a slight problem - Pammy was a member of the Barnes family, the old enemies of the Ewings, which caused serious ructions, most of all with JR, who never approved of their union. Bobby had his share of ups and downs and a few years after the shooting of JR, ended up getting gunned down too by the insane and jealous Katherine Wentworth. Fortunately he survived but the most notorious Bobby plotline of all was still to come. Bobby was run down and killed by a car (yep, by that mad b*tch Katherine again!) leading to untold grief for Pam and the Ewing family. Or WAS he? In an utterly bizarre and much derided plot twist (even if you never watched Dallas you’ll still probably know about it) Pam wakes up one morning to find her so-called dead husband alive and well in the shower! Yep, it turned out that the entire series that took place after Bobby’s death was a dream, as was the death of Bobby himself! Er, yeah, right. Consequently this season became known as the “Dream” season of "Dallas". And strangely enough, after this gob-smacking revelation, the rating figures for the show started to slide as "Dallas" viewers switched off. I can’t imagine why.

Pam Ewing (Victoria Principal). Pam was the Barbie of the programme - a real "Dallas" dollie and one for the boys, obviously put in the show to up the sex appeal quotient. She was always well turned out, although her dress sense in earlier episodes did leave something to be desired e.g. a very early installment where she and Bobby go dancing at the disco, with Pam wearing turtle neck and slacks, throwing “odd” Disco moves. However she became progressively more and more glam and immaculately coiffed as each series progressed. She also had to suffer the eternal hatred of JR who was always convinced that "The Barnes woman" was never good enough for his beloved brother Bobby. Sadly pressure drove Bobby and Pam apart but they eventually reunited - hooray! But in soaps happiness is never eternal and the end was nigh. Driving back to Southfork and Bobby with the joyous news that she could bear children (after years of apparent barreness - yeah, right), Pam's car suddenly collides with an oil truck and explodes into spectacular flames. Oh sh*t. But even though Victoria Principal left the series at that point, Pam survived and appeared next season, heavily clad in bandages. Clever eh? However once the bandages were taken off, Pam was so upset by her hideously disfigured appearance that she ran away, not wanting Bobby and their son Christopher to see her! Some time later Bobby tracks her down but she’s had plastic surgery and is a changed woman, wanting nothing to do with her old life. As Bobby leaves we find out that she only has months left to live. A sad end for the Barbie Doll of "Dallas".

Lucy Ewing (Charlene Tilton). Or the "poisoned dwarf" as that most astute of DJs, Terry Wogan, christened her. Lucy was another attempt by the producers to add sex appeal but somehow this failed. Although she was blonde and curvy there was a kind of naïve, gawky awkwardness about Lucy that you couldn’t help but laugh at. Gosh I’m mean. Maybe it was because she was always the “Fall Girl” and got saddled with the same limited plotlines – usually involving Lucy meeting a guy, getting messed around/mistreated by aforementioned guy, then finally getting dumped by self-same guy. What a life. One of her major loves was Dr Mitch Cooper who she actually married twice but even the second time it didn’t work out. However Lucy returned to the show later on, older and wiser, helping Sue Ellen to make her “Citizen Ewing” movie.

Ray Krebbs/Ewing (Steve Kanaly). A ranch foreman, Ray was the more “macho” of the male characters, and usually seen working out on the land with his shirt off (nice). He wasn’t an office fella. Like Bobby he was one of the “good” characters although he did have quite a hot temper. And later on it transpired that he was – gasp! – Jock’s illegitimate son! Another Ewing! Ray eventually got married to Donna, an attractive politician and widow; however a few years down the line they sadly split after one too many disagreements. Then he got together with Jenna Wade and they left Dallas. Bye Ray!

Donna Krebbs (Susan Howard). One of my favourite characters, a genuinely likeable and attractive lady. She first turned up in the show working as a politician and was actually one of JR’s rivals. Donna was intelligent, sussed and certainly no shrinking violet. When she first started dating Ray, JR set her up to witness Ray in bed with Bonnie, a cowgirl and ex of his. Donna took matters into her own hands and met Bonnie in a bar, offering her money to leave Dallas. In response Bonnie threw a drink in Donna’s face but Donna flattened her out on the bar floor with one punch! WHAT a lady. In the “Dream” season Donna was involved in an interesting storyline in which she becomes pregnant with a down- syndrome child which causes tensions between her and Ray. Unfortunately she loses the child but her and Ray sort out their differences and decide to adopt a deaf child instead. Donna also starts working with physically handicapped children. However as all of this turned out to be a “dream” it was scrapped, and next season we were back to square one, with Donna and Ray splitting, and Donna having a “normal” child and leaving Dallas.

Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval). Pam’s brother and JR’s arch rival – the two characters shared a mutual loathing and were always trying to out manoeuvre one another. Cliff was also meant to be the loveable “comic relief” in the programme but personally I found him a bit of a dork. His heart was in the right place though. And the ladies flocked to his side (heaven knows why) – model Mandy Winger, perm-headed Afton Cooper and Jamie Ewing, who Cliff later wed.

Jenna Wade (Priscilla Beaulieu Presley). Yep, Elvis’ wife got cast in "Dallas"! Well they were from the South too, so it kind of figures. Jenna was Bobby’s “other woman” once he’d split with Pam. A very classy looking lady but there was something a bit cold and standoffish about Jenna which I couldn’t warm to. Certainly we all knew that Pam was the only woman for Bobby and it was only a matter of time before he and Jenna split! Poor Jenna got a raw deal I guess. One of her most riveting plotlines was when her ex Naldo Marcetta (where do they come up with these names?!) kidnapped her. Jenna wakes up next to Naldo in a hotel room to find him dead beside her with a gun in her hand! Did she do it? Aha...

Okay, I’ve exhausted the main cast list. Finally, here’s just a few of my other favourite characters who graced the show…

Jamie Ewing (Jenilee Harrison). As the Ewings sit round the Southfork swimming pool in the shimmering heat, a dirty, tomboyish looking woman struts onto the patio to announce she was...a Ewing! Jamie had landed. It turned out she was related to Jock and had papers to prove it (where do all these long lost relatives come from?) JR as usual was suspicious and hostile, Sue Ellen did her best to welcome Jamie into the Ewing fold. One of my fave scenes with Jamie was at one of the annual Ewing barbecues. Jamie and Marilee Stone, an old work associate of the Ewings, face-off next to the swimming pool. Jamie tells Marilee that she reminds her of one of those “drunken sluts my Daddy used to hang out with in bars”, earning a slap from Marilee in return. Jamie announces: “I’ve had it with you” and proceeds to push Marilee into the pool! Poor old Jamie ended up dying in a mountaineering accident later on. Gosh, life’s short when you’re from Texas isn’t it?

Mandy Winger (Deborah Shelton). Slutty but attractive model who had an affair with JR. She also went to work for Sue Ellen as the “Valentine” girl, modeling lingerie. When Sue Ellen gets wind of the affair she sends Mandy out of town and out of her and JR’s life. However profits start to flag for Valentine Lingerie and Sue Ellen realizes she has no choice but to re-hire Mandy, who willingly comes back, saying that she only wants to help Sue Ellen achieve success. Little does she know that Mandy is plotting to get back with JR. Once Sue Ellen twigs she summons Mandy to her office and terminates her contract in one fell swoop – one of my favourite ever Dallas scenes, in which Sue Ellen subjects randy Mandy to a fabulous put-down, telling her: "You're nothing more than a disposable piece of facial tissue". Fiddle-dee-dee!

Kristen Shepherd (Mary Crosby). Sue-Ellen's power hungry, conniving sister who sh*agged JR and...was the real person responsible for his shooting! This only came out into the open later. Of course the bad don’t go unpunished and Kristen later ended up very dead, floating in the Ewing swimming pool.

Katherine Wentworth (Morgan Brittany). Yet another soap bitch and a great villainess who deserved more screen time than she got. Pam’s half-sister, she was a conniving madam who fell in love with Bobby and did everything in her power to split him and Pam up. When Bobby resisted her charms she shot him. However this wasn’t the end of Katherine and when Pam ended up in hospital after her car crash, she turned up again in tres camp hat and veil attire, claiming to have reformed. We all knew she was lying and Bobby told her to sling her hook. And she did. Rather too willingly.

Angelica Nero (Barbara Carrera). Probably the campest, craziest, most glamorous and fabulous villain ever to grace "Dallas" (why are all the best baddies women?) Anyone remember Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush in “Never Say Never Again”? This was a similarly delicious performance from Ms Carrera. She appeared in the “Dream” series (rather appropriate seeing as she was so larger than life) as a glamorous shipping magnate who tried to entice JR into a deal but was really plotting bad stuff. At the end of the season an embittered Angelica plants several bombs in a bid to destroy JR and the Ewings. One bomb blows up Jamie in her car (although of course she came back alive and well next season – it’s all too confusing) and another goes off in the Ewing office as Sue Ellen walks in!! (But again it was all a fantasy…) And I love the bit when Angelica is dragged off by the Police screeching: “It’s too late JR, IT’S TOO LATE!” Class.

Gosh. I think that was my longest post EVER. Or ev-aaah as they might say in Texas. It was mighty fine of y'all to read it. So long, partners!!

PS - A special message to High Camp Caress Morell - if you're reading this, I hope this proves my soap credentials, darling! Proof that I don't always write about "Dr Who" - honest!

Bring back Dallas


The other night, I was delighted to watch Justin Lee Collins presenting "Bring Back Dallas" in which he travelled to the USA on a ten day mission to reunite the stars of the glamorous Texan soap opera. The whole thing was great fun to watch, particularly for those of us who were into "Dallas" like me - I was an avid viewer during its heydey. And I kind of like Justin too - I know he gets on some people's nerves but his passion for all things cheesey and retro has obvious resonance with me (a couple of years ago he did a great "Bring Back The Christmas Hit Single" show in which he met people like Jona Lewie, David Essex and Liz Mitchell from Boney M).

Throughout the show we saw Justin in hot pursuit of the biggest stars of "Dallas" - Larry Hagman (JR), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen), Patrick Duffy (Bobby), Ken Kercheval (Cliff) and even the actor who played the "ugly baby Christopher", Bobby and Pam's daughter! What was amazing to behold was how all of the actors and actresses readily conceded to give nutcase Justin so much of their time (a hefty paycheck surely must have been involved?) But it was also great to see all of the stars waxing lyrical about their time on the show and many interesting stories were told. They also looked much older - Linda Gray is stil holding up well but has a definite turkey neck; Ken Kercheval looked very white and thin and Larry Hagman looked pretty frail too! Still "Dallas" was a long time ago. What was disappointing though was that Justin's ultimate aim - to persuade the stars to attend his very own Oil Baron's ball - wasn't fulfilled. With the exception of ugly Christopher (now looking not quite so ugly as an adult) no-one else turned up! Boooo!! Not very sporting or considerate of them...What would Miss Ellie have said?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Positively Warholian

I've never been much of an art connoisseur, but I do know what I like. And one artist I have always had a soft spot for is Andy Warhol. His pop culture art has been derided by some and viewed as "not very good". Admittedly Warhol's work isn't highly complex art - a child could probably produce stuff like his e.g. photos or pictures which have been painted over, coloured in or given a lurid day glo effect. But they have a striking quality of their own and in their own way are chic, stunning and sophisticated. Regardless of what others might think, I LOVE WARHOL'S IMAGES. The famous Marilyn Munroe picture is a case in point.

And a few years ago my Mum gave me an Andy Warhol "Divas" calendar for Christmas which I loved - images of Judy Garland, Liza "with a Zee" Minnelli, Aretha Franklin, Joan Collins - fabulous! I loved it so much that when the year was over I cut up the images and made them into a framed poster, which now hangs on our living room wall:

Anyhoo, a while back, my nefarious blogger-in-crime Minge did an interesting post on a Warhol website that he'd found - you can give your own images the Warhol treatment and/or turn yourself into a work of art! It's like, totally groovy maaan! The results of which can be seen in my new profile avatar...which I hope you like.

Don't be shy, give the Warholizer a try. I want to see you all looking colourful and funky, dudes and divas.

(And there's also this equally groovy associated site in which you can do many other creative things).

Set the controls for the heart of the sun...

...is probably the crew of the S.S. Pentalion's LEAST ever favourite song (it's by Pink Floyd you know) .Unpleasant associations and all that.Yep, last Saturday's episode of "Who" had an exciting and intriguing premise - the Dr and Martha land on board a freighter which has been mysteriously sabotaged and programmed to crash into the heart of a nearby sun in some 42 minutes. To make matters worse, one of the crew members is possessed by an unknown entity and starts acting very strangely. As Dr Who episodes run to approximately 45 minutes a unique selling point of this episode was that it took place in "real time". (Well, almost. I think the timing did go awry in places and wasn't always "to the clock"). However despite such a promising idea, the delivery didn't work and this has definitely proved to be the worst story of the season so far for me. And here was me saying last time that there hadn't been a bad episode yet!! Spoke too soon, didn't I...

Not that "42" was terrible - far from it - I just found the whole thing relentlessly average. Here was a story with the potential to keep the audience on the edge of their seats - a crew in peril, desperately trying to escape a life and death situation (and how much more life-threatening can you get than being burnt up by the sun!) with a malevolent alien force on board in the guise of a human, killing off the crew one by one. Sound familiar? Rather than being a worthy tribute, "42" came off very much as a poor man's version of "Alien".

One of the problems for me was the lack of tension - when the Dr and Martha first arrive on board the Pentalion and met some of the crew they all seemed very laid back about the fact that they were shortly going to die! There just wasn't a strong enough feeling of panic amongst the characters considering they had less than 42 minutes left to live - let alone stress, terror, fear! In fact, the crew only seemed spurred into taking action by the Dr's arrival and suggestions! Were they incapable of taking the initiative themselves? Throughout the episode there were too many bits when people were standing around talking - e.g. McDonnell speaking about her husband - and one couldn't help thinking "Erm, excuse me, have you got time for this? You're all about to cark it!" I've heard of being calm in the face of a crisis, but really...There was something about the momentum of the plot which just didn't EXCITE enough. It DID get a bit more tense toward the end, with the Dr desperately trying to save Martha and Riley from burning up in the jettisoned pod, and then a bit later Riley and Orin frantically trying to start the auxiliary engines with about a minute to spare, but these scenes came too late.

And I know I'm being a fusspot, but considering that this was a ship just over half an hour away from crashing into the scorching hot sun, shouldn't the crew have been roasting just a bit more? So they covered Michelle Collins and co in some muck and baby oil to give the "sweaty effect" (something my fellow blogger Steve rather liked, particularly with regard to Ms Collins) but it was pretty tame really. They all should have been stripped half naked from the sheer heat (and no, that isn't just my sexual fantasies coming out, besides the only attractive crew member for me was Riley and even he wasn't that gorgeous, not as much as Reggie Yates anyway - but I won't go down that road again...) And given the ship's very, very close proximity to the sun, shouldn't it have been bucking and shaking about all over the place? Logically, in the last few minutes, with impact so close, the ship's systems would have totally broken down and a lot of the craft would have melted/broken up by that point (especially as the heat shields were totally f*cked!) But no - the crew were still able to get away in the nick of time! The stuff of cartoons. Of course, yes, I'm being your regular critical old Cheeser for the one billioneth time, and I know a lot of sci-fi is highly, highly improbable (a police box travelling through time and space anyone? Bigger on the inside than the outside? Get away with you, Vera!) But, still. A little bit of credibility wouldn't go amiss, now would it?

Okay, whilst I'm wittering on like so I might as well continue with a few more gripes! Just a few more, I promise...(It seems to be the style of my reviews really - get the moans out of the way first...) The plot with Martha and Riley trying to open all the password sealed doors - some 29 - to reach the auxillary engines was erm...a little hard to stomach. I mean, would a spacecraft really have such hard-to-crack security? What made this even less believable was Riley's comment that the answers to the questions had been set by a previous crew no longer working on the ship - so how on earth were the current crew meant to know what they were?! This whole idea was obviously meant to up the ante - let's make it as hard as we can for the crew to reach the engines! - but in a very contrived fashion.

What about the the characters and performances? Competent. However I didn't find Ms Collins gutsy or tough enough as the ship's captain, McDonnell. Mind you she did acquit herself at the end by making such a noble sacrifice, jettisoning the possessed Korwin and herself from the airlock - a Ripley-type moment actually - similar to what happens at the end of Alien 3! But overall she was too soapey and Cindy Beale-ish - all of her best dialogues were about her husband which kind of limited her character and she seemed too content to follow the Dr, rather than being a strong decision maker herself. I just didn't believe in her as a ship's captain. Perhaps not entirely Ms C's fault, blame writer Chris Chibnall too! Miaow. Still, this episode was considerably better than the some of the totally cack stories he wrote for the last series of "Torchwood". Double miaow.

The remainder of the crew weren't, I feel, fleshed out enough and didn't get sufficient air time to make them into fully rounded characters. However I do acknowledge this is problematic in 45 minute episodes. One character who stood out from the rest and was allowed some development was Riley - a good, sensitive performance by William Ash. The sub-plot with Martha and Riley opening the doors and then getting jettisoned in the escape pod, whilst contrived, at least allowed for more of a focus on these characters. Martha's realisation that she might never see her family again was quite well done and her phone call to her Mum was a touching moment (although wouldn't/shouldn't she have called the rest of her family too? Bad girl). We also got to find out a bit more about Riley and his loneliness. And nice that Martha assumed he might have had a girlfriend OR boyfriend too. What a modern and forward-thinking girl she is.

But again, considering that the escape pod almost got consumed by the sun why did it look as though Martha and Riley were nice and cool inside? They should have been bloody scorched!

And then there was the evil presence on the ship. It was a nicely unusual twist that the sun itself was possessing people - a living organism that was angry people were using it for fuel - an interesting idea/slant that could have been explored further. The "burn with me" phrase was quite effective and scary too. And the bits where the possessed characters had glowing eyes - including the Dr! - were creepy. If I was a five year old, I'd probably have been petrified.

Another positive aspect of the episode was that it gave the Dr a real chance to shine and prove himself. From the moment the TARDIS landed on the Pentalion, he was at his most decisive and scientific best, going straight into problem-solving mode. As soon as he and Martha arrived the Doc was desperately trying to figure a way out of the situation, brainstorming lots of solutions and ideas. He also proved to be a real hero when saving Martha from burning to death inside the pod (even though again, he really should have been roasted alive when he stepped out of the airlock door. Ah well...) And he was quite convincing when possessed by the sun, showing a rare moment of vulnerability when he told Martha "I'm so scared"!

As for Martha - dare I say I actually found her quite wooden on occasion and a bit annoying at times although as I said her scenes with Riley were quite good. I thought she was a bit mean to Riley at the end though, not really acknowledging his feelings considering that they'd almost died together, but at least she granted him a kiss by way of recompense. Her "very hot" comment was also funny.

Whatever the shortcomings of the story it also can't be denied that there were lots of great visuals. Kudos to director Graeme Harper and the visual/special effects team for that! I thought that Graeme H did a particularly good job with the lighting, making the spaceship look like a proper industrial environment and at least conveying some impression of heat with the orange/red hue on the camera. The engine room set looked a bit crap though. There were some truly memorable shots, particularly the one of the Dr in his spacesuit outside the Pentalion, gazing at the sun, with the fire-like rays of the sun reflecting in the visor of his helmet. Magical stuff.

And meanwhile, events were unfolding back on Earth, involving that suspicious old sour puss Francine Jones. Yes, we thought Martha's Mum was having a perfectly innocent conversation with her daughter on the phone, but no! Her calls were being monitored by a "Sinister Woman" in her lounge. Not the Avon lady or an Anne Summers rep, but an associate of the enigmatic - and as yet, unseen - Mr Saxon. I actually liked the Francine sub-plot more than the spaceship main-plot, even though it didn't take up much screen time.

The whole thing was deliciously sinister, mainly due to the presence of the aforementioned "Sinister Woman" played by Eliza Du Toit, who managed to convey genuine menace in just a few lines: "Thanks for all you're doing, Mrs Jones. Mr Saxon will be VERY grateful." Mmm, very mysterious! (And how I love it when they give minor characters names like that - "Strange Man", "Old Perv", "Drunken Old Dyke", "Abusive ABBA fan" - you get the picture).

So. In a nutshell not a terrible episode - it had a fair amount to redeem it - but not one that I'll be rushing to watch again. I'm looking forward to Human Nature next week though, the first of another two parter. It's written by Paul Cornell, who did such a great job on "Father's Day" in Season One. And it looks like a classy affair, set in England 1913 with the Dr - gasp! - deciding to give up the ways of a Time Lord to become human and - double gasp!! - settling down to marry an Earthwoman, played by Jessica Hynes (Stevenson) of "Spaced" fame! The Doc? Getting hitched?! What will that love-struck creature Martha Jones think about this? Is this the end of the road for the Time Lord? Tune in next time and find out! Dah dah dahhhh!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

First day!!

Well. Today was my first day in my brand new job. And it all seemed to go pretty well. Admittedly it was a shock to the system getting out of bed this morning. OMG! The tube! Commuters! People reading The Metro! The hustle and bustle!

Actually the location of my workplace is pretty central (Bloomsbury - close to the West End), not to0 hard to get to and a very pleasant area indeed. No longer am I in the City but the heart of student land/academia which I think I much prefer. Today was gloriously sunny and warm so I made the most of the splendid weather and headed outside at lunchtime - there's a massive park on the other side of the road and lots of lovely cafes close by. Plus a rather classy new shopping precinct that's wasn't there before (not since I was last in the area anyway - must have been ages ago then). So erm, I will have to watch I don't fritter away all my new earnings in the shops. And Gay's The Word is just down the road!

My team seem hard-working and committed and my new manager is very lovely and helpful. The workload looks like it's going to be pretty heavy but I much prefer to be kept busy than sitting twiddling my thumbs. So here's to employment!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Jack's back!!

Oooer missus! It's the return of that saucy space Captain, Jack Harkness!

John Barrowman guested on Jonathan Ross' chatshow last Friday night and was his usual cheeky, flirty self. There were also some very amusing shenanigans with supermodel
Janice Dickinson (who Barrowman and Andrew Lloyd Webber both insulted) and at one point Barrowman proffered his bottom to Ms Dickinson! This man likes it all ways.

And to whet our appetites John presented a little "taster" from the forthcoming episode Dr Who
"Utopia" in which he's scheduled to re-join the Dr on his travels. Hoorah! I can't wait. I hope however that he's going to be the jolly, fun-loving self Captain Jack that we saw in Season One rather than the more po-faced, take-myself-too-seriously version we got in the quality-challenged "Torchwood". The clip seems to pick up exactly where Torchwood left off - with Jack abruptly leaving the hub when he hears that all too familiar TARDIS sound! And it all looks very exciting.

Geeky me can't help but raise a few points though:


- The bit when Jack runs toward the TARDIS. If you watch carefully in one shot he's almost right next to the police box, yet in the next shot he does an amazing dive/jump over a fairly large amount of space (in his desperation to catch the dematerialising TARDIS!) This doesn't make sense!


- The Dr clearly sees Jack on his monitor and then operates the controls to dematerialise!! Mmmm! Not very nice, Doc! Why is this?? Does he think Jack will be too much of a liability? Does he still feel guilty about leaving Jack behind before and doesn't want the aggro of having to explain his actions? I hope all is properly explained!


- Jack hanging onto the TARDIS whilst it hurtles through the time/space vortex! Erm, excuse me but is this physically possible? I was also going to add that no living being would be able to breath in this situation. But then, Torchwood viewers will remember that old Jack is now immortal and cannot die! (Remember the episode
"Out of Time" when Jack sits with the guy who asphyxiates on car exhaust fumes, whilst he remains totally unharmed?) I guess this is how they'll explain that one...It's a funny image though. Anyway watch and enjoy! And roll on "Utopia"...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Video of the Fortnight - Michael Jackson - Billie Jean

Poor old Michael Jackson. He comes in for a lot of flack these days. His musical output has dwindled and the little that he has produced in the last few years hasn't exactly been brilliant. And physically he's not looking .... great. He's also been the butt of several million child-molestation jokes. Which ahem, I'm ashamed to say I have actually found screamingly funny, so much so that I posted some of them on this blog.

Anyway. Back in the early 1980s MJ was riding on the crest of the musical wave. And he was still looking relatively normal, rather handsome in fact. "Off The Wall" and "Thriller" are actually two of my favourite albums and certainly illustrate Michael at his best, when he was working with producer Quincy Jones.

"Billie Jean" still sounds brilliant - it's funky, danceable and soulful with a great beat. Simple but elegant. And the accompanying video is a blast.

I love the look to this video - the "city" set/backdrop at night. There's obviously matte paintings in the background but I like the atmosphere and vibe that the set evokes - Michael dancing on the fringes of the city, at night time.

And who is Michael in this video? Someone with supernatural powers who can turn tramps into rich, well-dressed gentlemen! How useful! Someone who can disappear into thin air at will, to the consternation of the detective who's stalking him! And I wish I could make the pavement light up like that, truly awesome! Anyway all of these effects lend an air of magic to the video that I really like.

Michael himself is looking pretty good - back in the days when his skin was still, erm, brown, and is wearing quite a camp little outfit! Pink shirt and matching socks and Fred Astaire type shoes eh? But he still manages to pull it all off, stylish fella that he is!

As for the storyline, I haven't the foggiest what's going on. The lyrics don't quite match with the video. But never mind, that's what 80s videos were often about.

The Nutty Professor

...could have been another name for last week's installment of Dr Who - "The Lazarus Experiment". Except it doesn't have quite the same adult ring to it. And it's already been used in a couple of puerile Eddie Murphy movies (miaow). However the perennial concept of the mad scientist, whose invention goes berserk, is familiar dramatic territory to many of us. In the latest episode Mark Gatiss played the aforementioned Professor, Richard Lazarus. Lucky Mark - he can now claim the joint distinction of having acted in AND written for Dr Who, his authorial contributions being last season's "The Idiot's Lantern" and "The Unquiet Dead" the season before! Not only that but he's also a been a longtime fan of Dr Who since the original broadcast of the show - so it must be a dream come true to be so closely involved with the programme now. Something I would aspire to myself!

Anyway, back to the plot...well, the Professor of the title claims that he "will change what it means to be human"! It transpires that Martha's sister Tish is actually working as Professor Lazarus' PA and the Dr, Martha, Tish, Mum Francine and brother Leo all attend a black tie event at Lazarus Laboratories. There they are privy to an unveiling of the Professor's new invention - a rejuvenation machine with the power to reverse the human aging process - with the Prof as the first willing "guinea pig". After the machine malfunctions and almost explodes, the Dr manages to halt it just in time for the Professor to emerge, apparently reborn as a much younger man. But the experiment hasn't gone as smoothly as the Professor hoped for and soon he mutates into a hideous, primordial monster...

On first viewing I felt distinctly underwhelmed by "The Lazarus Experiment". It was certainly entertaining enough, though rather predictable and derivative. On second viewing I liked it much more and picked up on lots of good bits I hadn't noticed first time round.

Certainly the concept and execution weren't desperately original, stealing ideas from horror movies like "The Fly" and the classic Victorian shocker "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde". The whole idea of an experiment gone wrong, whilst utilised many times before, has great dramatic potential and holds a kind of horrible fascination I think. It was a shame therefore that the Professor mutated into the monster so early on in the narrative - it didn't come as much of a shock and seemed to happen very quickly and suddenly. I think it would have been much more effective if we'd seen the Prof going through gradual changes, slowly turning into something monstrous, unable to control his transformations and - too late - realising the folly of his actions. Which leads to another point - the Professor didn't seem atall remorseful or worried that his experiment had gone so drastically wrong! Surely turning into a giant insect-like creature all the time was not the, erm, intended outcome of the experiment, rather, to stay young - so how could the Prof say that it was a success?! Was he totally delusional? In the climactic scenes he told the Dr that "avoiding death is part of being successful" but could he honestly claim that this was the way he'd wanted things to turn out? It didn't really wash.

I also thought that the scene in which the Lazarus monster went crashing through the party amongst all the guests was kind of silly - was it really sensible for him to "reveal" himself like that - surely he wasn't going to be accepted that way?

Anyway, that's the negative stuff out of the way. In spite of my misgivings, there was still a lot to enjoy. Cliched though the plot was, it was exciting to watch and there were some good scenes, dialogue and performances.

Mark Gatiss put in a great turn as the slimy and arrogant Professor, making for a convincing villain and it was clear that he was relishing the role. He did look rather camp and golden as his rejuvenated self. His perviness with Tish was amusing and unsettling and I liked his sparring scenes with the Dr, with each arguing their corner. And whilst he did ham it up a bit "I am 76 years old!!!" he never slipped into pantomime theatrics in the mould of say, Anthony Ainley.

Also interesting to watch - although sadly short on screen time - was the Prof's relationship with Lady Thaw, his business partner (and wife? In which case shouldn't she have been called Lady Lazarus? Eat your heart out, Sylvia Plath). She was again well acted by Thelma Barlow, who was primly posh and a million miles away from Mavis "I don't really know!" Wilton. Like her name, she seemed a brittle and cold sort but you couldn't help but sympathise when the Professor informed her that he wasn't attracted to her any more: "You think I'd waste another life time on you?" Nice. A real shame that Lady T got devoured so soon, as her character had a lot of potential! Going back to my earlier suggestion about the Professor's mutation process being a bit more slowly unveiled, perhaps they could have had Lady T gradually grasping the horrible truth of what had happened to her partner instead ...This would have worked much better than having her bumped off so quickly.

And lo and behold the Jones clan were back! As I said in my review of "Smith and Jones" I've had definite reservations about the inclusion of yet another family-of-the-companion in Dr Who. However this time round the Jones characters seemed to slot quite well into the narrative and their presence wasn't too obtrusive, thankfully!

Gugu Mbataha-Raw put in a decent enough performance as sister Tish and played quite an important part in proceedings. However what I couldn't work out was why she was so obviously repulsed by Lazarus in the early stages and then all over him later on. Or was this meant to exemplify the fickleness of her character - someone who obviously judged people by appearances and saw the Prof as her ticket to fame and fortune? On the other hand she did redeem herself at the end by helping the Dr and Martha to defeat the Professor/monster and - literally - giving Martha a helping hand to stop her from falling to her death. That's what sisters are for, eh?

Reggie Yates as Leo was good but woefully underused. He seems like the "nice guy" but wasn't given anything remotely useful to do in the episode. I can definitely see him as a potential action hero or strong man in the Captain Jack vein, so the scriptwriters need to push him in that direction. And mmm, what a cutie he is! Can we have a scene with Leo tied to a chair in his boxers, like Mickey, last season, please? Or stripped naked and probed by some perverted aliens? Perhaps Mr Saxon will have his way with him in the season finale. Okay I will desist now but one can live in hope...And come now peeps, you've got to let me entertain a few fantasies. David Tennant has never really done it for me...

I digress. Finally there was Adjoa Andoh as the over solicitous and not very likable Francine, mother of Martha. Like Jackie Tyler she's understandably concerned for her daughter's welfare and consequently suspicious of this stranger called the Dr but I found her something of a cold, hard-faced cow! Still I suppose you have to cut the woman some slack - if someone employed by a well known politician told you that the man who's hanging out with your daughter was bad news, you'd probably be a little bit bothered too. Francine's slapping of the Dr nicely mirrored Jackie's actions in Season One, leading to the Dr's amusingly wry comment: "All their mothers. Every time". Anyway I hope Francine sees the error of her ways and mellows a bit later on. Jackie at least came round to the idea of her daughter travelling through time and space with a strange fella. Francine doesn't know about the time and space bit yet though and one suspects she is rather too much on Mr Saxon's side. Talking of whom, I did like the references to Mr S and the revelation that he was the paymaster behind Lazarus' experiment as well as the fact that he'd obviously employed a lackey to influence people's opinion of the Dr. And why exactly is that we wonder? What's going on there? All will be revealed...

As for the rest of the story, there were some good action/chase sequences. And in a style that reminded me of "Alien" or "The Terminator", several occasions on which you thought the enemy was finished off for good but then - hey presto - sprang back from the dead. Firstly the Dr's failed attempt to blow up the Lazarus monster in the lab. Second the Dr's reversing the polarity (nice old school reference there!) in the rejuvenation chamber, seemingly turning Lazarus back into a dead human. And third, the monster's final proper defeat in Southwark Cathedral, sent plummeting from a great height by the hypersonicsound waves emanating from the cathedral's organ. Played by the Dr, always there to save the day. Incidentally the climatic bits in the cathedral were genuinely exciting, with Martha and Tish leading the lascivious Lazarus up the stairs to the bell tower for a gripping dangling-on-the-edge finale. Thank goodness the Dr pumped up the organ just in time. No comments, purlease.

And the monster itself? Welllll, whilst he/it looked appropriately revolting in a Seth Brundle-fly kind of way, the head that was grafted on to the the front of it did look very unreal and nothing like Mark Gatiss! It was good however that we were given a decent explanation as to why Lazarus kept mutating into this particular creature - a dormant gene in Lazarus' DNA that evolution had rejected millions of years ago, but now unlocked by the rejuvenation process - kind of like some prehistoric version of man gone wrong.

I liked the opening and closing scenes set in Martha's flat, which worked well as a kind of prologue and epilogue to the adventure and there was some nice dialogue between the Doc and Martha. This was supposed to be the point at which the Dr left Martha at home for good, but owing to the fact that Freema Agyeman is in every story this season we always knew this wasn't going to be the case! Freema was good at conveying Martha's sadness at being "left" by the Dr. The expression on her face as the TARDIS dematerialised, leaving her alone in her lounge, was genuinely sad. (Although for me her performance was nowhere near as strong as say, Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah-Jane, when the Dr leaves her behind for the last time in "School Reunion" - she did it so much better!) And it was good to see Martha's delight when the Dr subsequently returns, seconds later, his curiosity piqued by the news report in which Lazarus claims that he will change what it means to be human! The coda scene at the end provided an appropriate conclusion with Martha asserting: "I don't want to be just a passenger any more" to which the Dr replies: "Okay". And Martha, getting the wrong end of the stick, thinks he means, okay goodbye, when in fact his intention is the opposite! The Dr's admission "You never really were just a passenger, were you?" was a bit of a coup - blimey, does this mean that the spectre of Rose Tyler is finally going to fade away for good? About bloody time! I also forgot to mention in my review of "Evolution of the Daleks" that Martha's continual mooning over the Dr is starting to grate a lot - viz: the conversation she had with Tallulah where she admits frustration over not being able to compete with Rose - I wish they would just kill the subject dead once and for all!

As for the regulars, Martha was shown to be resourceful and using her intelligence yet again - the scene where she finds the controls that opens the doors to Lazarus Laboratories and her quick realisation that the Professor's kiss on her hand had provided an instant DNA sample. Like the Prof's kiss, those medical lessons have obviously rubbed off. She also proved to be quick-witted in acting as a distraction for the Professor, with her and Tish leading him up the bell tower after them. And it was also great to see Martha in a totally different outfit for a change - she looked gorgeous in that black cocktail dress with headband and her hair down. About time though- that red jacket and top she'd worn in all the previous stories must have been seriously grubby and stinky by the end of the Dalek story. As a trainee Dr one would have thought that Ms Jones understood the importance of hygiene!

David T was on form too. I think the only story where I've found him mildly irritating so far in this season was the opener, "Smith and Jones", the rest of the time he's been pretty good and he seems very established in the role now. The Dr's face-off scenes with Lazarus were good, with some excellent verbal exchanges that gave the story a serious, thought-provoking aspect. "It's not the time that matters, it's the person...facing death is part of being human" was the Dr's response to the Professor's declaration that a person can do more in 2 or 3 lifetimes. Particularly impressive was his long speech at the end, surely drawn from his own experience: "A longer life isn't always a better one - in the end you just get tired - tired of the struggle - tired of losing everyone that matters to you - tired of watching everything turn to dust. If you live long enough Lazarus, the only certainty left is that you'll live alone." Very poignant and a lesson to be observed there! Not only has the Dr lived for several centuries and changed his appearance some nine times, he's also seen his home planet destroyed. So he has to live with the knowledge that he's the very last of his kind. Yep he's certainly been through it. It's no wonder he chooses to have a companion to accompany him on his travels to ease the burden of loneliness. It was a pity then that this wasn't linked a bit more closely to that final scene with Martha - given the Dr's admission to Lazarus it would have kind of made sense for him to tell Martha that he needed and appreciated her company.

So whilst formulaic, derivative and predictable in some respects, "The Lazarus Experiment" still had enough elements to make it an enjoyable and entertaining story. I'm pleased to say that - in my view anyway- there hasn't been a single duff episode yet this season! Let's hope this upward trend continues.

Oh and one final thing - I loved the "teaser" trailer for the remaining stories this season, that was provided at the end. Kind of an apology from the Beeb for the fact that Eurovision was holding back Dr Who for two weeks. So I should hope! And wow, lots of interesting looking bits - scarecrows coming to life, sinister looking schoolboys, Captain Jack doing an athletic jump and asking if someone had just kissed him and...John Simm looking very scary in a gas mask, banging the sound of a heartbeat out on a table! What could that be all about?

Yep, this has been yet another extraordinarily elongated Dr Who review from yours truly, La Cheeser! Thanks for reading it. That's all folks! (Until "42" that is...)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Joke of the week...

....is taking a little break. In the meantime, here is some light, cheesy, Radio 2 style music...

Cue The Carpenters, Cat Stevens, Beverley Craven et al...


That clown creeps me out though.

And if you do have any decent jokes, don't hesitate to send them my way...

I gotta job!!

Yep, you heard right. After 6 weeks of unemployment, stopping at home and being a gentlemen of leisure I've finally landed myself a proper job. Hip hip hooray!!

Actually to be precise it's only a five month contract, but hey, work is better than no work. It's an editor role at a London university, working on undergraduate publications. The lady who interviewed for me for the job was actually very blunt and told me that the work is quite boring! Mmmm. Then again as it's only a short contract I'm not tied to staying there forever and can always move onto other things afterwards. On the plus side it may well give me the chance to gain some new skills - although I did some editing in my previous position it was only one aspect of the role, but in this job it's the crux, so I hopefully will learn more about that and gain some other experience too! It will also look good on my CV to have done some editing work. And the university is a big place with lots of colleges and campuses spread across the city, so who knows, it could lead to other work opportunities. And the old adage that it's easier to find a job when you're already working is I think very true.

I know some of you are probably thinking, why doesn't he have more time off? Why the hell does he want to rush back into a job when he got all that redundancy money? Well, the truth is I've actually started to get quite restless and even depressed sitting at home day after day. The last few weeks have become a blur. Yeah, so I've had some nice breaks and trips away. And I've been able to treat myself to a few nice things with the money. Like laser printers and holidays to Brazil. And the odd DVD or too. I recently purchased the Alien Quadrilogy (excellent, Gustavo and I watched Alien last night), Pleasantville and Clue amongst others! Woohoo!! Though as I mentioned before, sensible moi has bunged the remaining money in a savings account for the flat that I hope Gustavo and I can buy one day. How often do you get a windfall like that? Not very! But the money I've had left has started to run out so it really was time to start thinking about re-entering the world of work, for better or worse...and I'm quite honestly happy to have found something.

So come next Wednesday I will be joining the ranks for commuters on that tube train once again, back amongst the rat race...ho hum. Not looking forward to that part. But it's a new start and a new job with lots of new opportunities! And that IS something to look forward to. And I'm sure I'll make an even more sophisticated, witty, intelligent and glamorous editor than Alexis Morrell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan (pictured above). Though perhaps without so long a name. It wouldn't fit on my CV after all.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Talking 'bout Evolution

My goodness! A rather belated review of "Evolution of the Daleks"!!! What's wrong with me? Well as you might have gathered I have been fairly busy of late...going on trips to Wales and Somerset, applying for jobs and attending interviews, hassling agencies for work, watching Eurovision, going swimming/to the gym..the list goes on...and it's all time-consuming, baby. And in terms of reportage on my blog, these topics have kind of taken precedence! Whaaaaaat? Dr Who doesn't come first?!? Well you know, I don't want to, like, totally alienate my readers by devoting my entire blog space to things 100% Dr Who...80% is surely enough, mais oui? Perhaps I should rename this blog "Diary of a Sad Gay Whovian" or "Journal of a Sci-fi Anorak", but I kinda think that might reduce my appeal...

Anyway...here comes my verdict on the second installment of the recent Dalek two-parter.

And...I'm rather pleased to say that I thought Part Two was considerably better than Part One, pretty damn good in fact!! There was tons of action, drama, moving and scary bits, some great dialogue, emotion, excitement... overall the whole episode revved things far more than in Part One and for me had much more depth. But then, as I said in my previous review, perhaps I was being a tad unfair as the first episode was to some extent setting the scene and establishing things.

First up, the Daleks. I thought they were brill in this episode and back to their chilling, ruthless, destructive selves. And straight off we got an "explanation" as to how the Daleks had managed to escape from modern day London before, yes, it was....drum roll..."emergency temporal shift"!! Wooo!! Erm. Well that's some kind of justification I suppose but not much. I guess we were meant to assume that they'd ended up in 1930s New Yoooick by chance, not just because Dalek Sec had a thing for the Empire State Building and show girls.

The whole Dalek Sec-human-hybrid issue was interestingly handled. As I said before, some fans of the show slammed this idea, claiming that it made the Daleks look "weak" and that they'd never lower themselves by merging with a human being. Yes one could argue that Sec was "tainted" from the point of view of Daleks, who see all emotion as a barrier to achieving power and domination, but wasn't that the whole point? By merging with Mr Diagoras, Sec had bitten off more than he could chew and for me, much of the drama of the episode came from seeing the results of this. Even the Dr was shocked by Sec's comments and the outcome! The fact that Sec started to become increasingly influenced by the human gene was a bit of a foregone conclusion really and put me very much in mind of "Dalek" in the first Christopher Eccleston season of the show. In that episode, a lone Dalek becomes infected with Rose's human DNA and subsequently begins to experience human thoughts and emotions, in the end losing its ability to even kill! In this respect, "Dalek" brought a whole new and I would say, moving, dimension to the portrayal of the Daleks and it was good to see "Evolution" attempting more of the same, without perhaps quite the same level of eloquence that "Dalek" achieved.

I loved some of Sec's scenes, and the growing influence that the human gene has on his character, first of all as he absorbs the negativity aspects of humanity via Mr Diagoras: "I feel humanity ... I feel everything we wanted from mankind ... ambition .... aggression ... hatred ... war" to which the Dr counters: "That's not what humanity means!" But as the human factor starts to affect him more he can't help but admire the humans, for instance when Mr Solomon faces up to the Daleks: "Observe humanity - for all their faults they have courage." He also forbids the Daleks from exterminating the Dr (something the old Sec would never have done) and admits that the murder of the humans in Hooverville was "wrong". !! As the Dr said: "Is it me, or are you just becoming more human?" But again we were given decent justification for why the Daleks had chosen to use humans - after their attempt to grow their own embryos failed, they were forced to conclude that human beings were the greatest "resource" on the planet (nice way of putting it!) and so had stashed away lots of frozen humans ready to be infected with Dalek DNA. And surely Dalek humans would be a much more attractive and sensible proposition than Dalek pigs, sheep or cows? (Actually pigs would be off the list, as the Daleks have already got a whole loada porkers as their servants haven't they - it would kind of confuse the Master and Servant issue, methinks).

Of course Sec's plans inevitably led him into conflict with his "pure" Dalek comrades who didn't like his ideas one bit, and this made for compelling viewing. The scene in the sewer where two of the Daleks talk was great stuff:

Dalek 1: What is your opinion of Dalek Sec?
Dalek 2: We were created to follow him.
Dalek 1: But you have doubts?

Dalek 2: (swivels head round to look behind him): Affirmative.

The moment when Dalek 2 swivelled his eye stick round to check that no-one was nearby listening was brilliant and
amusing - I laughed out loud - it made them almost human! But like any other race I guess they just want to protect themselves at the end of the day!

And as I said, it was good to see the Daleks reverting to their customary ruthless selves, killing off all the opposition in typically indiscriminate fashion. The scenes in which two elevating Daleks fly into attack Hooverville were breathtaking and edge of the seat stuff. They looked truly menacing as they flew around the camp, zapping people, blowing everything and everyone up. "The devil in the sky!" as one of the characters cries. The confrontation between Soloman and the Daleks was totally nail-biting and I was just waiting for something horrible to happen to him. And then the poor guy gets exterminated to the horror of everyone else.

The Dr's disgust and anger at Soloman's death were even more palpable, telling the Daleks to kill him: "So it's my turn - then kill me if it'll stop you from attacking these people! Do it! Just do it!!" I've found David Tennant very shrill in the past and his tendency to shout can be annoying, but here it was justified and he was totally believable in his performance. The Dr's decision to go with the Daleks back to their laboratory only on condition that all of the humans were spared was also well played and a testimony to the Dr's compassion and sense of justice. I also liked his anger with Sec: "Those people were defenceless!"

The Daleks also got to shine toward the end of the story in the final climactic showdown in the theatre, with the new human/Dalek army poised and ready to kill the Dr, Martha and co. Again there was some great dramatic tension and dialogue between the Doc and the Daleks:

Dalek: You will die Dr at the beginning of a new age!

Dr: Oh what a world - with just anything the slightest bit different ground into the dirt. That's Dalek Sec - don't you remember? The cleverest Dalek ever and look at what you've done to him!

By the way the Dr was referring to the fact that the Daleks had now turned against Sec and chained him up....nice eh? And then they exterminate him!

Dr: Your own leader. The only creature who might have lead you out of the darkness and you destroyed him.

The Dr's appeal to the human Daleks worked well - "Do you see what they do?" - and I loved the face-off between them and the "real " Daleks with laser beams flying across the theatre, reminiscent of Star Wars or something similar. And then came the final showdown with the final existing Dalek, Karn, all of the others having been destroyed in the battle. And guess what, old Karn got away, going into emergency temporal shift again. (And how nice it must be to have that option. Wish I could do that when I miss the last tube home). To be honest I wasn't that surprised though; yet again the writers are leaving it open for another Dalek return. Till next time! However, whilst this latest two parter has proved to be a worthy addition to the catalogue of Dalek stories, I really do think that the pepperpots should be laid to rest for a while. The expression "overkill" does spring to mind! They've been in no less than four stories over the last three years and it's time that another old foe is allowed back into the fold. And a better resurrection than the Macra, please!

So I've rattled on about the dastardly Daleks for long enough. What about the rest of the story? As said, the plot moved on along at a much quicker pace than in Part one and I liked the upping of the ante, not to mention the inclusion of lots of action sequences. A pivotal part of the plot was the Dr's attempt to disable the Dalek transmitter atop the Empire State Building before the all important bolt of lightning struck and the countdown to the moment of doom was cranked up nicely (helped by the Dalek's own narration: "10 rels...") However as my fellow blogger Timewarden has already noted, having the Dr climb up the transmitter to do the deed wasn't exactly an original plot device, having been used not only in last season's Idiot's Lantern, but also the Tom Baker finale extravaganaza Logopolis! Also the fact that the Dr survived such a deadly and relentless electrical assault by the lightning was far-fetched, as was his dropping the sonic screwdriver and Martha miraculously retrieving it. Ho hum. All in a day's work for a time lord I guess.

The army of human Daleks were nicely menacing and suitably drone like, although their manner of walking was rather Cybermen-like (had they been watching some Cybermen keep fit videos?)

And the finale with the Daleks bursting forth onto the theatre stage for a final showdown was great (although I couldn't quite work out how they managed to get from their laboratory to there - did they fly? And I suppose the Daleks doing the Charleston was out of the question). The amount of deaths in the story as a whole were considerable and you were left with the feeling that way too many innocent people had ended up slain. What was even more horrible to see (and yet another testimony to the Daleks' "don't give a shit" attitude) was the deaths of the Dalek humans - once they were no longer useful, they were killed - and the Dr couldn't help but comment on this: "Genocide". Oh no, I've ended up talking about the those precious pepperpots again haven't I? But the point I'm trying to make is that all of this made for a powerful story, not one that you could just forget about, certainly not after all the senseless deaths and killing that had transpired. Martha and the others definitely seemed affected by it all which was a totally understandable reaction - this had surely been Martha's most trying and through-the-grinder adventure to date, and with all the death and destruction not an experience she could claim she fully enjoyed!

Conversely, the concluding scenes seemed to jarr with this, with the Dr, Martha, Tallulah and Lazlo all sharing smiles and laughs outside in the park - all much too jolly and unrealistic considering the bloodshed and slaughter that had gone before - everyone seemed to snap back into happy mode and forget what had happened far too quickly. Tegan in Resurrection of the Daleks didn't react like this! She was horrified by all the chaos and killing wreaked by the Daleks and as a result decided to cease being the Dr's travelling companion and stay on Earth! Similarly, after what she experienced in '30s New York, I would have expected Martha to ask the Dr to take her back home for a break and maybe even a parting of the ways (and we knew Martha was due to return to modern day Earth in the forthcoming story anyway) but the writers seemed to miss out on such an opportunity. Never mind.

All that aside, the cast all put in very solid and credible performances. David Tennant rose to the occasion with aplomb and as I mentioned before, portrayed his anger and frustration with his adversaries convincingly. I liked his dialogues with Sec and the Daleks (some of which I've mentioned previously)- this was the Doc at his impassioned, justice-seeking best. It was also good to see him refusing to succumb to his anger over Dalek Karn's escape and rousing himself to save Lazlo: "No more deaths!" And my Grace Brothers reference - regarding the Dalek coming out of the lift - was eerily mirrored in the Dr's "First floor perfumery!" A tad flippant perhaps.

Martha was used to good effect again, locating the Dalekanium on the mast and using the pipes to electrocute hordes of pig servants as they came up in the lift - good going, girlfriend! But her humanity came through when she admitted her unhappiness at having to kill the pigs. And as I said, all of the killing and destruction that went on clearly unnerved her.

I also liked Martha's scenes with Tallulah - the bit when they both shout "Dalekanium" was amusing if corny. And Tallulah remained her likeable self in this episode, with more of her New Yoooick wisecracks, for example, when she and Martha discussed the Dr: "He's a man sweetheart, they're different enough". And later on in the theatre I liked her line: "Dr, I know you've got a thing for showtunes but there's a time and a place"!

As for the character of Lazlo, whilst I was glad to see that he survived to tell the tale, I really couldn't help wondering what kind of relationship he and Tallulah would have from thereon. The Pig and The Showgirl??

There was also some great special effects and performances from the rest of the cast.

Overall then, a very thought-provoking, well-paced and action-packed episode. I loved it!