Monday, September 29, 2008

Timelash - a Tale of Two Parts (neither all that good)

A boring day in the summer...

A dvd arrives in the post...

Part 1


It's sunny and warm outside, everyone's buggered off and I have the afternoon to myself for once.

Let's watch Timelash!

An hour or so later...

Hmm, that was pretty painless actually. Timelash isn't as bad as I remembered, and nowhere near as awful as fandom claims.

Admittedly not a great deal happens, but I was quite impressed by the android, the beekeeper guards and the Borad himself. Actually scratch that - I was really impressed by the design and costuming of the cast. The Borad is, I think, the best make-up until the Destroyer in Battlefield. The android is suitably odd looking which makes its sudden and unexplained appearance in flames all the better.

Which is not to say that it's all good obviously; there's little plot to speak of, the Morlock rivals the Shrivanzale, the Myrka and the Magma Beast for worst colour monster ever, Vena's makeup is awful and there's lots of generic native milling around.

You know what's really bad though? Whichever clown writes the DVD liner notes obviously thinks it's rubbish and as a result they're most apologetic I've ever seen ('padded', 'over-acted', 'cheap looking' and similar adjectives are used throughout). If he doesn't like it, couldn't they get someone who wasn't basically a tosser to do the notes? You have to assume anyone buying it is a fan and having the sour-faced mewlings of some idiot lambasting the show the BBC are busy selling you is neither helpful nor intelligent.

In any case, I thought only the actress playing Vena lets the side totally down, with Darrow turning in a perfectly reasonable if deliberately stagey performance, for all that the sleeve note fool seems to think that this is story packed with old hams and hamettes, chewing the scenery with gusto.

That's forty five minutes in and I'm cautiously looking forward to part 2...

time passes...

a week later...

Part 2

My cautious optimism was pretty much misplaced.

The second part of Timelash is like a lost TV Comic adventure or a Tom McRae two parter. Key events take place for no reason (one particularly useful scanner just appears on the wall unbidden), plot progression takes place by illogical authorial fiat (the execution of Tekker's potential deputy for treason, for instance) and there are more coincidences than generally turn up in a whole season of the increasingly lamentable 24.

As for the plot - well there's nothing in the new series which makes as little sense as the Borad's plans for Peri (even in a period of Who keen on both body horror and marriage to aliens for Peri) or for Karfel itself.

Not that it matters since the Borad (who still looks excellent and is well played by...eh...quick Google...Robert Ashby) turns out to be Just Nuts, so that it explains it all nicely.

Most disappointingly, the design work which I liked in the first part defaults to 'Shit with Styrofoam' in part two. The neck manacle and cell Peri is locked up in are both good but in no way make up for the astonishing ineptness of the Timelash interior, for which the adjective 'cheap looking' is in fact too kind.

The acting too swiftly heads down the crapper. Darrow turns in the hammy performance I expected throughout, although he's never as bad as is often suggested, while the various rebels roll about unconvincingly in the assault scene and the actress playing Vena continues to be rubbish. Baker's very good in the scene with Herbert in the TARDIS though.

The usual collection of unprofessionally lumped together further random thoughts:

I wonder if the solution to the cliffhanger in Rise of the Cybermen is a tribute to the cliffhanger here? Or just equally rotten.

Is the rope in the Doctor's decent into the Timelash designed to stop him falling off the polystyrene, to prevent him being torn into the vortex or for Colin Baker to hang himself with as he realises what happened to his youthful dreams of appearing at the RSC?

Why is the picture of the Third Doctor over a mirror anyway? Surely the Board wouldn't have done that?

And why is he bothered about mirrors anyway - he seems otherwise very proud of his new form.

Why does director Pennant Roberts spend so much time showing us the Morlox when they're so obviously crap? Oh yeah - it's Pennant Roberts.

All the answers presumably boil down to lazy writing, even lazier script editing and talentless directing.

All in all, a really disappointing conclusion.

Will I never learn? When it's sunny, go out and play with the other boys and girls...
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Idiocy on a Grand Scale (aka Helen Raynor is rubbish)

I've become a recent convert to the joys of half-wit watching on the web forum formerly known as Outpost Gallifrey, but now called (cleverly) doctorwhoforum.com.

It's full of high quality guff - from Chris McKeon telling everyone his charity book/ride on the late Craig Hinton's coat-tails, Time's Champion, is an official release because Justin Richards once told Craggles to write it, through Gary Russell claiming that he was excluded from the cool kids' New Adventures book club, all the way to someone called Marvin proving that the body can survive for ages after the removal of the brain.

Maddest (and in many ways saddest) of all however is a completely bonkers thread called 'The Helen Raynor Apology Thread', in which sundry OG posters supplicate themselves at the feet of Ms Raynor and apologise until their tongues bleed.

And the reason for the apology? Because Rusty - in his new collection of emails, notebook scribbles and illegible instructions to himself in bookie's biro on kebab wrapper ("what does that bit say? 'fuck Eccleston' is it?") - says she was crying her little eyes out when the bad freaks, sad geeks and barely pubescents twinks on OG said her Dalek two-parter wasn't very good.

Which it wasn't. There's no doubt about it. It was ineptly edited, poorly acted and badly directed for a start. Oh - and written as though someone had used a razor to cut up an already pretty crap script and then only kept the really rubbish bits. It's awful. Dreadful. Amateur. A total waste of time and energy for both those involved in making it and those unfortunate enough to sit through it. The fact Raynor (a) got paid for it and (b) got asked back to write more just sums up what a jobs for the boys no-taste arse Russell T Davies can be.

But hey - Raynor got paid good money for writing it, so she can at least use the cash to buy girly stuff like sexy underwear and the Mamma Mia DVD even while she sobs her tiny Princess Perfect heart out. And Davies is still fellated daily by assorted fanboys and girls in spite of the lazy pap he traditionally passes off as quality television every season end, so presumably he's delighted.

So why are the hand-wringing, personality-free, painfully right on and socially aware idiots who infest the Doctor Who world so keen to prostrate themselves in guilt and shame that they've set up a whole thread to say sorry?

Obviously, it's mainly in hopes Rusty will come back to OG and read the thread, remember the names of everyone who said sorry and therefore know, however briefly, who they are (or what they call themselves at least, given many posters preference for 'hilarious' pre-teen internet nicknames).

He might even mention thread originator Steve91 in passing in some future tome, acknowledging the fact that the 91st Steve on Outpost Gallifrey was the only person man enough to stand up and say 'SORRY HELEN!", even though he didn't personally say anything negative at all, has always has a lot of time for scripts by ladies ('or is it women? or people of femininity? OMG, it's the whole black/coloured Martha thing all over again!!! Forgive me Helen, forgive me!!!) and in any case wasn't even on OG that day because he was off walking a blind chinese lesbian's two legged dog round a local Halal butchers.

But other than that? What could motivate anyone to say something as dripping in saccharine piety/pompous moral condemnation as "No amount of after-the-fact rationalisation can change the emotional impact of first reading those insults." or "my little input is to say i have nothin against ms raynor, and i did enjoy her episodes for series 4 and her tw ep. but i was mean about her series 3 dalek eps. i still dont like those eps but i could have been less vocal about it - cringe"

It's because she's a girl, basically: a doe-eyed sweetheart of a girl who can't speak up for her little itsy bitsy self. She needs defending from the Big Bad (in this case spotty herberts who can quote whole chunks of Hitchhikers) by the forces of Good (in this case pious twerps who used to be OG Mods and who think a second not spent arse-kissing is second where a good pair of lips are going to waste).

How else to explain the lack of a 'Steven Greenhorn Apology Thread' or a 'Matt Jones Apology Thread'?

They're a shower of sexist swine over on that OG Forum, so they are...

Congratulations finally to one Grafty for this post which was easily the most interesting in the entire - as of just now - six page thread, and Yetaxa for pointing out that the original insult thread sounded a damn sight more entertaining.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Passing Thought of Little Interest 3

""Google and YouTube are just parasites. The day they start spending £1bn a year on content is the day I'll start worrying". -ITV executive chairman Michael Grade

ITV spend £1bn a year on content and the best they can come up with is Celebrity Love Island and Flood?

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Shining in the Darkness

Shining Darkness is not quite as good as Mark Michalowski's previous NSA Wetworld but it's a close thing - and in any case Shining Darkness is still a good deal better than most of the soul-less and dull NSAs which came before it. Michalowski's prose tends to stay this side of lyrical, but that's clearly deliberate and no bad thing given the target audience. He's also already proven to be one of the NSA writers who can actually do comedy, and this novel is no less likely to raise a smile than his previous offerings.

Actually the humour really shines through with a particular highlight being Donna and Mesanth discussing humans, the solar system and the sun is brilliant - even if "our galaxy is miles away" makes Donna sound a little bit too thick, suggesting that Michalowski may have had the Runaway Bride Donna a little too much in mind (incidentally, I reckon this book should be placed early on in Donna's travels with the Doctor).

Slightly less subtly, the entire section concerning the Jaftee introduction to the Shining Darkess and the alien 'gods' is also very well done - the totally unexpected discovery that they're not stupid savages is funny, and worthy even of the late Douglas Adams (an obvious influence on the passage). Line after line made me laugh out loud ("Darkness, they muttered in awe, that Shone! Cool!", "High Priest of What We Believe Today", "Enchikka, loving the fact that there were lots of capitals", "Sacred Artefacts were just the dog's bollocks" etc.). This style of humour continues into the next section on the planet Junk, where giant gay robots squabble and bitch at one another and our two heroes, whilst the planetary administrator, 77141, comes across like Prosthetic Vogon Jeltz's less successful provincial cousin.

Away from the funny, the author is obviously keen to take a look at bigotry and prejudice and imo he hits a decent balance between making the point too subtle for younger readers and mere didacticism. In the main this involves Donna's changing attitude to robot life, but even here Michalowski manages to combine humour with just a hint of the more subversive: "Let him have his way and before you know it, we'll be on the scrap heap – literally – and these… these appliances,' he spat the word, 'will be doing our jobs for us." one of the giant robots says of what are basically other, smaller and faster robots.

If there's any real negative to the book, it might be that it's slightly too linear in plotting, moving rapidly from point a to point b to point c, with little of the digressions you would expect of a novel aimed at an older readership. That said, that's a criticism you could aim at virtually all of the NSAs and Shining Darkness turns it into virtue by acknowledging that the whole story is an extended chase and packing each location in that chase with interest and imagination. As linear(ish) novels go, this is a good 'un.

Other unconnected thoughts that peppered my brain while reading 'Shining Darkness':

- someone says the horribly bowdlerised word 'heckuva' early on - it's obviously because the BBC think either that all the readers are under 6 and so have to be protected from even the mildest of profanities, or think that all the readership is American and religious and so have to be protected from even the mildest of blasphemies, but either way it doesn't ring true. Luckily Michalowski's a good enough writer that he manages to subvert that by slipping in a joke about a prostitute only a few pages later.

- "a high speed collision between a truck and steel mill' is a brilliant description

- 'Earthers' vs 'humans' - well it made me laugh.

- I assumed in chapter 4 that Khnu em Llodis was to an anagram, cos that's what Who writers do. Twenty minutes with paper and pencil and the best I could come up with was 'uh, kill demons'? Hmm, maybe not...

- the Wirrn get a mention! ISTR that they're making their comeback either in an NSA or a BF audio or something, but I still squeed like the sad old fanboy I am when they appeared (given the setting of the Andromeda Galaxy, a mention of Drathro from the Mysterious Planet would also have been pretty cool)

Finally, I spotted the ending about a page before it was revealed. Which is just about as perfect an ending as you could want...

An excellent contribution to a series of extremely variable quality, Shining Darkness makes Mark Michalowski the first NSA author to turn in two good books. Recommended even if you've been otherwise disappointed with the range.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

The Howling Castle

Just a quickie to point out that the second book in Puffin's Fright Night kids' series, The Howling Castle is in the shops (well the online ones anyway) now.

Written by Simon under a pseudonym based on Captain America, Cameron liked the first one in the series, which is as high a recommendation as I can think of.

Buy it. Buy it now.

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