Archive for July, 2009

The Family Jewels, part one

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009


Okay, changes on a large scale took place over the course of Children of Earth and the Torchwood Cardiff we all knew and loved/dreaded and heckled is quite the different beast. Different line-up, different organisation, and most likely a different base. As you have probably guessed, I’m keeping things vague here so nobody’s spoiled, but for those of you who have seen the story and are in the know, what do YOU think the future of Torchwood is, given the enormous ratings success that it had and the potential for the series to continue?

There’s the immediate issue of what to do now – 2010 sees Eve Myles starting a family and John Barrowman’s dance card full, so that’s two core cast members unavailable for filming ’til 2011 at least. Time for a spin-off? Should the production team dare to bring in new team members to meet the regulars later? Or could the NEW Torchwood audience be satisfied with a step back in time to anoher team, perhaps one we’ve already seen (George and Harriet? The ones Queen Victoria would refuse to believe existed?). Is it time to go to Scottish Torchwood and meet Archie?

Should we dare a rest for the show after such a tremendous build-up?

Yours suggestions and predictions are, as ever, welcome!


Tie-me Lord

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Here it is – the first pic (sort of) of the new costume.


Didn’t see the bow-tie coming, but the old-school look is good. Brown continues to be a trend.

And who else thought ‘Awakenings’?



The Revision Thing

Friday, July 10th, 2009

I have a minor obsession, and in fandom I don’t think I’m alone in this. There’s a great part of me that, while enjoying past stories and the series’ long and mostly noble on-screen history, can’t resist wondering how it would be if things were ‘tweaked’ a little. By this I don’t mean CG-ing the Menoptra (not really a high priority) or adding a laugh track to Terror of the Vervoids (hmm…), but actually reinventing what we’ve seen and known for years – decades in some examples.


I’m also not talking about change for the sake of change, or as a would-be marketing ploy. I really like the new CG work on the Remastered Star Trek I’ve seen – usually as stills (which for me has never been a forgiving medium for CGI), but I’m aware that some fans have called the move gratuitous and little more than another opportunity to flog stuff die-hards have owned for years. A similar argument was made for the Red Dwarf re-releases. The important thing here is that neither series was greatly changed beyond some cosmetic dabbling. Of course, one might argue that this sort of change isn’t minor at all, and that a story’s looks DO have a bearing on the reception, even in a revisionist sense. Go too far, tweak too much even in defending one’s ‘artistic vision’ and you get the remastered Star Wars trilogy (after which, George Lucas went on to do the reverse of the above and re-release the ‘originals’). Some fans would decry any molestation of a past story to be an affront to its original creators and audience.


Die hard fans get proprietary over the look and feel of the past – in a way we’re as much anchored to it as we are to Billyfluffs and Zarbis colliding with camera equipment. We’ve become so used to them in the early episodes we accepted for years the ‘it was done live!’ defence and forgiven the old series’ shortcomings because some of those same shortcomings have become an essential ingredient of their period. For years Doctor Who was identified by its apparently ‘wobbly sets’ and squeezy bottle spaceships. We’ve become nostalgic for the slightly shoddy, and the new series with its whistles and bells looks strangely uninvolving at times, possibly because it’s too smooth, or doesn’t yet betray these endearingly organic elements. Which brings me to a major observation over the past few years on the late-lamented Restoration Team Forum: namely, what to ‘fix’ and what to leave. For every ‘revisionist’ fan who covets a VidFired Seeds of Death with a nicely silenced Ice Warrior/door lintel head-butt there’s another ‘preservationist’ fan who baulks at those imperfections being airbrushed over and wants to see that boom-mike in shot that they’ve relied on spotting for years. There’s a line between the two, and the RT to my mind do their damnedest to please either side of it – so we get ‘alternative’ CG effects as well as the (often duff and mis-staged) originals. Both the revisionists and the preservationists were on the board vying for the attention of a group of professionals – fans themselves – who just wanted to present old stories in their best light, on a limited budget.


Some fans go even further of course, and take matters into their own hands. Recent history provides memorable examples – negative fan reception to The Phantom Menace begat several versions of The Phantom Edit, a re-cut, retooled version of Lucas’ prequel that removed some of the comedy and exposition (not to mention Midichlorians), reduced baby Anakin’s ‘whoopee’ time and turned Jar-Jar’s patois into believable alien language. Re-edits and ‘corrections’ were also made to Highlander, Matrix and Dune movies. For some time on fans with technical know-how and strong opinions talked of recutting The Lord of the Rings into a narrative that more closely matched that of the book. Budding CG artists have reworked bits of The Five Doctors and some early regeneration scenes and put them on YouTube. Some, regrettably, have been since removed, reminding us that this sort of thing is of course not actually legal, although in the spirit of mash-ups the BBC have largely been understanding over smaller efforts.


So then, I want to save Timelash. I really do. I awaited the new DWM eagerly just to see what this issue’s ‘Fact of Fiction’ covering the story would reveal about it; what was cut from it (and in some cases we could assume, blithely recorded over with Coronation Street by a VHS-recycling JNT), and how the story flows. The answer, although the article is charitable, is that lots was cut in the editing suite and lost forever (seven minutes, but hey they kept the safety belts scene), and there are two endings and neither of them work. The story is flabby in places and its overseas edits had some awful non-cliffhangers fabricated to match a broadcast duration that the BBC wasn’t using itself in 1984. There are duff performances, fragile sets and Santa’s Grotto as a location – but there’s also a story in there I like, and among such small fare as the Colin Baker era, would dearly love to rehabilitate. Timelash isn’t a bad story after all – it’s just a mediocre one written by an amateur, script-edited at gunpoint by a man near the end of his tether, enacted by about fifty-percent of its cast and finally edited in post-production amid some agitation between its director and its producee. Some might say not an atypical Doctor Who story then. My ambitions involve a shorter story, more Herbert, some better modelwork, a topping and tailing of some scenes, perhaps some CGI or lens-flaring on the dreaded box of tinsel, and maybe even a re-score. Lose the seat belts and some of the rebels, tighten the story up. The end result would be not-Timelash, for better or worse. But my question is, to use Timelash purely as a fan exercise – is this sort of thing enough to ‘save’ a story, to ‘improve’ it, or re-tell it in a new and interesting way?


And if not Timelash, then what story would you like to be locked in an editing suite with?
(longer replies may be considered for a follow-up posting!)


Update: and we have an addition already! Here’s Al:


Rewatching Invasion of time recently I couldn’t help but notice that there are a few scenes during Leela and Rodan’s sojourn to outer Gallifrey which are just crying out for that lovely Mill Capitol to be plonked in the background. When the girls first appear on a quarry ridge line there’s acres of empty sky behind them for the duration of a lengthy scene – and similar matte-friendly shots later on as Leela leads the charge back to the Capitol.

Of course, there’s much more to re-editing than just adding a special effect. My own pick for an extensive rework would be ‘The Mutants’ – I’ve always felt that there’s a good story here, buried under a couple of surplus episodes worth of padding.



Deus Ex Scriptor

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Recently, a commentator on this very blog said “‘Deus ex machina’, at least among fans, would appear to translate as: ‘I didn’t like the ending’…” Can’t entirely deny that right now, so let’s examine it! Moreover, let’s stick with the new series.

As everyone knows, ‘Deus ex machina’ means ‘god from the machine’ aka the tendency for a ‘god’ to be lowered (via a ‘machine’) at the end of ancient Greek plays to solve all ills. More modernly, as the OverthinkingIt article on this very topic in Doctor Who , it means “any time when something or somebody who has not been a major part of the story so far shows up at the end of a play, movie or TV show more or less at random to dictate how it ends, usually making everything the characters have done up until this point seem irrelevant by comparison”.

I think, for Doctor Who, we can perhaps be more specific. “An ending where a previously unseen plot point gives the Doctor god-like powers beyond that even of his sonic screwdriver.” Not entirely accurate, as we’ll see in the next paragraph, but it’s what it feels like. This is where the ‘I didn’t like the ending’ translation comes from, namely the unseen plot point. Surprise! With one bound he was free! Another translation is ‘Cop out!’

Let’s not dance around the issue, and cut to the first, best example. In this case it isn’t entirely unforeshadowed, and moreover doesn’t happen to the Doctor. Yep, we’re talking Rose in The Parting of the Ways . She gains the powers of a god due to the power emanating from the machine . How more a literal insertion of the phrase can you get? It originally referred to the stage device, it wasn’t a story point, and there it is, as in your face as possible!

This, to me, is the most egregious example possible. It’s RTD going ‘I turn Rose into a god because I can’t think of another way to solve this problem’ (and possibly ‘because I fetishise her’ but that’s a different topic). (Fine, I’ll acknowledge that RTD could have easily come up with a different ending, and it did lead to the amazing ending of the Ninth Doctor… but he didn’t!) The fact that this is just so obvious and in your face makes it not ‘post-modern’ or ‘deconstructionist’, it’s just annoying in levels too large to ignore.

The other obvious example is in, of course, The Last of the Time Lords . You too can become a god if everyone chants your name! No amount of technobabble logic can get away from the sheer effrontery of the Tinkerbell solution which gives the plot equivalent of whip-lash. Fie! I cry, Boo! It doesn’t give the Doctor other powers (other than the ability to ignore the laser screwdriver) or lead to his death, nor even the Master’s end, so there is no greater meaning as in Rose’s transformation, it’s just to get him back from Dobby-form.

(And while these are RTD examples, the end of The Forest of the Dead doesn’t give much hope that the next production crew won’t deify the man.)

Does ‘Deus ex machina’ = ‘I didn’t like the ending’? Maybe, but there is cause.



Monday, July 6th, 2009


Fast Return – June 2009

Friday, July 3rd, 2009



We’re back! And so is Gwen. Welcome back Gwen.

Oh look – it’s the Karkus! (yes Al, he’s still dead)
Page 1  Page 2 Page 3

Moving on…

Very exciting news that The War Games will soon be upon us in deca-episodic VidFired kickassity. The extras for the DVD look rather good too, although they missed this rather interesting episode. And a cameo by the Minister of Chance, as well. Nice work!

It’s been said that the new series lives on the old Deus Ex machina, and that a reliance on it is lazy writing. Who said that? Where? Why, these people – here, though there’s a rather nifty article all about it you’d be best to read yourself. It has graphs! Also nice work.

After the lather of excitedment following last TSV‘s release and a living-up to the promise of a Dick Mills exclusive proved elusive, it’s up now. Nice work. But why the delay?

Is anyone else worried that Jon might actually be pushing the future further forward with his predictions?

Ooh that Dom Post! Hark at how the squee squad get their backs up after a poor review to a frankly rather flat and dry story (that’s you,Planet of Flies>). Surely the choice of alien cannon fodder was a giveaway to the script’s quality? Nevertomind, bad views make good press, and if electronic newspapers these days live and die by ‘blog’ comments (a clue: they don’t), then… oh look over there! Is Doctor Who Losing It? We ask our panel of experts…

Amy #19 04:18 pm Jun 03 2009
Its definatly not Doctor Who who’s losing it, its the writers! (Who, no offence, thankfully is leaving.) I being, a young yet die-hard Who fan (I know EVERYTHING about the new series 2005 onwards… :D )
[None taken by that writers, I'm sure. Everything since 2005 eh? Wow - continue!]

Amy #20 04:21 pm Jun 03 2009
Oh and next episode is called “Waters On Mars”, it has the four knocks and also something to do with Darkness. Kinda like in Torchwood series 2. Looks uber good though!
[Don't stop, Amy - tell us more about this 'Waters on Mars'! And yes, bring back The Darkness, we miss their ironic faux-glam rock posturings]

Ngat #13 02:32 pm Jun 03 2009
Doctor Who hasnt been good sincethe eighties! The newer generations of doctors have been crap!

[Adam, is that you?]

chris #24 05:36 pm Jun 03 2009
I believe it is the borg that say ‘resistance is futile’ not the daleks, I think they generally say ‘exterminate, exterminate’, you might as well have quoted ‘danger will robinson’ for all the sense you make and I am not even a trekkie
[Good to know. And the Master said "Resistance is Futile" first in The Deadly Assassin, as Amy will tell you.]

Aidan #29 10:37 pm Jun 03 2009
Tennant is great, well……
[Thanks for coming!]


Heh. Those internets, eh? Winston Churchill apparently said that a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its trousers on (he never said what the truth was doing sans-pants though). He certainly saw us coming, what with ‘news’ ‘reported’ (Ctrl+C followed by Ctrl+V for those of you playing at home) from the Sun and then all points outward about this year’s Comic Relief Special featuring ALL SURVIVING DOCTORS EVAR! Cue ill-informed drooling fan speculation over the droolingly ill-researched ‘story’. Now, that’s what I call mucus.

Hmmmm me tinks me needs to brush up on me Dr. who’s Who Posted by: dbest1ok on Tue Jun 23 05:55PM
Ooh you might have to join the back of a long media queue first, Mr best1ok.]

If they are going for 11 doctors they might as well go the whole way and include the “doctor Donna” and the doctors Daughter? Posted by: roy_a_clarke on Tue Jun 23 11:20PM

[Yes, I don't think that would be a step too far at all. Do you think Carole Ann Ford is free in November?]

11 Doctors in 15 Minutes = Plot Conjestion to the point of Gridlock. Posted by: mondas66 on Wed Jun 24 12:48AM

[Hey - some of us liked the Macra returning, thankyou very much!]i loved david tennant as doctor who he was the best why did he have to leave . amber knutsen aged 11 Posted by: hebditch75 on Wed Jun 24 01:55PM

[Er, because she was too young? You've lost me there.]

Absolutely brilliant!!. I have been a fan since it’s inception when I used to hide behind the sofa or a cushion over my face.. Posted by: suewilkes48 on Wed Jun 24 09:39AM

And speaking of a cushion over one’s face, it’s time to leave the internet well alone and get some fresh air. Cheerio one and all!