January 4th, 2011

Doctor Who - Jenny awesome dad

That feels nice

I've just booked myself a ticket to go and see the Canaletto and his rivals exhibition at the National Gallery for this Saturday. Sarah said she wasn't desperately interested in going, so she's giving me permission to venture into the big city on my own. :o) Flippancy aside, it's the first time I've booked to go to an art gallery on my own (and only the second time in the fairly recent past that I've gone to an art gallery at all - the other one being the Constable exhibition a few years back). This makes me feel kind of like a grown-up adult, which despite being 41 I never properly feel like (I think of myself as something of a child at heart). But anyway, I'm really looking forward to it - I love what (admittedly little) I've seen of Canaletto's work - we've got a couple prints of his work, that used to belong to my grandmother, in our dining room; his Venetian landscapes manage to combine a sense of majesty with a calming, peaceful quality, IMHO.

I'll probably do a bit of geeky browser shopping before the exhibition. Haven't been to Forbidden Planet in yonks

Speaking of geekiness - I notice the Sun is reporting that Georgia Moffett and David Tennant have got engaged. I tend to treat the Sun with a bit of a pinch of salt, so I won't get properly excited until I've seen it confirmed in a couple of other places, but tentatively - good luck to them! May they be very very happy for a very very long time!

And the same goes for Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, who got married yesterday.
Coupling - Stuck in the Giggle Loop

WhoWatch 2011

Or "Right, this time I'm going to jolly well do it!"

It's not exactly an original thing. I've started it, with varying degrees of success, myself, and Doctor Who Magazine has a regular feature, Time Team, dedicated to it - watch all of Doctor Who, in order, from the very first episode right up until...well, whatever is the latest one to have been broadcast when I finish my quest. Watch an episode a day (or in the case of the missing episodes, listen to the CD). And blog about it afterwards. Not necessarily a review, just thoughts, musings, what went right, what went wrong. There probably won't be much of the latter, as I tend to have a fairly positive outlook on all things Who. There are only two serials I really really don't like, and heck, one of those (Time and the Rani) has some things in its favour.

What I won't be doing is the Time Team conceit of imagining that this is the first time I've seen this episode; although there are going to be a handful of serials, from the Troughton and Pertwee eras, where this will indeed be the first time I've seen/heard the episode, and some from the Tom Baker period that I've not seen since they were first shown. I will, 'cos it's interesting to try to do, be trying to think how some of this must have seemed to the original audience, and certainly I won't be doing too much of the, "oh, it's black and white! And that's a ludicrous special effect that doesn't stand up to CGI," 'cos I think it's important to judge old programmes (in so much as I judge them at all) by the standards of their time, not by the standards of nearly 50 years later.

I won't be solely watching Doctor Who, though, because I've a shedload of DVDs which I've not watched, and so between Doctor Who seasons I'll be breaking out a DVD of something else - for the time being, The X Files. So it'll be series one of Doctor Who, followed by season one of The X Files, then series two of Doctor Who, etc...But anyway, if anyone would like to comment and contribute to my little episode blogs, feel free to do so - and indeed to point anyone else who you think might be interested in this direction. They'll all have the tag: whowatch 2011

Anyway, no time like the present, so let's crack on with it. I'm thinking of this as a New Year's Resolution, and - in common with many of my New Year's Resolutions - I'm late. I was meant to start on New Year's Day with An Unearthly Child... Typical.
Coupling - Stuck in the Giggle Loop

WhoWatch 2011 - An Unearthly Child

Thing is, cards on the table time - I love this episode. It's full of atmosphere, and evokes such a wonderful feeling, watching the first reveal of the inside of the TARDIS as Ian and Barbara stand in awe at this rules-of-basic-physics-busting multidimensional space they've entered.

I could even narrow it down to one simple line that I love - "let me get this straight - a thing that looks like a police box, standing in a junkyard...and it can go anywhere in time and space?". It's lovely. It's poignant. It sets the scene beautifully for the next 47+ years.

And it's also incredibly deceptive, a deception based on letting those 47+ years colour our expectations of the episode, because actually, what I realised watching it for the umpteenth time is that that's not really what the episode is about.

As I nearly said in the introduction to this series of blogs - I'd love to know what the contemporary viewers were expecting, and how they perceived the events of this episode. I mean, I know the Radio Times tagline for the series was, for many years, "An Adventure in Time and Space", but it would (presumably) have been a bit of a long shot for viewers to expect a humble police box to be the "vehicle" that would take our heroes off on the adventure. That's part of the problem with watching the programme nowadays - we've become so used to police box = TARDIS, that thinking back to the point where police boxes were just telephone boxes is kind of...next to impossible. And particularly when you've seen...well, any episode, but especially this one, the shock of Barbara and Ian walking through the police box doors and finding themselves in the TARDIS is rather dulled. Which is a shame.

What's also rather interesting is that up until that point, it seems to be an entirely different that could go off in a totally different direction to the one we expect - Ian and Barbara are just curious about one of their pupils, decide to follow her home in the hope of finding out what makes her tick. There's then another twist when they enter that junkyard and the subsequent scene seems to be written - and Hartnell seems to be playing it - as if there's a very real possibility that the Doctor might well have abducted Susan and locked her up in the police box.

Even during that final scene, it could go in other directions entirely - if Barbara and Ian leave the TARDIS, if Susan makes good on her promise to leave the TARDIS and the Doctor... It's sometimes been said that the Doctor's an "antihero" in these early episodes. I think that's a trifle wrong. He's obviously deeply protective of his personal space and his granddaughter, and resents the intrusion of two people whose presence means he'll have to go on the run again. Admittedly, setting the TARDIS to take off with the two hapless teachers stuck on board - and electrifying the control panel - are slightly extreme solutions to the problem - but you can't entirely blame him. Wait until later in the series, there are more things to blame him for...

But at the end of the day, this is an absolutely gripping first episode, shifting from moody mystery to possible-abducted-girl thriller to the TARDIS...and then at the end, one more unexpected twist - who is that watching over the TARDIS as it arrives in that deserted landscape? Where have they arrived? All will be revealed...
Coupling - Stuck in the Giggle Loop

WhoWatch 2011 - The Caves of Skulls

Well, I said all would be revealed...okay, I lied. But even so, the sight of Jeremy Young and Derek Newark in skins is not something for the fainthearted...

There was - and possibly still is, for all I know - sort of a received wisdom in Doctor Who fandom, and it goes something like this: Doctor Who starts off with a really really great episode, followed by three episodes of guff with cavemen before getting to the really exciting stuff with the Daleks.

I'm not necessarily about to say this received wisdom is wrong, exactly. But it is a bit unfair, and it's rooted (I think) in the problem of not seeing it as the original audience did. It's easy now - particularly as, for many people, their first exposure to a version of An Unearthly Child may have come in the form of the novelisation Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks or the film Doctor Who and the Daleks - to assume that the cavemen story was at best a sidestep, at worst a mis-step; but for the first audience, there was no real clue of what was to come - this was what Doctor Who did - it took two teachers off in a ship disguised as a police box and plonked them down in prehistoric earth.

That said, this episode isn't without its flaws - chief among which being the decision to have the caveman actors speak in a sort of slow, zombiefied way to suggest that "primitive" equates to "a bit thick". Horg is the worst offender. But on the other hand, I'm sure I read that the original intention was for the cavemen to only communicate in grunts, so perhaps we should be grateful for what we got.

Also, Ian's refusal to believe that the TARDIS has taken them back in time is a tad overplayed - he comes across in this episode as a bit of a Dana Scully.

But those gripes aside, this is a neat, compact episode, telling an interesting - if narratively rather linear - tale of what happens if a tribe of cavemen seeking the secret of fire suddenly come across a strange old man with a box of matches (which he subsequently loses). The cavemen politics is interesting, setting up the conflicts quite neatly, and the time travellers' section of the narrative helps to further establish the characters of the Doctor and Susan, as well as the nature of their ship.

Oh, one more quibble - The Cave of Skulls seems a rather dopey choice of title for an episode in which the cave in question only appears in the last few minutes.

And an observation - without wishing to be crude, is it just me, or do Za's attempts to make fire by (apparently) rubbing a bone in his hands over a pile of sticks look suspiciously like he's pleasuring himself? Seriously...
Coupling - Stuck in the Giggle Loop

Tuesday 4th January 2011.

So, first day back at work for the new year.

Today wasn't a bad day, albeit nowhere near as productive as yesterday. But I was able to get a bit more video converting done this morning; no actual importing, though, but I finished watching the first episode of Three Men Go To Scotland, which has freed that up for importing into the computer.

I gave Sarah a lift to the station at about 7:00am, then went to the post office to pick up my package - which surprised me by not being the Queen Platinum Collection, but actually being the DWM Season 5 Volume 2 special. Which is big. Seriously big. When you consider that it only actually covers six episodes (or is it seven?), but it feels substantially weightier than the other season specials, they've obviously packed a lot of information into it.

(And kudos to the folks at The Who Shop for getting it delivered so fast - bearing in mind that had it not been too big to be posted through the letterbox, I'd have received it the day after I ordered it. Which is pretty impressive, IMO.)

Spent (= wasted) a fair bit of time faffing around this morning before finally leaving for work, as a result of which I (pretty obviously) arrived late at work. Which I wasn't terribly happy about, given that I'd really like to get into good habits as far as time keeping is concerned.

However, I managed to leave not too late - well, about 6:00pm. I'd been thinking of working a bit later, but in the event I came back from a loo break and CAS had logged me out, and frankly I decided I couldn't be bothered with the faff of logging back in.

I had a few little nibbles from the food machine at work today, but I didn't do a bulk buy at the filling station on the way in, and I actually had a proper lunch (of cheese, tomatoes and bread), which felt kind of good.

Also, whilst at work I booked myself a ticket to see the Canaletto and his Rivals exhibition at the National Gallery, which I'm looking forward to - I'm going on Saturday afternoon (well, I'll probably make a day of it in London). Sarah's not interested in going, so I'll be going by myself. Which makes me feel kind of like an adult...

I rang dad today - he'd actually tried to 'phone me yesterday evening, but by that time I was asleep, more or less. Anyway, he's finally received our Christmas presents, and we talked about meeting up at some point - at the moment we've got Saturday 29th January down as a possibility.

On the drive home I put on my new acquisition of Abba Gold, which was enjoyable!

Back home tonight, I relocated the laptop briefly into the kitchen, and whilst cooking up my fish soup I set about blogging my WhoWatch - an intro post, and the first couple of episodes of serial A. So, I've got off to that a bit later than I'd hoped, but at least I've started.

I had to pop down the road to pick up some fresh milk at about 10:00pm, but after that I gave up on the fish soup - most of the ingredients are now cooked, but I'll make the cheese sauce and put everything together tomorrow morning. It didn't help that I had a bit of depression sink over me when I popped out to Tesco. I managed to push that to one side, a bit, by watching David Walliams' Awfully Good TV, which was addictive, if slightly disturbing...

When that was over, I went to bed - although actually, for the second night running I'm sleeping on the sofa to give Sarah an easier night. Also, Sarah was working ultra late at work - something to do with the end of year reports and needing to run off two sets of them, meaning she was at work until nearly 1:00am and then got a cab home (which she can claim back the cost from work - good job too, it was £84:00, apparently). She woke me briefly when she got home - which I didn't mind as I'd asked her to - just to let me know she was back and safe.