Sunday, 30 August 2009


Well, lost of stuff to talk about. Firstly the Barry Norman stuff. Been to the local googleplex a couple of times. Firstly to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (twice) and then Inglourious Bastards.

Harry Potter was superb, the best of the series so far (although my previous favourite Azkabahn runs it damn close). It's been a long time since I read the book, but it seemed faithful to my memory of it. Jim Broadbent was superb and Gambon's turn as Dumbledore was suitably sinister. I did think that the child Voldermort had lifted his performance from "Son of Mine" in Human Nature/Family of Blood. The kids are all well into their characters now and its hard to imagine anyone else could ever play Harry, Ron or Hermione. Whilst the movie was mostly dark in tone, there were some great bits of humour. Emma Watson in particular was very funny. The only thing that didn't work for me was the same as the book, Harry and Ginny as a couple. The actors gave it their best, but I just don't buy it. Anyway highest recommendation.

Inglourious Bastards was was equally impressive. Tarantino has apparently said that these is his western, albeit with war iconography. For me it was a graphic novel on screen. This was everything you would expect from Tarantino. It may turn out to be his definitive film. The opening chapter has the maturity demonstrated in Jackie Brown, the plot matches the intricacies of Pulp Fiction and the humour has the feel of Pulp Fiction. What sticks with me are two things. The first is that it was simply a beautiful film to watch. Just about every shot could have been a great photograph. The second are the performances. Brad Pitt may have been the headliner, but it is surely Christopher Waltz and Melanie Laurent who should be getting any Oscar nods. Waltz has starred in one of this blogs previously reviewed films (Ordinary Decent Criminal) in which he was a complete drip! Here he is utterly slimy and you hate him without reservation! I think Melanie Laurent will be Tarantino's new Uma Thurman. If anything she is even better than Waltz. Unsurprising the best scene in the film is where they meet for the first time.

Back in Doctor Who land the lack of a new TV story is basically annoying the hell out of me now. In some ways I am feeling like we are back in 2004 again with a new Doctor and companion, new TARDIS, new show runner etc. I am something of a spoilerphobe too so I can't even look forward to stuff that I assume others already know about (On the other hand I will hopefully enjoy those things more when I do finally see them). The key difference with 2004 is of course that we have an incumbent team and Doctor with stories left to go. The online trailer for the Waters of Mars is suitably cool (I don't hear any knocking. THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!), better yet is the comicon trailer for the Christmas specials.

Hopefully September will improve my mood on this, with the return of the excellent Sarah Jane adventures. On top of that we hat TOM!~ back as the Doctor. Paul Magrs wouldn't be my first choice to write for the fourth Doctor (Gareth Roberts or Jonathan Morris would be my preferred candidates), but Magrs does have a zany style to suit the 4th Doctor. I hope this will open the door to more Tom stories though and maybe some better line ups. Mike Yates again wouldn't be my first choice (nor come to that would be the Brig). I'd pay good money for more Tom and Lalla, although that's probably the most unrealistic of hopes!

Another "pig might fly" bit of news from a while ago was Janet Fielding returning to play Tegan in The Gathering (and just announced as coming back again to reunite with the 5th Doc and Turlough). One advantage of the gap year is that I have gradually started to clear a backlog of books and audios. As good as many of the 5th Doctor audios have been, the lack of Tegan has been a distinct weakness in the range. I am actually not the greatest fan of the character, but she works well with the 5th Doctor and more importantly the 5th Doctor works better with Tegan around (bit like the 2nd Doctor and Jamie). The Gathering isn't the greatest of stories, but it is a pleasure to hear the old team back in action and they work as well as they ever did. I also liked the clever way of flashing back/forward to The Reaping a sequel/prequel which I have yet to hear.

Next up on my catch up list was 100. As the name suggests this was Big Finishes 100 Doctor Who audio (of the main line). It's a collection of 4 1 part stories with the theme of 100. Much like the old Virgin Decalogs the links are both integral and utterly tenuous. This is a diverse collection of stories. Jac Rayner's 100BC kicks things off with a story about the birth of Julius Ceaser. It features Jac's usual light humour but is ultimately rather inconsequential, probably my least favourite of her stories and a bit of disappointment given she was the creator of Evelyn Smyth. The twist at the end is worth a chuckle though. Rob Shearman has been the star find of the Big Finish range (in terms of his Doctor Who work, Rob being an established playwrite). He always comes up with something interesting and usually macabre too. Here he does a story in which it seems to be suggested that the Doctor and Evelyn's intervention in history affects the legacy of Mozart. I ended up being unsure of what that effect was supposed to be. I was also surprised to find myself a little offended by the notion of mucking around with Mozart and his requiem. Joseph Lidster is another Big Finish and one who blows hot and cold, often in the same play. His "Master" was one of the ranges best audios. Terra Firma one of the worst. This is one of his better efforts being an effective horror story with a nasty little twist at the end. The highlight of the collection is Paul Cornell's 100 Days of the Doctor. This is Paul's first outing with the 6th Doctor and it really is a wonderful little story. The Doctor is infected with a sentient virus and has 100 days to find out how and where he was infected and how to cure himself. In doing so we see the sixth doctor seeing his later and future selves and coming to terms with his own persona. It has the feel of being the culmination of the redemption of the 6th Doctor. A process started in the books and finished with the Cornell seal of approval (Cornell having previously been highly critical of the 6th Doctor's character).

Moving onto a more standard release we have Steve Lyons' Time Works. An eight Doctor tale featuring Charley and C'Rizz. Steve was doing "timey-wimey" stuff long before Blink put living statue artists back in work. As with all of Steve's stuff this is a clever story with a strong central theme. The cliff hanger to part 1 is a particularly great set piece too. The is essentially the opposite of State of Decay with a ruling body forcing the population into ever greater productivity and progress. The story suffers a little from being too reminiscent of the "other universe" arc (and may well have been intended to be set within that arc) in particular it does feel a little like Caerdroia at times and that was an out an out classic of the eighth doctor range. Nevertheless its a very solid entry which passes the time well enough.

The last of my recent Big Finish acquisitions is the new release The Company of Friends. I've been waiting for this one to come out for months featuring, as it does, some favourite companions from the other media. As with 100 this is a collection of four one-part stories. The first is Benny's stories which, not surprisingly, features Bernice Summerfield teaming up with the 8th Doctor for the second time. This one was written by Lance Parkin (who also wrote their first team up in the final New Adventure). Its a lightweight "timey-wimey" runaround" about an aristocrat seeking to "free" a TARDIS from the "slavery" of the time lords. The real pleasure hear is to hear Benny and the Doctor teaming up again. Whilst Benny has her own line of audios, she is very much "my companion" in the way that people have "their doctor". I became a fan in 1993 so my first exposure to ongoing Doctor Who was the New Adventures. Benny was their best companion and indeed one of the best companions in the history of Doctor Who. I think she now has the same sort of longevity as the Brigadier and River Song can kiss my arse! Fitz's story is the next part. Written by Stephen Cole (basically his creator) this is ultimately too lightweight. It is a pleasure for Fitz to be brought to life, but he was the EDA's strongest companion and in the early days often a stronger character than the eighth Doctor was. That just doesn't come across here though. A full length story is required to do him justice really.

On disc 2 we have Izzy's story. Izzy was the 8th Doctor's longest running companion in the comic strips and she was brilliant. This story is just perfect being a comic strip for audio. Alan Barnes (again basically her creator) gives us an Izzy-centric quest story with her basically trying to track down the last ever issue of her favourite comic. The one episode format really works well for Izzy and aside from being a little too shouty, Jemima Rooper basically nails the character. There are also some good little injokes about the fanboy quest to track down the last few New Adventures (I laugh now, but it was a fucking quest to get them back in the day). Finally we have Mary' story which is a great little play on Frankenstien. A good Hinchliffe-gothic style tale with some timey-wimey shenanigans between two versions of the 8th Doctor. Hopefully we will see more of Mary Shelly as a companion too.

Next Up: Byzantium! The Shadow in the Glass and Hornets Nest.