Friday, 30 April 2010


So, after months of avoiding re-writing, followed by a few weeks of actually doing it, I finally sent off for a proof copy of my novel "Tempus Fugit (Or, 'How many time travellers does it take to break the continuum?')"

Well, it's here. Want to see? Here's some photos...

It's great having a copy of it as a REAL book! (Granted, it's not real in the sense that I haven't put it up for sale, and I'm not making any money, and I keep finding mistakes in it... but still, it's great!)
Also, for those of you who haven't heard, I'm moving back to Poole! Sadly, this may mean my blog suffers a little as I won't have time to kill at work anymore... but I promise to try and keep you involved in my life, and to continue my strange and bizarre posts.
But for now, let's all just smile and be happy.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

REVIEW - Doctor Who: The Time of Angels (5.4)

OK, I apologise in advance for this review, as it's late, and it won't be as long or in-depth as my others, as I watched the episode days ago....

(Oh, and you may also have noticed that I've reverted back to the series numbering being Series 5, as the artwork for the first DVD has been released which says Series 5, so the BBC is obviously ignoring it's own previous statement)

So here, for your delectation, is my review


In Which: River Song turns up again, and brings the Doctor and Amy to a planet in pursuit of a Weeping Angel...

What did I think: I'm not sure. I liked it - I found it entertaining, and the opening segment with River Song leaving a message in Old High Galifreyan across 12,000 years so that the Doctor would be there in time to pick her up was very well done.

But, a lot of the rest of the episode felt more pedestrian to me. And interestingly, looking around at other internet-based reviews, that seems to be a good thing for most people, but I like my Doctor Who with a degree of stupid insanity in it... Multi-Coloured Daleks? Love them. A giant Star-Whale? Fantastic. Spitfires in Space? Well, you all know how much I loved that (and if you don't know, check out my previous review.) But with this episode, it suffered a little from being Part One of a two-parter, all setup and no action.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, and there were some fabulously brilliant sections, including Amy vs. The VHS Angel (I don't care how River Song described it - that footage looked as if it had been recorded on VHS, right down to the jump as it looped) which was brilliantly suspenseful, the realisation that all the statues were angels, the creepy thing that is happening to Amy with the dust and her 'stone' hand, and the cliffhanger - which was brilliant in the way that usually the cliffhanger shows everyone not knowing what to do, whereas this was the Doctor enacting his plan....

But I just kept seeing niggles and plot holes in this, which I can usually look past, but for some reason I couldn't. The Sonic Screwdriver couldn't get into the shuttle because it was, all of a sudden, deadlocked? By who, the angel? How did the angel modify the locks WHILE coming out of the TV?

The statues are all Angels? That's creepy, sure.. and the reveal was great (the conversation about the inhabitants of the planet having two heads), and I know they were all dying Angels... but given ALL those statues, no-one was keeping an eye on them all, so why hadn't they started moving BEFORE our heroes realised what was going on?

I loved the way the angels used the dead soldier to communicate, although it remains to be seen why they bothered, if all they wanted to do was kill everyone...

And River Song. Where do I start? I've never known a character that is both brilliant and hideously irritating at the same time before... She's smug, and annoying, and that's OK. It's when she tries to be nice (either to Amy or the Doctor) that I don't really buy it... that may be the acting, or the writing, or the direction, but I just don't know....

Still, I'm looking forward to next week, notably because we seem to get some forward movement regarding the cracks we've been seeing, and I want to see how the rest of the Angels story plays out.

The Good: I know I've said it every review, but Matt and Karen are owning their parts every week, and this week I shall also put in a shout-out for the guy who played Scared Bob, who I thought was brilliant... The Weeping Angels are still creepy, the one on video was downright scary, and the banter between River, Amy and the Doctor was fabulous.

The Bad: Something about this just felt... pedestrian. Normal. Boring. There was no crazy reveal, no outrageous plan... I dunno, maybe watching the second part will resolve this for me. Plus I STILL don't know if I like River Song...

Conclusion: 7.5/10 - Weakest one of the series for me... but still better than 99% of TV!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Brawny (almost) gets political!

I'm not the most political person in the world. I'm not the least political either, but I'm certainly much closer to that end of the scale. I have a general sense of apathy about politics, which I have noticed has been spreading across the country these last few years.

Until now.

Because now, shock horror, we got to see the leaders of the three main parties talking. About their policies. On TV. And suddenly, everyone cares.

Which is probably good, since whoever we pick is going to run the country....

But anyway - the upshot of the leader debates (certainly the first one) appears to be that all of a sudden people have remembered that the Liberal Democrats exist - which is all good, as personally I agree with more of what they say than the other two (plus they are unsullied by the "They promise a lot now, but look at what happens when they get into power" mentality as they've never got into power...). This has, however led to confusion in the tabloid press (all of whom had backed either Conservative or Labour to the hilt) and in their confusion, the majority of them are thrashing out against Nick Clegg... but this is the best one.

Yes, once again, we're going to talk about a ridiculous Daily Mail article! Let me hear you say yeah! (Listens expectantly. Surprisingly hears a yeah. Decides I'm going insane. Debates calling a doctor. Decides against it. Carries on.)

Yes, it's the article that reckons Nick Clegg is a Nazi (although on reading it today, they've updated it to add a quote from him at the top basically ridiculing their story.) and that he has been involved in lots of unsavoury goings on and is generally the wrong man for the job.

Shall we have a look at the specifics of the article? (Hears that voice again, this time saying "Yes Brawny, let's!" Books a doctors appointment while typing.)

"The passionately pro-Europe Mr Clegg revealed his views on World War II in an article for the Guardian newspaper in 2002. ‘Watching Germany rise from its knees after the war and become a vastly more prosperous nation has not been easy on the febrile British psyche,’ Mr Clegg wrote, before attacking Britain’s approach to the war. ‘All nations have a cross to bear, and none more so than Germany with its memories of Nazism. But the British cross is more insidious still...A misplaced sense of superiority, sustained by delusions of grandeur and a tenacious obsession with the last war, is much harder to shake off. We need to be put back in our place.’"

Now, this seems a little strange as a quote, until you read the entire guardian article which is well-written, well-argued and showcases a lot of very good points (in my opinion). However, if you're offended by reading the complete article, then fine. Surely the Mail would get someone like that to respond to it? Well they went one better, didn't they, they got the grandson of Winston Churchill! Minor detail is? Well, I'll let you read the excerpt and realise what might colour his opinion slightly...

"Tory MP Nicholas Soames, grandson of wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill, said: ‘These views will disgust people the length and breadth of the country. They show that Nick Clegg is unfit to lead his party, let alone the country."

Yes he's a Tory MP. So basically the Tories are against Nick Clegg? What a shocker! What's more disturbing though, is what appears to be a throwaway line in the article that says "Ironically, his mother was interned by the Japanese during the war."

Is it just me, or does that line basically say "Mr Clegg, how dare you be all Nazi-like and stuff when your mum was held prisoner by people who weren't the Nazis but were sort of like them during the same war we fought the Nazis in?"

Balanced journalism my arse.

As well as the Nazi accusation, the other accusations made in the article include that he is facing "damaging questions" over money being paid directly to him (which, if you look at the information, was properly declared and used to pay for a member of staff), that he will face tough questions over his pro-Europe stance (but doesn't specify anything more) and that he performed a U-turn, "suggesting he would not ask for him (Gordon Brown) to quit as the price for Lib Dem support in a coalition. Only yesterday he called Mr Brown a 'desperate man' who should not be allowed to stay as a 'squatter' in Downing Street but today he indicated voting reform was more important. 'His record shows he is very much part of the problem, not the solution. But it is not my job to decide who every party has as their leader,' he told the Independent."

I'm fairly sure it can't be considered a U-turn if he didn't say that he wouldn't consider a coalition with Brown. Which he didn't. He apparently "indicated" it. Which intrigues me. Does he have little flashing indicator lights that, instead of showing when he's turning left or right actually tell you what he's thinking?

No. He doesn't. For he is not Nick Clegg; half-man half-bizarre machine, he is Nick Clegg; The man who seems sane in comparison with the other two.

Can the Lib Dems win? I don't know. As I said at the start of this, I don't know much about politics. If they do win will they abandon the majority of their promises? Probably, they're politicians. But you have to wonder - surely they'd be better than the other two idiots?

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Genre Struggle

I have some good news for you, oh blog readers... I have finished my novel!

Yes - Tempus Fugit (Or, 'How many Time-Travellers does it take to break the Continuum?) is finished and I am waiting for my free Createspace proof copy (yet another advantage of doing NaNoWriMo). And before anyone asks, no I haven't decided if I'll make it available to the public to buy yet...

And so, my brain is naturally moving on to what my next project is going to be. (Because, while I like to think that I can multi-task, once I start properly working on a project everything tends to relate to that...)

And I'm not sure what to do. I've got a one-act play I'd quite like to write, which I may do next as I don't think it'll take me too long (certainly not for a first draft anyway), but I think what I'd really like to do next is go back to my roots a bit, and write an album - especially now I've discovered Routenote, with whom I'd be able to put the album on iTunes / Spotify / Other digital download services, so that everyone could enjoy it. (And just to be clear, I don't expect to make any money out of it at all, but imagine being able to say "My album is on iTunes". That's the sort of thing I've dreamed of since I was a kid (although iTunes didn't exist then, but you know what I mean)). However, while thinking about this, I've started to worry about genre.

This worry never occurs with anything else. Partly because scripts and novels don't have such rigid genres as music, but also because a novel or a script is a single entity, whereas an album is a selection of individual songs. And I like to write a wide selection of songs. Therefore, for my first full solo album, should I concentrate on one genre, or purposefully make a genre-transcending album ranging from Metal to piano instrumentals? Or should I just stop worrying about it and just write what I feel I want to write?

The other thing that puts me off about this is that I'm not a particularly good lyricist. Firstly, a lot of my lyrics are just jokes (which is fine, I'm not complaining about that), but also I have a paranoid fear that people assume whatever I'm writing is true. I never feel like that with script or stories, but with music people make the assumption that the singer/songwriter is talking about themselves and their own life, and that idea tends to crowd my brain and make me worry about what I'm writing.

So what do you, my adoring public (and I use the word adoring in the loosest possible sense) think? Should I just write whatever I feel like? Or should I consider the album as a whole and tailor the songs to one specific feel?

I'm genuinely interested in your answers, so please don't stay quiet! By all means if you want to be anonymous, then do, but post your answers if you have any. :)


Monday, 19 April 2010

REVIEW - Doctor Who - Victory of the Daleks (1.3)

So it's a Monday, and without further ado....


In which: The Doctor and Amy travel back to WWII and discover that Churchill has a brand new weapon that could win him the war. They are the Ironsides, as invented by Professor Bracewell, metal machines with powerful weaponry. Except they are a kind of pepperpot shape, glide along the floor and have a sucker sticking out the front of them... yes, it's the Daleks.

What did I think?: I know this is a common theme for these reviews, but I liked it. Although it would appear that I am much more alone on this than on previous episodes as a lot of people, both in real life and on Gallifrey Base (Not that I'm saying that people on there aren't real, but you know what I mean) appear to have significant complaints about this episode.

But not me.

Come on, how can you not love an episode that contains *deep breath* Daleks, Churchill, Spitfires in space, The Doctor uppercuting a professor, NEW Daleks, an android and so much more...

Let's start at the beginning. The first ten or fifteen minutes are brilliant, atmospheric and just plain confusing as you get the Daleks moving around, being nice, obeying orders... and bringing cups of tea.

You see? That's brilliance, right there. But more than that, once the Daleks deception is exposed, then their plan seems, to quote the Middleman "Sheer Elegance in its simplicity". OK, so it's not quite THAT simple, but it's as follows:

After the events of Journey's End (in which all the Daleks in the universe were destroyed for at least the third time in four years), one ship escaped (as usual) and that's the ship that ends up there in WWII. The Daleks on board found a progenitor (Spelling? Anyone?) which makes more Daleks, but since it only makes true Daleks, and the Daleks from Journey's End are rush jobs made by Davros, it won't recognise them. So it won't work unless someone proves they are the Daleks. So they built Bracewell as a robot, so he could pretend to have invented the Daleks, so that Churchill would ring the Doctor, so when the Doctor announces loudly "You are the Daleks and I am the Doctor" this testimony allows the progenitor to work and start spitting out new Daleks...

(Wow, I didn't realise how many times I used the word Dalek in the above paragraph until I spellchecked it... incidentally, why doesn't Blogger's spellchecker recognise Dalek? It must surely be a real word by now...)

Wow, that's complicated. At least it's complicated when you try and boil it down to one paragraph. But it is a nice change for the Daleks initial plan when they realise they're down to just a few left is NOT to try and invade/destroy a planet/the universe, but instead to make more Daleks. And the best thing about this?




The Daleks win.

Well, mostly.

They survive, which in NuWho is a HUGE leap forward. At last we no longer have to spend the beginning of every Dalek episode going "But you were all dead? How did you survive??". They survive because they make the Doctor choose between saving Earth or destroying their ship. And the Doctor, of course, chooses Earth.

In this brief outline I am, of course, not doing justice to some of the other fine areas of the episode, such as Spitfires dogfighting with a Dalek ship in outer space!! Which was great.

Now, I'm going to address some of the criticisms I have heard about this episode...

The New Multi-Coloured Daleks are rubbish and plasticky - Yeah, they look different. But the more I look at them, the more I've decided I like them. They lend an air of variety to the Dalek race, and the fact that they have different job titles means that we can see an expansion and evolution of the Dalek race. Plus, hopefully, they'll never be stupid enough to all end up in the same place so they can be wiped out again...

The WWAF who's boyfriend/husband was killed was pointless - Yes, she was, if you expected her to be a subplot. But to symbolise the carnage that was going on as the war continued, to show that the Daleks weren't the only enemy? In that instance it worked. (I grant you, it was a little underwritten/heavy handed, but there you go). Plus she was only onscreen for about 3 minutes, so why focus so much on her?

How did they talk Bracewell out of exploding? This is the thing that's annoyed me the most. People complaining how the way the Doctor and Amy talked Bracewell out of going bang was 'unrealistic.' Unrealistic? Excuse me? By that point we've gone through Spitfires in space, Daleks, and god knows how much other unrealistic stuff, not forgetting the fact the whole show is based around the 'unrealistic' premise of a time-travelling alien who's spaceship looks like a 60's London police box! Gain a little perspective! Since we don't understand the bionics/electronics of creating the perfectly functioning human robot, it's hard to judge. I thought that since he had human memories and human instincts that he was able to calm himself down, and by doing that and embracing his humanity (and therefore his lust for life), he was able to control his robotic/electronic safeguards and they stopped the bomb.

How did they get the gravity shields on the Spitfires in time?
Dramatic Necessity.

The characterisation of the Doctor and Amy seems dull and uninteresting
Hi, here's a crazy pill, but no more for you, you've already had enough. Dull and uninteresting? We've got a Doctor who has such violent mood swings that he's almost as bad as the sixth Doctor, and a companion who has a complete love for him because she's dreamed about him for 14 years!

I could go on complaining about people who complain, but I won't because I'm better than that.

Also - Amy doesn't remember the Daleks? Has this got anything to do with the mysterious cracks? (I know what my money's on...)

The Good: Have I mentioned Spitfires in space?? :P The acting continues to be stellar, with Matt, Karen, Ian McNeice as Churchill and Bill Patterson as Bracewell all being superb. The new Daleks winning, which means that we can have new Dalek stories in future - and their new ranks allowing for a Dalek society to grow again.

The Bad: Yes, the new Daleks are slightly plastic-looking, and the Eleventh Doctor does seem to be developing a preference for leaving his companion behind (can you develop a preference over only two shows? Not sure...)


Next Week: The return of the character I've had the most ambivalence about in the whole of NuWho - River Song...

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Death is not the end...

OK, after writing about Michael Jackson's ridiculous posthumous record deal a few weeks ago, I've seen two more stories about posthumously adding to peoples legacies, and they are both as dumb as each other.

First is this, a sequel to Treasure Island. Now, I don't see a point in writing such a sequel, but I'm not going to complain about that - each to their own. However, I'm astonished to see that a sequel written by "the former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion" has apparently resorted to a plotline that sounds like it would have been used in a Disney direct-to-DVD sequel for a classic film (and we can all agree that they're rubbish can't we? I mean, obviously, except the Aladdin ones... :P )

"In Return to Treasure Island, Jim Hawkins lives with his son, Jim Junior, in a pub on the Thames outside London. Jim Junior is visited by a woman who turns out to be Long John Silver's daughter. She convinces Jim Junior to steal the original map of Treasure Island from his father and go on a trip organised by Silver so they can find the rest of the treasure."

OK. Firstly, Return to Treasure Island? I know it's hard thinking of titles for things, but really? Not only is that an amazingly obvious title, but that title has already been used by several sequels (as proved by this search page on Amazon). Why wouldn't a man with such a prestigious background come up with a title that hasn't been used before in that franchise?

Secondly - not only is he going with the whole "children of the old main characters decide to almost exactly replay the plot of the original novel" trope, but he hasn't even bothered to come up with a decent name for Jim Hawkins' son, instead calling him Jim Junior! Seriously, this is majorly lazy. Anyone would think he was dashing this novel off quickly to earn a bit of money... except it's not even likely he'll make a great deal, judging from the lack of success of most posthumous sequels (the exception being, of course, the Bond books).

Did he really think that this was a story worth writing? A story he was invested in? Or was he just offered a big advance cheque?

"Dan Franklin, publisher at Jonathan Cape, said Motion's sequel was a work of "literary ventriloquism"."

Well if he's managing to write it as R.L. Stevenson would have done, and he's basically re-hashing the original's plot (except, I am sure, for adding a romance subplot where love blossoms between those two main characters (and no, I don't have inside information, I'm just guessing)) then surely it'd be a more rewarding experience for all concerned to just READ THE ORIGINAL AGAIN!

And then, yesterday, I saw this. Now, I do believe Kubrick was a master film-maker, and having only seen a couple of his films, there are many of them on my mental "list of films I really ought to watch sometime." However, to claim that this is Kubrick's lost film is, frankly, MENTAL.

Look at the story - "It was a few years' back now that Stanley Kubrick's son-in-law, Philip Hobbs, discovered the work for a film called Lunatic At Large in amongst the masses of paperwork the director left behind after his death. Hobbs told the New York Times in 2006 that his father-in-law was "always saying he wished he knew where it was, because it was such a great idea". It wasn't so much a screenplay, to be fair, that Hobbs put his hands on, rather a treatment that was written by Jim Thompson. Kubrick had commissioned that treatment in the late 1950s."

OK. So Kubrick commissioned the treatment. So he didn't write it. (He may have had the original idea for the film, it's hard to tell from the limited information in the news story). And he obviously won't direct it, seeing as he's dead! And since Kubrick was a writer/director/editor/producer then he will have done NONE of these jobs on the film - so how is it his film??

I mean, don't get me wrong - even A.I. (which incidentally is a much better film if you stop it as the robot boy (who's name I forget) drowns, and you ignore all the alien stuff at the end) was at least assembled from "the various drafts and notes left by Kubrick and his writers " (And yes, I did just quote the Wikipedia Stanley Kubrick page - I know Wikipedia is often not a reliable source, but I remember seeing this elsewhere at the time), so I can see why it was thought of as an unmade Kubrick film - but surely just commissioning this treatment for Lunatic at Large doesn't make it his lost film??

Look, if I were ever to be famous and to die leaving lots of half-written things on my computer (which would be likely, as my computer is ALWAYS full of half-written things), then any of those being developed could be credited as a lost Michael Braunton film - but if it was based on me asking someone to write a plot for an idea I'd had - then it wouldn't belong to me - it belongs to the writer...

What's worse is I have a horrible suspicion this "lost Kubrick film" will end up with a generic director and be average - thus tarnishing Kubrick's record (which both A.I. and Eyes Wide Shut have already done to an extent...), whereas at least with this Treasure Island sequel, the only name to be tarnished will be that of the author, because no-ones claiming it's based on an idea R.L. Stevenson had.. thankfully.

What do you think? Are there any posthumous films/books/albums that you think add to the artist's legacy rather than tarnish it?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

REVIEW - Love Never Dies

Last weekend (or at least, it was last weekend when I started writing this blog, but due to other things getting in the way, it's now a week and a half ago. Such is life), I took the ever-beautiful Neety to go and see Phantom: Love Never Dies - the new show from Andrew Lloyd Webber. This show, a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, had appeal to us both for different reasons. Neety is an avid fan of the original, and has read the book that the sequel is mostly based on, and I, well, I enjoy most Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals (Useless Fact: Did you know that although his name, Andrew Lloyd Webber, is not hyphenated, his title, Lord Lloyd-Webber, is? That's .... strange) and although there are some that leave me cold, every one I've seen has been a good night out.

However, I've only ever seen the film of Phantom of the Opera, never having gone to see it live, (And yes, that is partially because of the fact there are very rarely cheap tickets for it, as it is still insanely popular) and that meant that I could go into this with a basic knowledge of the original, but not slavishly devoted to it.

So here we go (Warning, there may be spoilers throughout this review)


In Which: Ten Years on from the original Phantom of the Opera, the Phantom brings Christine and Raoul back into his life...

What did I think?:
I have to say that I really enjoyed it. And my lack of knowledge about the plot (or the music for that matter) really helped that. I can't remember the last time I went to see a big budget musical where I didn't know the songs or the outcome beforehand, and it really helped. For that reason, I'm going to do my best not to spoil the ending for those of you reading this who will want to see it, but there may be mild spoilers concerning the rest of the show.

As I said, the plot was strong, if slightly contrived (in the way that all sequels are when attempting to re-integrate previous characters,) but it worked, simply due to the Phantom's obsession with Christine. In fact, the Phantom, Christine and Raoul all appeared to be obvious extensions of their characters from the original (in as far as I noticed). The other two returning characters are Mme Giry and Meg Giry, and I felt that both of them suffered from a significant lack of development. They were much more one-dimensional than the other three, and (according to Neety at least) Mme Giry appeared to have had a significant character change from the original.

For a Lloyd Webber show, there was remarkably little for the chorus to do, instead the show focuses on the six characters. ("Six?" I hear you say "But you've only listed five!"). The sixth is a new character - Gustave, the son of Christine and Raoul. But of course, the centre of the show is Christine and the Phantom, which does mean the other characters get slightly sidelined (particularly Raoul in Act One, although this is fixed within Act Two, primarily in the opening scene, where the plot finally manages to involve him more directly.)

Musically, I found it all entertaining (nothing of the annoyance level of "Castle on a Cloud" from Les Miserables or as narratively redundant as "Those Canaan Days" from Joseph) and, this being Lloyd Webber, there was good use of themes and thematic transformation (and yes, there are a couple of obvious callbacks to the original score, but they're not the songs you'd expect, and none of them are longer than a few bars). There were four or five songs that stuck in my mind as being outstanding which were:
'Til I hear you sing - The Phantom's first solo
Dear Old Friend - The sarcasm-riddled quartet when Christine, Raoul, Meg and Mme Giry all encounter each other for the first time
The Beauty Underneath - AKA "How to mentally scar a ten-year-old"
Why does she Love Me - Raoul's opening of Act Two, and a song sure to be used by many tenors for auditions in the future
Devil Take The Hindmost - Both versions of this, the duet with Raoul and the Phantom, and the Quartet version later in the act

What did I think of Love Never Dies - the title song of the show? It was OK, but to my ears it was certainly not the best of the score. Also, Mme Giry's first song did seem like it should have titled "Exposition City - the last ten years" as it just ticks off what happened between the original show and the start of this one...

From a technical perspective (and speaking of perspective, when the show starts, admire the creation of the on-stage pier. Seriously, it's impressive) it was a big, bold, brash and brilliant show, utilising nearly every trick I can think of including projection, trapdoors, a revolve and many more.

For me, the only disappointing parts of the show were that it stopped once due to a technical fault (which was OK, because it did at least stop at the end of a scene, and we just had to wait a few minutes for the next scene) and... well... the ending.

Don't get me wrong, the end as written is good. There is tension, uncertainty, no knowledge of what is going to happen... but two things spoilt it for me really. (This is tough to talk about, as I REALLY don't want to give away the ending to those of you who want to see it). The first was there was a moment of overacting from the child playing Gustave (who, incidentally, looked an awful lot like Greg) although if you give a child the line "Nooo!" then what do you expect... and the second is that I didn't quite buy into Meg doing what she does. (I hope that's vague enough)

The most disappointing part of the whole experience though? The fact that it cost £11.80 for two drinks in the interval! Oh, and the seats aren't the most comfortable in the world...

The Good: On the whole, performances were excellent. (We saw the first cover Phantom, and he was amazing). The score is memorable (to the point where writing this has me now wanting to listen to it) and the whole performance is a feast for the senses.

The Bad: Minor bits of overacting aside, the chorus are underused (although I understand why, from a dramatic purpose) and the drinks are overpriced.

Conclusion: 9/10. I loved it. Go see it.

Monday, 12 April 2010

REVIEW - Dr Who - The Beast Below (1.2)

Yes, I'm back, with my weekly Dr Who review! I hear you all cheering over there in the background.... :) (And yes, I have other blogs on the way too, so sorry for being lax recently. I shall attempt to fix this soon)

But now, and without further ado...


In Which: The Doctor and Amy visit the future, find the entire UK on a Starship (well, except for Scotland) and then face some tough decisions...

What did I think?: This episode was very interesting, and I think this is where we really began to get differentiations between the current Moffat era and the RTD one. Yes, elements of the basic shape of this story can be traced to RTD episodes (and, in fact, way further back in Who-story (That's the word I just invented for Dr Who History. You like?) than that), but it's both the atmosphere and the character work that just lends a small twist to the proceedings.

It just seemed, to me, to work on every level. There were children, who work as the audience identification figure for the kids in the audience, there was political allegory, there was still a huge dollop of sci-fi, and there was a giant space whale! What's not to love?

The evolution of Amy and the Doctor so far is huge. We get to see the Eleventh Doctor here firstly deal with his history in a completely different way to the tenth (where he tells Amy he's the last of his kind very quickly, and chooses not to elaborate) which I think is a good move, because the Time War became the focus for the end of the Tennant years, and it's nice to move away from that for now. We also see him being more alien, which I like. When he gets angry, bellowing "Nobody human has anything to say to me today!" you really get to see the other side of him, which I think is important. He's not human, that's why he needs a companion.

And that's where Amy comes in. She makes the connection between the Doctor and the whale. She puts the pieces together. And she solves the problem with an irrationality that only a human could show. It's nice to see the companion being reckless rather than the Doctor (the tenth could be horrendously reckless sometimes) and the Doctor being torn between being grateful and horrified.

Their relationship too appears to be growing in interesting, multi-dimensional ways. Yes, she obviously still has some form of attraction towards him, but it's also tempered against the fact she's discovering, on some level, that he isn't the imaginary figure she dreamt up in the twelve years between first meeting him and then meeting him again, which gives us the unique advantage of having a companion who in some ways knows the Doctor better than he does himself, and in some ways just thinks she does..

As for the supporting cast? Liz 10 was pretty cool - a gun-toting future monarch is a fabulous idea, as is the abbreviation of her name, and the kids were actually not that annoying. My one sort-of problem with the episode is the Smilers. I can see what they were going for, but it just didn't seem to follow through. It was as if they thought of the visual and then didn't really do anything with it. And the half human smilers seemed pointless to me.

I loved how the ending of this episode leads straight into the next one (and incidentally, I'm horrendously excited about the next one. Churchill? Daleks? WWII? Bring it on...) although it does lead us to the interesting point that the Doctor has been going non-stop since the End of Time Part One, because he hasn't stopped to sleep or eat (apart from some fish custard) since then...

Oh, and another crack in space and time appeared on the hull of the Starship? Now the question is, are they everywhere - so the Doctor will always run into them? Or are they somehow caused by the Doctor or Amy? Or, is the Doctor investigating them and chasing the cracks around without saying anything? I'm sure we'll discover...

The Good: Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. Both continued to grasp my attention completely, and I found myself warming to both characters. Liz 10 was also brilliant, and there was some lovely humour throughout the episode. Also, after last weeks I did worry that this series might feel a little more childish, but luckily here it didn't.

The Bad: The SmilerHumans seemed pointless. And I don't really understand why the kids who got zero ended up down below, especially since they already knew the whale wouldn't eat the children... There was the occasional bit of bad CG, but to me it felt better than last weeks.

Conclusion: 8.5/10. It worked better than last weeks, and felt like a nice slice of classic Who, injected with the pace of NuWho. Keep it up Moffat!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Laying down the Digital Law

Remember how a couple of months ago I posted a helpful blog for how the entertainment industry should fix itself? Well it turns out that instead of listening to the helpful advice of an anonymous Internet blogger, the government went the other way.

Today, the digital economy bill passed the house of commons. This is, in my opinion, very much a double-edged sword. Yes, I'm all for legislation to ensure that copyright is kept and rights holders are paid a fair wage. But this isn't it.

This bill is (and let's be clear about this, I haven't read the thing, just several concise summaries) frankly badly-thought out and behind the times. And full of vague language.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not surprised it passed, and I'm not surprised it's opponents are saying it was rushed through before the election. Of course it was, because it's a politically poisoned chalice. No-one knows how properly to fix the situation, and no-one really wants to appear for or against it in an election campaign.

The trouble is, that assuming this thing passes the house of Lords and comes into law (and I expect it will) then it's very open to interpretation.

"Under the terms of the bill, Internet service providers will be obliged to send letters to any of their subscribers linked to alleged infringements." Well firstly, I'm unsure as to the technical definition of "linked", but more than that, it means that you will be notified even if someone else has been using your connection - be it family, friend, flatmate, or person outside who's hacked into your wi-fi.

"Restrictions on the activities of persistent copyright offenders will not come into force for a year and only on the basis of clear evidence of their activities." What, exactly, constitutes clear evidence?

There is some good news - "A clause on "orphan works" - material where the author was impossible to identify - was also dropped after opposition from photographers."- this clause was horrendous, basically meaning that people could claim they'd found pictures etc, and couldn't find the owner, so they'd be allowed to use it for free.

"Another proposal allowing politicians to block pirate websites without primary legislation was replaced with an amendment which lets ministers "make provision about the granting by a court of a blocking injunction"."

OK, I'm a pretty well-educated guy, and to me that sentence is a) full of jargon and b) basically means the same thing, but they do have to speak to a court first.

Look, I don't pretend to be knowledgeable about this stuff, but on reading this, I think I may have to be. Don't get me wrong, I know I break the law by downloading certain things, but I would like to think that I only do it when I don't have much of an option left. I can't watch Lost legally because my landlord won't let me install Sky. If I could, I would do. I can watch Chuck legally, but as far as I know, the UK's about a year behind, and without downloading facilities, I would never have discovered The Middleman, which is so good I imported the DVD set, and want to import the graphic novel.

I just... this feels wrong. It feels like all the rules set out in the bill are so horrendously unspecific that it could be moulded into whatever people want it to be. And I'm guessing that there are more Internet-phobic members of parliament than Internet-friendly ones. So it may end up becoming a horrific piece of legislation.

It may work. And I hope it does. But I am, for now, very sceptical.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

REVIEW - Dr Who: The Eleventh Hour (1.1)

So, we've all been waiting for it (when I say all, I mean everyone who likes Dr Who - and if you don't, why not? It's great) . The new era of Dr Who is here. New Doctor, new companion, new head writer, new production team, new series numbering (yes, as you can see from my title for this blog, I have acquiesced to the BBC's official stance that this series is numbered as series 1. So there.) but the same old Brawny review :)

So here we go... Needless to say, there will be Spoilers in this, so do not read if you haven't seen the episode. Unless you don't care about spoilers, in which case go right ahead!


In which - The newly-regenerated Doctor crashes to earth, demolishes a shed, eats some of the most disgusting foods known to man and then saves the world in twenty minutes.

What did I think? - Well, there's so much about this episode that it's tough to know where to start! So we'll start with the new Doctor.

I was wary, as I always am when a new Doctor is introduced (I was convinced David Tennant would be rubbish until approximately 45 minutes into the Christmas Invasion (For those of you who are wondering, yes I mean the Lion King speech) ) but Matt Smith did a damn fine job in his opening minutes, and while there were glimmers of the tenth doctor in him (which, to be fair, may have been deliberate to show the regeneration process was still occurring) he made it his own, being kind yet cold, pompous yet caring, and seeming to genuinely enjoy his adventure, which made it a far-removed cry from the tortured Doctor at the finale of the End of Time. He was also great with the funny lines, including "Fish-Custard man", "Delete your Internet history Jeff" and "Twenty minutes to save the world, and I've got a Post Office. And it's Shut!"

New Companion? Well, I found her OK, she's much less annoying than Rose (which, to be fair, isn't saying much) and I liked the fact that she's in her early twenties (I would guess, I don't think her actual age is specified in the episode). Plus, due to the timey-wimey events of the story, she's got a backstory, a history with the Doctor, and you feel like she's a genuinely different person from all the RTD-era companions.

Also, the Doctor-Companion relationship does look to be different this time, which is a definite positive. She looks at him with a mixture of lust and confusion, and he looks at her with, well, much the same. But she's due to be married to Rory? Interesting... And speaking of whom, while I would say that he was the weakest link in the episode itself (obviously being set up for the future) but at least his introduction was good, because he was an essential part of the story rather than just being introduced as Amy's boyfriend.

The story? The story appears to have come in for some stick from various reviewers, which I think is unfair. I found it a perfectly serviceable story to use as an introduction. If you hold it up against other first episodes which introduce people, I would say it's better than Rose (Which I found dull and not massively gripping), slightly better than Smith and Jones (which does, in truth, share various elements with this episode) and on a par with Partners in Crime (But with a completely different feel, as that was an out-and-out comedy episode). The essential things I took away from it, were that some of the comedy will continue to aim for the youngest child (spitting food out is a basic comic staple, although it was admittedly hilarious), but also, Steven Moffat doesn't seem to be one to shy away from using much more sci-fi elements than RTD would do.

(And yes, I know it's impossible to judge what the entire series is going to be like based on one episode, but that won't stop me trying. It's a free country damnit!)

The new title sequence is visually impressive, and I like the idea the vortex has lightning in it :) What I'm really unsure about is the new theme. I admire them for trying to do something different, but I've listened to it a few times (and you can too, right here) but it just doesn't quite give the excitement the old one did.

New TARDIS however? Love it! It's got levels, and rooms, and it's just cool.

And the general look of the episode as well. Apparently they've allowed the individual directors to have a more obvious hand in the look of the episodes rather than demanding a series-wide standard as was previously (allegedly) required in the RTD era. I loved it, it allowed for the directorial tweaks like the strange, almost bullet time Doctor's thought process, and the whole episode looked great.

The Good: New Doctor, New Companion, Sci-Fi Timey-Wimey story, Early hints of arc-stories, New TARDIS, Flashback to old monsters and Doctors

The Bad: Some of the CG was slightly cheap-looking, Rory seems particularly useless at this point (but I'm sure that may change) The new aliens were a little underused, but you get away with that in an opening story.

Conclusion: 8/10. A great start, hopefully it goes onward and upward from here