...a blog by Richard Flowers

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Day 2190: ROBIN HOOD: Was this any good? A Clue: No


Oooh dear. This was a bit of a TRAIN WRECK.

I am still trying to get Daddy Alex to climb down from the ceiling.

He has just cut a DVD of the episode, together with a clip from Richard Greene’s “Robin Hood” from the 1950s followed by Cardinal Borusa saying:

“That’s MUCH better. I can BELIEVE that!”

Daddy Richard transcribes some of their rantings…
So, Sheriff Vasey commits (never mind a number of murders) High Treason in front of witnesses, including the former Sheriff, and Robin doesn’t shoot him full of arrows?

Central to the way that Russell T Davies has updated Doctor Who for the new millennium – and we can’t avoid talking about Doctor Who because this Robin Hood would not exist if Doctor Who hadn’t remade the television audience – central to Doctor Who is the idea that actions have consequences. Rose learns this as early as episode four when the Doctor’s casual relationship to time means that she’s been away for a year not a day, and we concentrate on the impact that this has had on her family: Jackie and Mickey in particular. “The Runaway Bride” from Christmas Day just passed is shot through with reminders and remembrances of the Doctor having just lost his best friend in the universe. From beginning to end, the Russell T Davies series never forgets that actions have knock on effects: things matter.

In contrast, Dominic Minghella has reinvented “The A Team”.

The structure is much better than the opening episodes, starting with a huge action sequence and then gathering pace and raising the tension as the various plots converge. The action is not only stylish but appropriate and arises naturally rather than feeling stuck in to pad the episode or show off “ooh, look what we can do”. And the acting, particularly from Robin, Marion and Guy, is on the money (so long as the money is “noble suffering” anyway).

All of which only makes it more of a shame that the ideas box is totally empty.

The episode begins badly anyway, committing one of my particular pet hates in fiction: the “oh… she lives” cliché. Having got us to invest emotionally in the tragic death of a character that we have come to know and care for, it is the worst kind of cheat to “un-kill” them. Last week’s cliff-hanger conclusion left Marion deceased. And this week she’s not.

Now, to be fair, “Robin of Sherwood” finished its first season by having Guy shoot Marion with a crossbow and she is miraculously saved. However, they have the fig-leaf of quasi-mystical Herne magic bollocks to hide behind, plus she was only ever at the “gravely wounded” stage.

“Robin Hood” (2006), though, has his Marion pronounced actually yer gods’ honest dead by the two physicians what would know. Oh, apparently it was hemlock poisoning. Now, maybe you can recover if you are young and strong… but not if you’ve just almost bled to death from a knife wound to the stomach! For that matter, who actually poisoned her? Double-crossing doctor Pitz doesn’t seem to have the opportunity, so was it poison on Guy’s dagger?

By mid-way through the episode she’s in her bed, passing it off as a fall in the forest and still intending to go through with her wedding to Guy – like he won’t notice the stitching across her tummy on their wedding night(!)

It completely wrecks the power of the opening scene. The opening with Marion dead, the Sheriff outside their hiding place and Robin about to go off the deep end is actually fantastic. Jonas Armstrong is good at giving Robin that mad-eyed “I’m killing people now” look, and is all the more dangerous here because we know – from “Tattoo, What Tattoo?” – that Robin is capable of going psycho on us.

The action sequence of Robin in full on killing frenzy attack is fantastic, complete with bullet-time arrows (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) and genuine adrenaline rush.

Unfortunately, you think afterwards: if Robin’s gone berserk, wouldn’t his first arrow have gone straight into Gisbourne? And in fact his next six as well. You could – just about – get away with the Sheriff ducking the first arrow to come his way if Gisbourne then grabbed the reins of the Sheriff’s horse and the two of them were away like the devil. But as it is, they sit around like a couple of lemons while the soldiers mill around getting shot.

It makes it seem like Robin wipes out a dozen innocent “red shirts” but allows the villains to escape.

Plus, everyone seems to forget that they’ve left all those corpses outside the second Marion stages her resurrection moment.

Before you know it, Marion is back to being all pouty and marrying Guy because she’s asked him if he tried to assassinate the king and – astonishingly – he’s said no. And Robin’s off to the fields for a pouty fit of his own, and is particularly unkind to poor undeserving Much. Hmmm.

Meanwhile, Marion’s father Sir Edward – who spent most of this week and last with the sign “deadmeat” hanging over him – has gathered a cabal of nobles loyal to the king and they intend to ride to Nottingham in order to protect his majesty’s person from the assassination attempt that they are sure the Sheriff is about to stage.

Sir Guy expresses his disappointment that Edward has not turned up at the wedding to give Marion away. And yet surely more surprising is the fact that Guy and Marion, two of the county’s more important nobles, have decided to schedule their wedding to clash with the king’s presence in the city. How did that work, then?

“We regret, your majesty, we have to decline your offer to attend the royal court due to a subsequent engagement.”

Hello! Feudal society! That’s a pretty short route to the headsman.

What Guy knows – although he didn’t when he scheduled it, and Marion doesn’t right up to the moment at the altar – is that this is in fact an insanely complicated ruse by Sheriff Vasey, and that the king arriving in Nottingham is in fact a fake.

In order to determine who is loyal to him and who is loyal to the real King Richard, the Sheriff has arranged for the impostor to throw him into his own dungeon and then order a trial by “French Law”. This has the nobles trot off one by one to give their evidence for or against the Sheriff. But, of course, it’s the Sheriff himself in a cowl taking the evidence.

The entire scheme, incidentally, hangs on the nobles not knowing what this “French Law” entails, so that they won’t realise that it’s a trap. That would be the nobles who are NORMANS!

You would think that the Sheriff could make up a nice list of those who testify against him, have his fake king pronounce him innocent and then arrange for some quiet assassinations later. Then, even if the imposture is discovered, the Sheriff can say: “oo, I was taken in with the rest of you!”

But no. Vasey just ups and stabs them there and then. That’s murder. And you can’t just bump off half-a-dozen of your own nobles without someone noticing.

The only chance he has to get away with this then is for his impostor to declare him innocent and then say that therefore those who testified against him have been executed for treason. So, the Sheriff ties himself into collusion with the impostor.

And really, how can he expect word of a fake king in Nottingham not to get back to his feudal superiors? No King – not even a weak one like John – could tolerate this happening because it totally undermines their authority. The king cannot allow someone to “borrow” his power or he has no power.

(The way round this would be for Prince John to be in on the plot, but the episode never says this, never mentions John at all, in fact.)

Because there are no consequences in this world, then the Sheriff can just ignore all of the rules, he can be bonkers and evil and kill anyone he wants because he’ll always be back next week. So, what’s the point of watching?

The Sheriff’s plot unravels thanks to one astonishingly handy coincidence plus Guy’s sudden inability to lie with a straight face.

Much, who with Robin, Guy and maybe the Sheriff is one of the few people in the county to know the king by sight, is running through the fields from Nottingham towards Loxley and that just happens to be the route that the fake king is taking. As opposed to, say, a road.

And then, when Much bursts in on the church and announces the king is not the real king, Marion asks Guy: “did you know this?”

“Um er” says the previously taciturn assassin. Well, gosh, he’s a good bloke to keep plots of treason secret then.

Yes, it is a great moment when Marion finally punches Guy’s lights out with her wedding ring, and it is a great moment when Robin rides in to save her and they gallop off to rescue Sir Edward… even if they are going to need a convenient time jump to get to Nottingham before he can walk the length of a corridor.

Sir Edward, against all odds, reason and dramatic convention actually survives the episode. In spite of the fact that Guy threatens to kill him if Marion doesn’t marry him while simultaneously the Sheriff is actively trying kill him for being too noble, Marion not marrying Guy actually results in him surviving. It is another example of there being no consequences, no cost to any of the choices the characters make.

Marion’s entire motivation for going with Guy – apart from the sexy black leathers – is that there will be consequences if she doesn’t. And nothing changes that.

Thus, we finish with the Sheriff obviously and provably guilty of a capital crime and holding Robin’s best friend at knifepoint. There’s no way to take him into custody and letting him go will surely invite terrible retribution. Robin has never had a better reason or greater need to just kill him!

(And just why is Much still alive at the end too? The Sheriff is on the point of slitting his throat and Robin fires his arrow – does Vasey just do one quick slice? No, he does the comedy follow the arrow as it ricochets around the room before – impossibly – ending up stuck in his sandal without even grazing his toes. Hilarious!)

In fact there’s some terrific drama there in that question: whether it is possible to be against the death penalty but still believe that the use of lethal force can be justified in time of war. Can Robin take the consequences one way or the other?

Suppose they had followed the daring, dramatic and yet entirely logical course and Robin did kill the Sheriff.

Sheriff: “You can’t kill me, can you?”

Robin: “A clue: yes.”

Woosh, kerthunk.

You could have had a season two where Marion has to reassess her opinion of Robin now she knows he’s a killer. Meanwhile Sir Guy and Sir Edward are both trying to secure the title of Sheriff thus keeping a dramatic tension – Edward can’t pardon Robin because Guy won’t let him; Guy can’t kill Marion (if she has to be alive) because Edward won’t let him – and at the end of the season the King turns up to decide who will be Sheriff… and it’s Prince John!

Instead, nobody in the cast list is dead and we’ve pressed the great big re-set switch of doom. Even “The Simpsons” has noticed that this isn’t credible week after week after week. In the age of new Doctor Who, it simply won’t do.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Day 2188: But do you support government policy or don’t you, Ms Bleary?


Headless-chicken impersonator and VERY MUCH full time, in her own words "every waking moment", chair of Lord Blairimort’s Labour Ms Hazel Bleary has a bit of a problem.

She was on the Radio anyway, having to make the usual excuses for her boss, Lord Blairimort.

Asked about whether His Lordship was off on a freebee with a Bee Gee or would in fact pay his own way, Ms Bleary told us how DISAPPOINTED she was with the public and that really we all ought to be doing better.

"If you don’t buck your ideas up, you won’t DESERVE Lord Blairimort!" she warned!

Anyway, THAT’s not HER problem.

Here’s what has happened:

Her constituents have discovered that Lord Blairimort’s government has a plan to abolish their hospital and replace it with a nurse and some sticking plasters. They are not completely chuffed about this and have organised a protest. Good local politics in action.

However, Ms Bleary’s problem is not QUITE the same problem as her constituents.

HER problem is that where she is MP, there are three constituencies but only enough constituents for two seats, so like a game of MUSICAL CHAIRS one of the seats has been taken away. Oh dear, where will Ms Bleary be sitting when the music stops?

In order to demonstrate her LOCAL CREDENTIALS, Ms Bleary has quickly joined the protestors on the picket lines.

"My first and foremost job is to represent Salford and the people of the area," said Ms Bleary.

It would appear that Ms Bleary’s constituents would prefer to be represented by someone who will OPPOSE the government rather than be PART OF IT!

How does Ms Bleary respond to the accusation that she is being a bit TWO FACED?

"My first and foremost job is to represent Lord Blairimort and the people of the Labour Cabinet," said Ms Bleary. "And I see no contradiction in that."

Ms Bleary has the FULL SUPPORT of Mr Ivan ("Ivan’t it both ways") Lewis, who is Lord Blairimort’s HEALTH MINISTER!

Who better to say that you should oppose government health policy that one of the government health ministers! He’s even protested against government health policy himself! At least he won’t have to look to far to give the person responsible a GOOD TALKING TO!

"Anyone can approach Secretary of State, Patricia Hewitt," he said. "Just don’t expect to come out of there AWAKE!"

But what about COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY, I hear you ask – that is where all the members of the CABINET agree that they will support government policy once it has been agreed, no matter what they argued in the Cabinet discussion.

Anyone breaking that code would have to report themselves quick smart to the person in charge of party discipline and maintaining the party line: the chair of the party, er… Ms Hazel Bleary.

Mr Shaun Ley of the World at One wondered if this would have any effect on Ms Bleary standing for the role of Deputy Leader of the Labour when Minister for Magical Accidents John Prescott is fired by Mr Frown stands down with Lord Blairimort.

"There’s no chance of me standing for that!" Ms Bleary DID NOT say. "Think how embarrassing it would be for the Deputy Leader to be deselected because none of the local constituencies can bear the sight of her!"

What she actually said was: "there is no contest yet."

We shall have to wait for the announcement of who is standing from the person in charge of internal elections: the chair of the party, er… Ms Hazel Bleary.

It is a GOOD JOB she is used to wearing SO MANY FACES HATS isn’t it!

Day 2187: Mr Balloon’s Christmas Dinner (just £500 to you, squire)


I cannot let Christmas pass without wishing a very Happy Season to MR BALLOON, last seen by my fluffy agents on the Thursday before Christmas getting VERY CROSS leaving HMV in London. I do hope the special edition "Lord Blairimort's Greatest Speeches" DVD that he wanted from Santa wasn't out of stock!

With the CASH-FOR-HONOURS scandal still flapping about like a loose ermine robe, Christmas gifts are in SHORTER SUPPLY this year. No longer can Mr Balloon look forward to finding a cheque from a Saudi Arms Dealer in his Christmas stockings.

Still, Mr Balloon is never one to be downhearted, and it turns out he has been cheering himself up with a slap up meal or two Chez House of Commons.

Unfortunately, the Inspector of Standards has been tipped off that not all of Mr Balloon’s guests were there as, er, guests and that they may have been, er, paying for the privilege of eating in Her Majesty’s Palace of Westminster.

Chair of the Conservatory Party, Auntie Maude appeared on the Radio 4 World at One to explain.

It is a bit of a GREY area,” Auntie told us. “The rules say that what we’ve been doing is quite wrong but we’ve been getting away with it for ages and had hoped this meant we still could. I am grateful to the Inspector for clearing up the fact that in fact we can’t, and that we’ll have to ask Lord Ashcroft to siphon off another million quid through Banko de Bananama. Oh, is that ANOTHER grey area…?

Meanwhile, I am struck by fluffy déjà vu when the Conservatories announce all over again that they want high speed MAGIC LEVITATION trains.

Didn’t little Mr Boy George announce this back in AUGUST? Oh yes, so he did.

Announcing the SAME THING several times over, isn’t that just a bit NEW LABOUR? Oh…

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Day 2186: DOCTOR WHO: The Runaway Bride

Boxing Day:

Here’s an idea for NEXT year’s Christmas Special:

Millennium Elephant in association with the BBC proudly presents a Russell T Davies television production: Murray Gold’s DOCTOR WHO: THE MUSICAL!

Sing along with the roller-blading Time Lord Chorus as they perform their medley of musical hits – “Ra Ra Rassilon (inventor of the Time Machine, there was a Cat that Really was Gone!)”; “How do you Solve a Problem like The Master?”; and “Raxacoricofallapatorius (even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious)”!

GASP at OMEGA as he sings the “Antimatter Rhapsody”:

“I’m just a poor boy, from a poor Gallifrey… Gravity-oh Gravity-oh Gravity won’t let me go! (oh… oh… ohhh ohhhhhh) The Gel Guards haaaaaave the Doctor and his Sidekick!”

THRILL to the Phantom of the Panopticon singing Android Lord Webber’s classic “The Music of the Night…mare of Eden”:

“Softly, slowly, it’s a great big muppet…”

And GUFFAW as the Fourth Doctor goes down the pub to the tune of:

“Ma Ma Ma… Ma Baker he taught his four chums…

“Ma Ma Ma… Ma Baker how to handle their gins…”

With full CHOIR of Daleks and Chancellor Flavia doing her whistling…

Oh, all right, here’s Daddy Richard’s review:

The Christmas Special, it’s something new for Doctor Who and this is only the second ever.

Oh, all right third ever, “The Feast of Steven” while technically being a part of “The Daleks’ Master Plan” is still a comedy cross-over with Z-Cars cut-and-shut with the Keystone Cops that they could only ever have thought of getting away with for broadcast on the one time Christmas Day and Saturday tea time coincided during the series first twenty-six years.

But this is the second of the new breed for which Russell T Davies has been responsible. It seems that to really capture the Christmas Spirit he has gone for that big post-Queen’s-speech movie feel. Last year – all huge spaceships, doomy music and last minute saving the world – it was The Disaster Movie; this year he’s reaching for The Screwball Comedy.

You know the sort of movie: she’s a zany uninhibited modern woman; he’s an uptight prim and proper man; they can’t stand each other but can’t get away from each other and you know they’ll finish with a snog. And he’s usually Cary Grant, for some reason.

In fact, the comedy works very well: it’s never intrusive and is lightly handled and often laugh out loud funny. You’ve got to admit, Catherine Tate in a wedding dress swinging on a spider web thread to the Doctor’s arms only to… CLONG! Is probably going to be the best pratfall of the season.

No, actually it’s the Screwball that doesn’t come off because it’s clear that actually the Doctor and Donna would get on very well if only her wedding hadn’t been totally ballsed-up. Yes, in fact, Russell’s writing of character is too good for this sort of thing as neither of the central characters is sufficiently two-dimensional.

That slightly throws the tone of this Christmas adventure and makes some of the more dramatic moments seem a little too much for what we expected. Particularly the Doctor’s moment of darkness at the end when – without Rose or anyone else to restrain him – he decides on genocide. That’s a really heavy dramatic arc for the character and one I think will better suit the DVD box set viewer who will be able to place it into a context between the tragi-triumph of “Doomsday” and the start of season three. Rather than the Christmas day viewer trying to place it between “Monsters Inc” and “The Vicar of Dibley”.

There is a slightly missed trick by having the adventure set a year after “The Christmas Invasion” – the events of “The Runaway Bride” could have been simultaneous with last year’s special. It would have tied up the loose end of the Sinister Santas just disappearing from the plot last year. As it is, they appear to have been loitering around on Earth all year, with nothing to do but retool their festive disguises. The opportunity was there for “Back to the Future II” style running around avoiding his own past adventures and poignant “I could go and see Rose” moments.

It also means that the Christmas elements feel a little shoehorned in to an already busy plot. Santas again, Christmas trees again, snow again. At least last year’s snow was blackly comic, this year it is a bit treacly (I suppose that’s what you get for having an evil Christmas star instead).

I should say that the acting of the two leads is terrific (if not Screwball) with both of them having to face their “loved-and-lost” moments: the Doctor realising that Rose is lost but still very much alive and Donna realising that there is more to see walking in the dust than she could have had with duplicitous Lance.

David Tennant gives one of his best performances as the Time Lord, getting all the notes right: the darkness and danger that he always does so well, but not too over the top on the enthusiasm this time which plays better, like he means it. And, of course, there are those moments of perfect sadness for his lost Rose when the loneliness comes back and haunts his eyes.

Catherine Tate is also terrific. Far too many people were criticising her in advance because she is a comedian without remembering that she is also an actor. This is a dramatic role albeit with comedy moments and she plays it straight down the line. Donna is a lovely character, with all her hugely apparent flaws, and Tate brings a warmth to her so that by the end you are really pleased that she has met the Doctor and he has given her the inspiration to turn around the hand that life has dealt her. She would have been great as a continuing companion – she’s said she would have done it – but at least we are left glad to have known her for this one off.

Russell is known to be a big fan of the books and audios from the, ahem, sixteen-year fallow period, and for nicking their ideas to use on the telly. An ancient and terrible enemy of the Time Lords buried in the middle of the Earth is very “Interference” (though that in itself is a reference to the Great Vampires of “State of Decay” who – like the Racnoss – devour whole worlds and are defeated by the Time Lords). The scarlet Empress is however nothing like the Scarlet Empress in the book “The Scarlet Empress” apart from being an empress. And Scarlet.

Incidentally, the Empress who is the last of her kind hiding in the Dark Space at the edge of the Universe looking for a chance to restore her species after they were destroyed in a War with the Time Lords in a story with shimmery, golden Time Lord energy… does any of this sound at all like “The Parting of the Ways”?

(Or you might prefer “City of Death” where the last of the Jagaroth, whose spider-like ship exploded to cause the start of life on Earth, tries to resurrect his war-like species while in “The Runaway Bride” the last of the spider-like Racnoss, whose web-like ship caused the formation of the Earth itself, tries to… oh hang on! They both feature the Doctor travelling back in time to find out what is going on too!)

The Empress looks spectacular. At last! A Doctor Who spider that isn’t just rubbish. To be really greedy, it would have been nice if she did a bit more – seeing her just leap across that pit to pounce on the Doctor, or at least move around a bit would have made her seem threatening. But that would have involved some CGI rendering – completely defying the point of the terrific prosthetic.

Her character seems a little… odd though, both ranting like a maniac and cracking really bad jokes. Is she just the very worst relative visiting for Christmas ever?

You do feel pretty awful for her at the end, though, and maybe there are just too many cries of “My Children!” for comfort. But then you are supposed to get that the Doctor has gone all Harriet Jones on us there.

Interestingly, she appears to have offered Lance basically the same deal that the Doctor offered Rose: sign up with me and I’ll show you the universe. They even have the same (rubbish) sense of humour. Lance gets a great (evil) scene effectively dumping Donna at the altar, but otherwise seems unusually undeveloped for a Russell T Davies character. Almost certainly too gruesome for tea-time on Christmas, would have been to follow the logic of Lance being offered the role of consort to the Empress. Female spiders eat their mates.

We could also have done with a shot of the Racnoss spider-lings skittering up the bore from the centre of the Earth before being washed back down the drain again. But the budget probably wasn’t going to run to it.

But in fairness, that is because they have spent the CG budget on the TARDIS / taxi chase and it is worth every penny. It is terrific: one of the best special effects in anything ever. The spinning, bouncing TARDIS is perfect, particularly the interaction with cars around it. There are even moments where you are seeing it and the taxi from in front and the bouncing movement of the TARDIS lets you see through the open doors into the interior. It is astonishingly good. And it is great drama: you can feel the tension, see the other drivers realising Donna is in trouble and even the shouting cheering kids actually help. And it is also great comedy: “Santa’s a Robot!” is another killer line. (And yes, the Santa’s face falls off moment is another reference – this time to the police officers turning out to Autons in “Terror of the Autons”. There were questions in the House about that, you know!)

I suppose, being so very good, the chase does give “The Runaway Bride” a bit of a “Superman Returns” vibe of the best stuff being up front. Which is a bit unfair on the Empress and the explosive conclusion (that – golly – doesn’t reuse the explosion of the Nestene lair from “Rose” this time!)

So on the whole a very mixed stocking this year, all the presents that you want but strangely not necessarily in the right order, and yes a funny old Satsuma in the toe. It will be interesting to view in hindsight once the new season begins in April how it works as a dramatic bridge from Rose to Martha. Not as brilliant as last year’s “The Christmas Invasion” and rather closer in tone to “New Earth” (though pulling off the mix of drama and comedy a lot better), this is still great television and well worth the licence fee.

They haven’t announced a third Christmas Special for 2007, but let’s hope that this becomes a tradition. Although, maybe let’s not commission Millennium’s musical episode just yet, all right?
(Daddy Alex whispers quietly in my big fluffy ear: actually, it sounds rather fun to me!)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Day 2185: We Wish You a Millennium Christmas

Christmas Day:

1 a.m.

I jump on Daddy Richard’s head and shout: “IT’S CHRISTMAS!”

Santa has BEEN!

Evidence #1: sticky bun is GONE!

Father Christmas?

Evidence #2: knock out drops in sherry mean Daddy Richard is slumped beside large pile of presents. I KNEW Father Christmas would not drink and drive!

Daddy Christmas!

“Wurgle!” says daddy. “Go back to bed, Millennium! It’s too early to be Christmas!”

Bother! Forgot to consider side effects of knock out drops.

2 a.m.

I jump on Daddy Richard’s head and shout “IT’S CHRISTMAS!”

See 1 a.m.

t'was the night before Christmas and all through the house, nothing was moving...
...except an elephant

3 a.m.

Manage to drag Daddy Richard to shower and stick his head under for five minutes.

When he splutters to consciousness he is VERY UN-CHRISTMASY. May have to consider NOT giving him present this year.

Obey the Spirit of Fluffy Christmas!

4 a.m.

Find note sticky-taped to Daddy Richard’s head. It reads:

“Dear Millennium, let your daddy sleep, love from Father Christmas.”

Must think about this.

4.10 a.m.

Find second note sticky-taped to Daddy’s head.

“I meant for more than 10 minutes. F.C.”

Handwriting suspiciously like Daddy Alex’s – I will keep this for analysis later.

5 a.m.

I jump on Daddy Richard’s head and shout: “IT’S CHRISTMAS!”

Am surprised to discover that it is in fact just a load of pillows!

Daddy sleeping on balcony. He has turned blue. Decide to warm him up. Make him nice cup of tea and pour it over him. Daddy VERY GRATEFUL!


6 a.m.

I jump on Daddy Richard’s head and shout: “IT’S CHRISTMAS!”

“Yes, Millennium, indeed it is,” he says. “Shall we go and see…”

Look! Look!

Okay, which are MINE?!?!?!

There's a QUOTE from Mr Billy as Dr Who that is appropriate for today... but I cannot remember what it is!


Now GO AND WATCH "The Runaway Bride" on DOCTOR WHO!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Day 2184: TORCHWOOD: Combat


It’s Christmas Eve so Daddy is waiting up for Father Christmas to deliver me PRESENTS. I’ve gone to bed early, but I’ve asked him to stay up and make sure that Santa gets the sherry and sticky bun that I have left out for him. I hope that he knows I have been a GOOD elephant!

I wonder what Daddy will do while waiting up for Father Christmas?

[wibble wobble wibble wobble… later that same evening…]

The first rule of Weevil Club is you do not talk about Weevil Club.

Well, like the film “Fight Club” from which this is an obvious derivative, “Combat” is a superior, thoughtful piece, much more than the macho one line summary might suggest.

There is – unlike for example the Babylon 5 / WWF wrestling cross over punch up “TKO” – remarkably little of the actual punching. Instead the story follows the conflict – combat – between characters as the fall out from the Gwen/Owen affair tears the pair of them to pieces: Owen falls into a macho nihilistic mood making him perfect for infiltrating the gang of Weevil-fighting thrill seekers, but at the same time entirely vulnerable to their ideology infiltrating him.

Gwen compounds her betrayal of Rhys by using the amnesia drug to try and salve her own conscience and get the forgiveness from Rhys that she craves without having to face any of the consequences of her telling him about the affair. Get a priest, love, doing that to Rhys is abuse and you ought to know it. At the end of the episode we don’t even know if Rhys is alright or has slipped into a coma or drowned in his own vomit – Gwen seems to have let him fall drunkenly asleep and left him on the sofa while she goes down the Hub for a (Jubilee) pizza and a bit of a blub.

Another writer to make a nice pick up of Retcon from the pilot episode, by the way. Writing was something we were looking forward to anyway, because the man responsible is Noel Clarke, possibly better known to us as Doctor Who’s Mickey Smith, but also the writer of dark teen-life movie Kidulthood. Noel has been a huge supporter of the new series of Doctor Who, making a great many appearances for fans and really pushing the series of which he is obviously a huge fan himself, as well as immensely proud. With Rose leaving the series, we were sad to see the end of Mickey (and of the lovely Camile Coduri as Jackie too) but we were hopeful that there could be some life after death for Mickey in the form of following Helen Raynor and Chris Chibnal from Torchwood onto a writing gig for Doctor Who. On the strength of this, Noel is certainly deserving, handling the ongoing character arcs well and writing a well paced action episode that takes the time to make you think. When Tosh calls Jack short and says that they are using the Weevil in a way they would never use a human it is a nice reminder to the audience too. And when the obvious villain Mark suggests that the Weevils aren’t aliens but humans from the future it is a clever surprise to have our assumption that they are just aliens challenged. Our audience insight knowing the time rift (that has just last week brought us humans from the past) makes us find this more than plausible. And the very dark last scene where Owen demonstrates his alpha-male status over the captured Weevils leaves us thinking that Mark’s notion is right. Rather better done than the Links in “Blake’s Seven” – which were similar – the Weevils as bestial Morlocks is really rather satisfying.

Mark’s cryptic remark about “in the darkness something coming” though, feels a bit more shoehorned in as a tip to the series fast approaching climax. How would he know?

Mark’s fate, death by Weevil, is another moment of callousness from Captain Jack. Or is it? His alternative is to kill the Weevil, and Tosh has just recently reminded him that the Weevils are living creatures too. Owen and Jack seem lined up to clash too, now that neither is in any way sure of what the other believes any more, and Jack seems less certain of himself just as Owen seems more. Owen’s question: “always know the right thing to do, do we?” is interesting, because anyone who answers “yes” is actually a dangerous fanatic. The real question is: “who is Captain Jack Harkness?” Funnily enough, tune in next week…

On the downside, once again Torchwood seem a bit rubbish. The backstory website is all a bit more “Hustle” than “Spooks”, so no wonder Mark sees through it. And both Alex and I scoffed at the blinky-blinky blue tracker. Yes, of course the flashing light is TV shorthand so the viewer knows what it is, but really did no one at Torchwood think of something a bit more sub-dermal? Alex recommended two trackers, one hard to find the other harder so that the Weevil takers might find one and discard it, but miss the other. Handy then that even having taken the trouble to erase the phone history of dead-guy Dan’s mobile they forget to remove him from their text list of where to find the next fight. Still, at least Gwen was professional enough to tell Jack where the fight was rather than going in alone to save Owen.

The Weevils, oddly, seem misplaced, less part of Torchwood’s ongoing story, more of a Maguffin. We would have expected revelations about the Weevils to be a part of a bigger picture – something was said to be driving them up from the sewers – but here they were just the punchbags in a different story.

This doesn’t seem so much life after death as recent weeks: more life after the affair. Gwen and Owen are both seeking their own peace – she through absolution, he through violence and death.

“Combat” took us up to the brink, as far as the characters of Gwen and Owen were concerned. We teeter on the edge of seeing whether there will be the long fall into consequences.

And a Very Merry 24th and LAst Day of Advent to All of You at Home!!!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Day 2183: Turkeys Vote for Christmas


"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly."

– President Abraham Lincoln

That Pink Dog has yipped at me to point out that The The Today Programme's "Great Repeal Act" – as Mr Mark Pax has already said – is CLEARLY COPIED straight from Liberal Democrat Mr Clogg's "Christmas Repeal".

(IMPORTANT NOTE: this is NOT about the REPEAL OF CHRISTMAS before Ms Anne Atkins and the League of Righteous Dowagers and Ranting Christian Women get on their HIGH HORSES yet again! Christmas has NOT been cancelled and it never was; the League and Ms Anne are just BLOWING OFF THEIR HATS to get into the papers, as usual.)

You have to choose which of SIX Acts of Parliament you most want repealed.

But it is COMPLETELY OBVIOUS which law to vote for: while the Dangerous Dogs Breakfast Act and the "No Catholics, please" Act of Settlement are both worthy of being sorted out, they are not nearly so HEINOUS (good word) as the Seriously Disorganised Crime and Police State Act.


The people in Parliament are supposed to represent US. They should be able to hear us, see us, understand what moves us to passion and protest.

The freedom to put the OTHER POINT OF VIEW is central to how democracy works. THIS is the freedom that "Freedom of Speech" is supposed to protect.

Having our MPs and Peers cower away inside the Palace of Westminster behind bullet proof glass and a mile wide exclusion zone will not make them or us any safer, only increase their ISOLATION.

Lord Blairimort once talked about a "BIG CONVERSATION". Well you have to shout PRETTY LOUD if you want the other side of the conversation to hear when you're not allowed to come within a mile of 'em.

Sadly, the winner (or should that be loser?) will DEFINITELY be the Hunting Act because of the massive the Pro-Hunting Lobby.

The UKIP nutters will without a doubt run it a close second, trying to undo the European Communities Act (carefully chosen so as not to have Lady Thatcher's fingerprints upon it). They are just as barking mad and may have more time on their hands what with not having farms in the middle of winter to run.

The anti-politically correct nutters (and, apparently, Mr Balloon) will vote to repeal the Human Rights Act because they are silly enough to believe all those newspaper stories about Human Rights being to blame for straight bananas and metric weights.

But the Pro-Hunt COUNTY-CIDE ALLIANCE are simply more dogged than anything (except possibly the anti-Hunt FEDERATION of PEOPLE FOR FLUFFY ANIMALS… but THEY don't get the opportunity to vote "anything but the Hunting Bill").

I do not like hunting. It is MEAN.

But more than that, far, far, far more than enough parliamentary time has been wasted on banning hunting already and we could really, really do without yet another pointless ding-dong about it.

I do not REALLY expect this to get any further than the The Today Programme programme's LAST attempt to subvert the democratic process encourage a participative democracy when Steven "Mr" Pound backed out of his promise to introduce "The People's Law" when it turned out that the people's law was to start hanging people again.

Interesting, though, that FOUR out of the SIX repeals on offer would RESTORE FREEDOMS to people. (Even if one of the others is about taking them away again!)

Perhaps people are starting to get the right LIBERAL IDEA!

Look, look! I'm UP TO DATE!

And a Very Happy 23rd Day of Advent - TWO DAYS TO GO! - to All of You at Home!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Day 2182: Iraq - Well THAT'S all right then (!)


Ms Condescending Rice, who is the American Monkey-in-Chief's Secretary of State, says that the War in Iraq will be WORTH THE PRICE in lives and dollars.

Well, that's easy for HER to say when neither her life nor her dollars are on the line!

It would be nice to say that Ms Rice was using the ENDS to justify the MEANS. Except, no one really has any idea what the ENDS might actually be either.

"There have been plenty of markers…" does she mean OIL WELLS? "…that show that this is a country that is worth the investment…" she DOES mean OIL WELLS! "…because once it emerges as a country that is a stabilising factor, you will have a very different kind of Middle East."

Soooooo, once Iraq becomes a stabilising factor Iraq will be a stabilising factor?

And, presumably, once they discover YOGIC FLYING they will be able to YOGIC FLY.


If you WANT to set a goal you should set one that MEANS SOMETHING. The problem with that is that the goal that we ought to want to set (you remember: Iraq to become a Westernised democracy based on a free market economy and the rule of law recognising basic human rights) THAT goal is now (a) ludicrously unbelievably unlikely to be achieved (b) transparently obviously not achievable by the method the US and UK are using – i.e. shooting and exploding people until they become nice.

I do not think that you CAN just turn a dictatorship into a democracy by just invading it. The change needs to come from WITHIN. That DOES mean patiently waiting, possibly while a lot of horrible things happen to a lot of people. Because then when change does come – like it did in the 1990s for the Soviet Bloc, or in the 1980s for once-Fascist Spain or Greece – then you can be there to offer support and incentives and encouragement and advice.

See how we were succeeding in nurturing the development of basic freedoms in Turkey. And in Lebanon until we let Mr Omlette and Hezbollah smash it all to pieces again between them.

Instead, in Iraq we have created a situation where we are not trusted and where chaos and violence rule the streets and appear to be getting worse and worse and worse. Certainly these figures show that attacks and killings are INCREASING year on year.

At least Ms Rice admits that a lot has been SACRIFICED for Iraq.

Some of the people "sacrificed" include the twenty-four civilians and one US marine killed in Haditha in November 2005.

Some of the people "sacrificed" include the twenty-four civilians and one US marine killed in Haditha in November 2005. Eight other marines have now been put on trial to determine whether they were acting within the allowed rules or committing manslaughter.

This morning's newsreader introduced this story with the suggestion that this might be the "most important" development in Iraq since the war. Actually, I am not sure that this is right. The American government either managed to overlook the fact that its soldiers were using Saddam Hussein's torture prison to carry on torturing people, or WORSE they knew about it! Compared to the Abu Grahib, a platoon going off on a killing spree after one of their number is blown up – horrible though that is – seems more understandable.

The important bit, though, might have been slipped in at the end as an almost throwaway remark: the possibility that American patrols ROUTINELY respond this way when attacked.

Meanwhile, Ms Rice's boss, President Cheney, has allowed Mr Bush to say a few words on the subject.

There will be "difficult choices" and "additional sacrifices" said the Monkey-in-Chief.

Coo, won't the Iraqis be thrilled to hear THAT.

Under pressure to come up with a plan in response to the Iraq Survey Group report saying he ought to have a plan, Mr Bush also said he was considering "all options" including: sending in MORE troops; negotiating with IRAN; and selling the whole country to DISNEYLAND.

Okay, I was kidding about negotiating with Iran!

Lord Blairimort – still trying to kid himself that he can achieve some kind of LEGACY in the region – flew in to Baghdad to say "Hi… look… you know how it is… must be off!" to the Iraqi Prime Minister du jour Nouri Maliki, before flying out again just as quick.

(To be fair he had a date to get to if he was going to try and get people to gang up on Iran.)

HOW things have changed there since his last visit to Iraq, back in May, to welcome the new Iraqi government… No, hang on, they haven't changed at all. It's STILL an awful horrible mess for everyone living outside the bunker complex that is the GREEN ZONE.

Perhaps Lord Blairimort does not see it that way. Perhaps he CANNOT see it that way thanks to the Monkey-in-Chief using BRAIN-A-TRON (pat. pending) control rays upon him.

Day 2181: Harry Potter and the Final Chapter


Ms J.K. Rowling Pin has revealed that the title of the seventh and final Harry Potter novel will be "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows".

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was first published in 1997, and – since each book takes place over the course of a year – like my diary, the books have, er, drifted slightly, as it now ought to be set in 2003.

For a LONG TIME my Daddies tried to avoid getting hooked on the Harry Potter PHENOMENON, until one BOXING DAY, in the year 2000 (just before I arrived!) they were driving home from Manchester and they listened to the Radio – and on the Radio was MR STEPHEN FRY (Britain's Cleverest Man™) reading aloud from the first book.

It was soooo good that all of the other people on Radio 4 stopped what they were doing in order to listen and so Mr Stephen was able to go through the whole day and read the whole book.

By the end of it, my Daddies were just as hooked as everybody else! They went straight out and bought the first four books and read them all in a rush.

I am sorry to say that Ms Rowling Pin's books as ENTIRELY as good as everyone says that they are and if you haven't read them, you had better start now. The later ones have quite a LOT of pages and you will want to be up to speed when the final story is published!

And a Very Harry 22nd Day of Advent to All You Witches and Wizards at Home!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Day 2178 2179 2180: Daddy Cannot Count

Wednesday (again):

…which is obviously pretty bad news for an accountant.

I have been learning MATHS and trying to work out why my days in my diary DO NOT ADD UP!

[Daddy Richard Says: Move Along, Move Along. Nothing to See Here!]

This is REALLY BORING but I am going to explain!

In the FIRST PLACE, my diary should have started on Day 1881 (NOT Day 1880).

This is an example of the old counting lampposts error!

If your road is ten metres long and you want a lamp every metre, then how many lamps do you need? Answer ten.

WRONG!!! Awooga Awooga! Alarms go off and "ten" flashes on the screens.

The right answer is ELEVEN because you need one at the beginning as well, then number two at one metre, number three at two metres, number four at three metres, and so on up to number ELEVEN at ten metres.

Since I arrived on the 1st January 2001, then that is Day 1. NOT Day 0.

Daddy is ALWAYS going on about how he thinks I am FIVE and not NEARLY SEVEN. Ha! It turns out HE'S one to talk!

Then in the SECOND PLACE, the nice Blogger machine tells me how many diaries I have typed in with my big fluffy nose.

But when it said I had done 100 diaries, I was on Day 1976, and when it said I had done 200 diaries, I was on Day 2076.

Any fule nose that even if you are STUPID like my Daddy Richard and start on Day 1880, then 100 diaries later is Day 1979, NOT Day 1976! And 200 diaries later is Day 2079, NOT Day 2076!

What COULD have happened? I decided to stick my big ol' nose into my archive and here is what I found.

There were TWO diaries each for Day 1884 and Day 1885 and Day 1906.

That is where the three extra days disappeared.

AND I found that there were two diaries for Day 2132, so it would have been FOUR missing days!

Day 1884 and Day 1885 were DELIBERATE: the first one was a PS and the second one was my FIRST FLUFFY PICTURE!

Daddy has edited these so that there is now only ONE diary for each day.

But Day 1906 and Day 2132 were MISTAKES: Daddy – who is STUPID – used the same number TWICE.

Using the same number twice means that all of my diaries are a TWO DAYS OUT instead of ONE DAY OUT. And doing it again means that they are even THREE DAYS OUT instead of ONE DAY OUT!


Now THIS is where it gets REALLY complicated!

Daddy did not realise that there was a difference between two diaries for one day and the same number used for two days. So he deleted the duplicate Day 1906 just like he did with the duplicates of Day 1884 and Day 1885.

This means that there is actually NO DIARY for Tuesday 21 March 2006!

Which is why this diary has to be for Wednesday AGAIN, so that there is one day with TWO diaries to make up for the one day with NO diaries.

But it also means that I have a SPARE NUMBER so that is why I only have to skip Day 2178 and Day 2179.

And while we're at it, Day 2049 got put in as Day 1949! But I have let Daddy fix that!

I cannot re-edit all of the mis-numbered Days because Daddy Alex has explained that if I change the titles, then the Blogger machine will change the URLs which will blow up all the links to my diary that people have made.

(Daddy Richard tried to sneakily change the ones in the last week when we discovered his mistake, but I have made him put them back!)

So instead I am just going to have to put it right, starting from NOW!

And now, if you will excuse me, there is an elephant in a BONE MAMMOTH MASK here trying to sell me a copy of the latest and last FACTION PARADOX book in exchange for my missing days…

This has been my 300th Diary! It was brought to you by the miracle of ADDING UP!

Day 2177: Virgin Birth: It's a Lizard!


Flora the Komodo Dragon Lizard, the biggest lizard in the world, who has never KNOWN a boy lizard, has given birth to a clutch of eggs and is looking forward to babies by Christmas.


Apparently it is down to CHROMOSOMES! If you think of your DNA as the blueprints for building you, then your chromosomes are sort of the volumes of the encyclopaedia that your DNA is put in.

It's not REALLY like a blueprint, though: DNA is more sort of like a little set of workers who come in and do one job each. If you have all the right workers in all the right order then you get a bathroom at the end!

So, chromosomes are like the flats where your little workers live.

Among your "blocks of flats", you human beings have a pair called sex chromosomes: they are called "X" and "Y". This does NOT mean these are the married quarters! If you have two of chromosome "X" then you are a lady human being and if you have one "X" and one "Y" then you are a boy human being. Basically lady human beings get a whole load of extra DNA workers who enable them to do extra things like give birth, cook an entire Christmas dinner or understand what Barbara Cartland is all about.

Lizards on the other fluffy foot have it the other way around. Because Flora is a lady lizard she has two DIFFERENT sex chromosomes, called "W" and "Z". If she had two "W" chromosomes then she would be a boy!

Flora's babies will not be EXACT clones of their mummy, because rather than having the same DNA, they will have one half-copy of her DNA which then doubles itself up to make a full set of DNA. When you look at what you get, one half of the times you will get double "Z" which does not work, and the other half of times you will get double "W" which becomes a new baby boy lizard.

In fact, this means that ALL baby lizards born this way are always boy lizards.

(I will gloss over what happens next… just think Oedipus Rex. Ew!)

But this means that an isolated lady lizard can restart the population. This is a helpful EVOLUTIONARY trick, which allows your species to send out lone female colonists – swimming to new islands say – and spread out.

Obviously, because your chromosomes are different, if human people could do this, then a lady human would always give birth to GIRLS, because she does not have any of the "Y" chromosomes needed to turn a sugar'n'spice little girl who likes ponies into a slugs'n'snails little boy who likes cars.

Now, some of you MIGHT be thinking that this a handy way of doing away with boys altogether – and scientists in JAPAN seem to have found a way to make it happen! If you are a MOUSE!

That, however, is an entirely artificial process (there would be some IRONY in calling a baby from all lady reproduction "man-made") and does not really work very well. At least not at the moment: I am sure some scientist will be working on it!

[R: paging Dr Frankenstein, paging Dr Frankenstein]

Nature, over millions of years of evolution, has gotten there first with a branch on the tree of life of all-lady species: a group of tiny shrimp called – isn't THIS cool – Darwinulids who have been managing without boys since before the Dinosaurs roamed the Earth! (Or have they…?)

Meanwhile, water fleas aside, parthenogenesis is a rare (if not QUITE miraculously unique) phenomenon that has been observed in several species of VERTEBRATE, including amphibians, lizards and even (maybe) in sharks.

And apparently in turkeys too.

Merry Christmas!

Day 2176: Christmas Benefit


'Tis the season – as they say – for a spot of GOODWILL to all persons, but poor Baron Hardup, single parent, and his daughter Cinderella had nothing to look forwards to except a visit from the UGLY SISTERS: Mr Hutton and Mr Balloon!

Fortunately, a FAIRY GRANDFATHER is about in the form of Sir Mr the Merciless: no magic wand, but new Liberal policy proposals to simplify benefits, halve child poverty and end the dependency culture.

Yes, Sir Mr the Merciless has come out FIGHTING today, denouncing Mr Frown's obsessions with mean means-testing and terrible tax credits and announcing Liberal Democrat plans for improvements to child benefits.

In comparison, Mr Balloon's speech calling on charities and volunteers to come and bail him out because HE has no ideas, looks all mouth and no money.

And miserly Mr Hutton, Secretary of State for the Workhouse, threatening to take benefits away from the long-term unemployed might be appealing to the Daily Hate Mail but isn't going to win any Prince Charming awards!

As Mr David Laws comments:

"This Government has had a decade to come up with serious policy on welfare reform, but all we hear are the same old recycled clichés."

While Mr Matthew Taylor castigated the Conservatories for their empty offers:

"Simply wishing for more families to stay together achieves nothing"

Instead of empty words and punitive measures, Sir Mr the Merciless wants to look at new ways to:
  • create opportunities for employment by reducing all the ways that Mr Frown's complicated system of tax and means test penalise people who try to get into work.
  • encourage families to stay together by putting an end to the madness of a system that penalises people who are married or live together, and gives less help per person to two parent families than to lone parent families, and by giving the full amount of child support for every child.
  • provide more affordable housing, and to make sure that no one suffers from fuel poverty so that children and families are warm and safe .
  • promote a stronger, fairer welfare state, with an immediate linking of pensions to earnings and a promise that the level of all benefits should be reviewed at least once per parliament.
  • simplify the system so that people can understand it and are able to claim the benefits to which they are entitled, without the indignity of means testing.
"Gordon Frown's strategy of mass means-testing is undermining work, saving, and families," Said Sir Mr the Merciless.

"Mr Balloon's "big idea" is nothing new," he added. "It is an echo of the Victorian values and charity-driven conservatism of the 1880s. That is the past, Mr Balloon, not the future."

"I am determined to take the fight for a fairer Britain into the mainstream of British politics," he said in conclusion.

"I am determined to show that there is a sustainable way to remove the scourge of child poverty that does so much to undermine our social cohesion. I am determined to show that way is the Liberal way."

Christmas has come early for the Liberal Democrats in Parliament too, as Sir Mr the Merciless announces a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle.

With a weather eye on the possibility of a PANICKED Mr Frown calling a snap general election, his canny imperial highness has put Steve Webb in the chair of the manifesto team, and promoted Mr Larry the Lamb to be in charge of Health, while the move of Mr Ed to the role of Chief of Staff has allowed the very excellent Ms Susan Kramer vs Kramer to take over at Trade and Industry and Queen of the Blogosphere Ms Lynne Featherweight to be promoted into the Shadow Cabinet (and not before time) at International Development.

Congratulations to all of them!

(I think that MY elevation to the House of Lords Club must have gotten lost in the Christmas Post though! Hint Hint!)

And a Very Happy 21st Day of Advent to All of You at Home!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Day 2175: Gay Wedding; Church Divorce


Today we wish CONGRATULATIONS to Mr Matt Lucas and Mr Kevin McGee who have got married in a quiet ceremony followed by a lavish pantomime themed party afterwards.

Happy Couple

Miserable Buggers

"I now pronounce you man and man," said the presiding registrar. "And/or wife and wife."

"Oh no they aren't!" came the traditional response from the audience.

"Oh yes they are!" said the registrar, formally concluding the festivities.

Gay weddings are very popular! There have been more than 15,500 weddings so far! And apparently they are even good for your health too!

Speaking of PANTOMIMES an American church in Virginia has decided it does not want to be part of the Episcopalian Church any more.

You MIGHT think that this is because they don't want to have to try and pronounce Episcopalian (I have tried and it is VERY difficult!)

But in fact it is because they do not want to have a gay bishop or a lady bishop. This means that they want someone who will dress up in a BIG PURPLE FROCK but who is not GAY or a LADY. This does not strike me as very NORMAL!

The rector at one of the churches, the Reverend Martyn Minns, came on the The Today Programme:

"We just want to get back to proclaiming the Love of God," said Reverence Mince. "And how much He hates fags!" he added.

Apparently, the person they WOULD like to have is Nigerian Archbishop Akinola.

The Reverence Mince has done quite well out of this, as his new boss has promoted him to Bishop. (Obviously, in ECCLESIASTICAL CHESS it is bad news to be promoted to QUEEN!)

Bishop Akinola has a bit of a BEE in his BONNET (or MITRE as churchgoers call it) about BANNING GAY PEOPLE. It is rather important to him, as he makes clear in his address to the nation in February and again – even more prominently – in September.

The Bish calls this getting "back to basics" of Bible study.

(Now, where have I heard THAT phrase before?)

Nor is this just some selfish little dog-in-the-manger "only OUR marriages are PROPER marriages" type of legislation. These are the things that the SO-CALLED CHRISTIAN ARCHBISHOP thinks you should be sent to PRISON for:

(7.3) Any person who is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.

(8.1) Any person who goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.

(8.2) Any person who performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.
So don't even THINK about kissing your boyfriend!

Bishop John Chane, of Washington DC asks:

"…if the Church is to really focus on the issues of the Bible’s teaching and the core teachings of Jesus Christ, why does this Archbishop spend so much time on human sexuality issues while so many of his countrymen and women are oppressed by poverty, illiteracy and violence?"

The American conservatives have distanced themselves from Bishop Akinola's position, arguing that he is under pressure due to tensions within Nigeria between Christians and Muslims.

(So the Bish is doing BAD but it's okay because he has all the moral backbone of a JELLYFISH in a BLENDER. Hmmmm.)

It seems that Anglican prelates are ALWAYS having to make excuses, these days!

"Oh, no they aren't!"

"Oh, yes they are!"

Day 2174: TORCHWOOD: Out of Time


The BEST think on the telly at the moment! Yes, I am watching the new DOCTOR WHO TRAILER! Meanwhile, Daddy is still banging on about Torchwood:

Life after death again, this week: three people who ought to be long since dead, believed lost at sea in their aircraft, discover a new life and a new world in Torchwood's Cardiff.

Like Goldilocks in reverse, our three innocent bears arrive in the 21st Century: one of them finds it too much, one of them finds it not enough and one of them finds it just right. But in each case, Goldilocks gobbles them up.

The "people from the past" storyline is as old as the hills – literally if you think of tales of men lost to time in the land of fairy under the hill – but it is easy to do it badly. It is, for example, by far the most tedious part of Star Trek's "The Neutral Zone" (a show only saved at the death by five minutes of Marc Alaimo and a brilliant sodding great Warbird). Fifty minutes of culture-shock is just not that entertaining, especially when your audience is sat there thinking "well we can cope with the Star Trek/X Files/Torchwood universe, get with the programme, people!"

"Out of Time" on the other hand does rather well. A moving and bittersweet sentimental piece, that takes the three strangers in time – adventurous pilot Diane Holmes, businessman John Ellis and lost daughter Emma Cowell – and uses them to reflect new light on three of the regular cast.

Before that, I do just want to mention the lovely scene for Ianto where he takes them around the local (generic, unnamed) supermarket (okay, it's ASDA) to introduce them to the wonderful world of the consumer society. Gareth David-Lloyd plays it all with a wonderful, long-suffering "I'm really not coping with this" coping with it expression, particularly the moment that bananas win out over his geeky explanation of how the automatic sliding doors work. Don't you just want to give him a cuddle?

We are well used to Gwen's big heart by now, but it was interesting to see her controlling maternal instincts come on so strong, trying to give Emma the "birds and the bees" talk updated for the new millennium. In a nice twist, Emma's anachronistic questions – Rhys must be Gwen's best sex because he's her special one – expose some of Gwen's own inner doubts. Matters are made worse when Rhys discovers that Gwen has deceived him about Emma's origins, and he starts asking her the difficult questions that she has been avoiding all season.

That serial shagger Owen seduces Diane hardly comes as a surprise, but then the tables are turned on him when he realises that in fact he has fallen in love and she is the one who won't be tied down. On top of the growing alienation between Owen and Gwen, this looks like it might be a straw breaking the camel's back moment for the illicit affair between them. The feeling that Owen's heart is broken and he can't tell anyone does have a tragic irony to it.

Most tragic, though, is Jack and John's story, as Jack is harrowed to see the way that upright fifties patrician John comes apart on learning that his family is dead, his son senile and his place in the world gone. That they both end up in a garage breathing carbon monoxide fumes only underlines that John's story is really Jack's story: there is a price to falling through time, and it can be far more than Rose had to pay when she lost twelve months in one trip with the Doctor to the future and past.

These emotional stories are powerful and they resonate, because this story works best on the level of metaphor. Almost like those fairy stories of people under the hill, the tree travellers from the past are archetypes for the three Torchwood team members. Gwen, Owen and Jack meet themselves and learn from it.

On the other hand, as a first line of defence against aliens coming through the Rift, Torchwood are incredibly rubbish this week.

They instantly accept that the plane and people from 1953 are exactly who and what they claim to be. It's not like we haven't had phoney aliens try and invade through this rift before… apart from the very first time we encountered it in Doctor Who's "The Unquiet Dead".

It exposes again the almost impossibly amateur way that Torchwood Cardiff carries on. If aliens invade they can hardly contain them, there are only five of them and Countrycide showed up the inadequacies of their combat training. They play around with the quirky gizmo effects of the alien odds and ends they find but they do not appear to be making any systematic search for artefacts, nor have anyone qualified to reverse-engineer anything more advanced than a stick. And, what they needed this week, they have no people trained in receiving displaced persons, in debriefing or counselling.

Yvonne Hartman would have been just brilliant at this, a perfect call upon her people skills:

"Well done you, oh very well done. You've come through a rift in time and space. Bravo! Now, are any of you any use to us or am I just going to have you shot?"

But rather than call in any professionals, Jack and crew just take it upon themselves to drop these folk into modern life, bringing them home to mother them, have sex with them or allow them to gas themselves to death as merrily as you please.

The series has been set up to have a group of disparate, quirky characters in order to be interesting dramatically. Unfortunately this just keeps undermining the reality because clearly none of them are any good at their jobs.

Also, Tosh gets nothing to do again.

None of these thing matter in the course of the episode though, because the big stories are enough to carry you along emotionally. "Out of Time" rises above these flaws that seem built into the series. As with all proper science fiction, the story isn't about the future or the past but about here and now, about how the lives of people today are difficult and complicated and tragic and sometimes we can only cope by running, whether that's running away or running to something new is the question.

It is also a quiet intake of breath, charging the emotional pressure points of the series, anticipating the explosion. It looks like those internal tensions are about to be released: can Torchwood survive?

And a Very Merry 20th Day of Advent to All of You at Home!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Day 2173: Memo to Lord Blairimort


"Tony, Polls say you're a Phoney; Mr Frown will take us Down;

"Margaret Bucket might just F… Wreck It; Dr Reid's Not what we Need;

"Alan Johnson known by no one; Mr Benn, no not again!

"Millipedes both Ed and Dave, Labour Party cannot save!

"Tried with Douglas Alexander, manifesto sure to flounder.

"Only chance to win election: go for radical selection.

"Market research, should you care; says leader must be Rupert Bear!

"You Suck; We're a Shambles.

"Signed, Alistair Cowbell a friend"

Downing Street has said they do not know anything about this memo that says the do not know anything about what is going on.

"What is going on?" said a Downing Street spokesperson.

Day 2172: The Moral Dimension


"Oh minister, I do wish you wouldn’t use words like bribery…"

"How would you describe these payments, Humphrey?"

"Oh well, that’s really quite simple. Retainers, personal donations, special discounts, miscellaneous outgoings… managerial surcharge, operating costs, ex-gratia payments, agents’ fees, political contributions, extra-contractual payments… introduction fees, commission fees, managements’ expenses, administrative overheads and advances against profit sharing…

"And how are these payments made?"

"Well, anything from a numbered account in a Swiss Bank to a fistful of used oncers slipped under the door of the gents."
– Sir Humphrey Appleby educates the Minister
Yes, Minister, "The Moral Dimension"

If you can actually get past the BIG QUESTION of why exactly we are highly selling dangerous weapons to a country like Saudi Arabia Qumran that combines all of the modern freedoms of a FEUDAL MONARCHY from the DARK AGES with the open toleration of a THEOCRATIC AUTOCRACY that makes the Inquisition look like Monty Python and a SECRET POLICE STATE with some of the world's most sophisticated technology for violating human rights e.g. the electric rubber truncheon…

Dear of dear, why can't we just sell them NICE THINGS anyway?

Anyway, if you can get past that question, then you get to the relatively minor moral quandary of HOW did we obtain this LUSH CONTRACT and was there anything remotely DODGY about it?

On the other fluffy foot, if your Serious Fraud Office get too close to an actual answer, you might want to abruptly close down the investigation in case they do something EMBARRASSING.

"Opposition" politicians have attacked the UK's Serious Fraud Office's (SFO) decision to drop a corruption probe, announced the BBC.

To TRANSLATE for those who haven't already spotted it, by "Opposition" the BBC actually mean THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS because the Conservatories are BACKING LORD BLAIRIMORT on this one:

e.g. Conservatory apologist MP Bernard Jenkin said it had been a "sorry episode".He meant that we should be sorry for INVESTIGATING, not sorry for any backhanders, as he explained:

"The SFO should not be tempted to go on these fishing expeditions unless prosecutions are likely and these prosecutions are in the national interest."

e.g. former Conservatory minister and jailbird Jonathan Aitken said "…even if the allegations against BAE were true, it was the correct decision to end the investigation in order to maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia."

Lord Blairimort defended the government's action saying: "look, stuff the rule of law… there's billions of quid in this deal!"

Is this really important? If we look after all the people whose jobs depend on this sort of ARMS DEAL, isn't that better than some little question about not actually employing bribery and corruption.

Well, oddly enough I think it IS important.

If we are supposed to be spreading the IDEALS of Western Democracy then (remembering that we are getting over the whole propping up bonkers dictatorships, probably not a good plan question) the basis of democracy is the RULE OF LAW.

If people are not for the most part protected and treated equally by the law, then they are not free to engage in the debate that makes democracy work; they are not free to participate in jobs and trades that make Western-style economy work; they are not free to get the benefits and opportunities of our way of life.

So really, can we NOT undermine the law in OUR OWN COUNTRY please! We are never going to enable or encourage the evolution of a free democratic state if we keep giving BIG CASH BUNGS to the very people who are maintaining the corruption.

And it is BECAUSE those states, and yes Saudi Arabia Qumran in particular, are corrupt and oppressive that they breed some of the NUTTIEST TERRORISTS in the world.

So, safety tip: reduce terrorism, oppose dictatorships.

Yes, the French, Chinese, Americans and Pygmy People of Patagonia may very well step in and seize those contracts by bribery if we won't, but "Johnny's doing it too!" has never been the most attractive of excuses, has it?!

On the GOOD side, at least WE live in a country where we can express our opinions, without fear of the RELIGIOUS POLICE breaking the door down…

Suddenly, I hear that the hunt on for a ROGUE ELEPHANT.


And a Very Merry 19th Day of Advent to All of You at Home!

Monday, December 18, 2006



On the day that the papers were ALREADY wall-to-wall with coverage of the Princess Diana Inquest ("Conspiracy Cover Up" or "Ghoulish Death-fest", take your pick), we get news of new developments in the "Lord Blairimort is going to prison" saga.

As many of those same papers have commented, what a day to bury bad news!

But that is not the ONLY coincidence today:

News breaks that Lord Blairimort has been interviewed by the police over cash for honours.

News breaks that Mr Frown might have pushed through an honour for a close chum who also donated £1.3 million to the Labour.

Fancy BOTH of these stories appearing on the same day!

Meanwhile, Downing Street spokespixies were also hard at work denying any attempt to hamper the police investigation into cash for honours.

"It was a Christmas Hamper," said one pixie.

Mr Sir Hayden Philips has been looking into what the parties could do to raise money if ACCEPTING HUGE BUNGS is to be done away with. He has come up with the suggestion of a CAP.

Naturally, the Labour are FURIOUS about this, because they ABOLISHED wearing caps as part of their rebranding exercise in the 1990's!

Of course, the REAL problem is that Mr Sir Hayden has said that the top amount of a donation should be £50,000.

Now that SOUNDS like LOADS (and indeed would pay for AT LEAST half an MP, even if their new pay proposals went though) but – as the HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY might have said – that's just peanuts compared to ADVERTISING SPACE.

Trying to keep those big billboards covered will make the Labour go BANKRUPT (or to be honest MORE bankrupt given that they already owe more than twenty-MILLION pounds!) if they cannot call on big donations from the UNIONS.

There are only something like 69 Unions affiliated to the TRADES UNIONS CONGRESS, which would mean a total of about three-and-a-half million pounds, even if all of them WANTED to give money to the Labour.

THAT'S not enough to run a THIRTY MILLION pound advertising campaign on, now is it!

The Labour have held an emergency meeting over what to do about party funding. By all accounts, they were PRETTY CROSS.

"We feel we're being sold out," said Mr John McDonald.

To be fair, selling the NEC is certainly one solution to Lord Blairimort's problems!

This is not to forget that the Conservatories are EVEN MORE IN DEBT than the Labour, but the wheeze of a cap on donations is not so much of a problem for them, as it will only involve the extra work of setting up a few more DODGY FRONT COMPANIES.

The obvious solution to all these problems of course is SPEND LESS MONEY, but this does not seem to have occurred to the Labour or the Conservatories!

Day 2170: Funny Fellow


For unfunny, crack-pot sexism, check out the latest issue of VANITY FAIR or in this case VANITY FOUL magazine and Mr Histopher Chickens' latest wheeze: "why women aren't funny"!

Clearly, Mr Chickens – not to be confused with his younger brother, the Hate Mail on Sunday rant-meister and startled cod looky-likey, Mr Peter Chickens – has tired of the EASY PICKINGS of picking a fight with Saddam Hussein love-interest and leader of the Respect Party, Mr Gorgeous Pussycat Leotard, and has decided to take on the entire rest of the human species instead.

His thesis, apparently, is that women cannot be funny because of the crushing AGONY OF CHILDBIRTH. Is it possible that women are only not funny when Mr Chickens is about because of the crushing AGONY of his COMPANY?

Daddy was hypnotised – in the TRAIN WRECK kind of way – when the Newsnight Show brought Mr Chickens together with Ms Ruby Wax.

You would have thought (and indeed hoped) this would stop him dead, but NO! He continued to run around even with his head chopped off.

Quoting from his article at her…

"In any case, my argument doesn't say that there are no decent women comedians. There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three."

"So which am I sweetie?" asks Ms Wax, and she is to be congratulated for it: Daddy and Mr Paxo were still rummaging around on the floor looking for where their jaws had dropped.

It transpires that Mr Hitches is talking IN CODE about THE SEX! (Whatever THAT is?!?!?) Presumably, though, he will never be getting it ever again.

Except possibly with Mr Gorgeous Pussycat Leotard.

And a Very Merry 18th Day of Advent to All of You at Home!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Day 2169: At the Mountains of Madness


News reaches us from the inner rim of OUTER SPACE where the Huygens-Cassini spacecraft is PROBING the MOONS of SATURN!

Titan is Saturn’s largest moon, and is in fact the largest moon in the Solar System (it says here in the Doctor Who Book of Space!) Already we have made EXTRAORDINARY discoveries of SCIENCE, never before seen by MORTAL MAN!

Beneath the swirly storming ICY CLOUDS of gaseous ETHANE are the shadowed shorelines of the GREAT LAKES, not of good godfearing Earthly aquatic water but the mysterious motions of METHANE the alien element of, er, farting cows.

And here at the OUTER LIMITS of HUMAN KNOWLEDGE our space vehicle has discovered a VAST and TERRIBLE frozen mountain range!

Some, seized by the furious fear of the foreboding, the dreadful dread of discovery, think that the outer moons of our Solar System are where we stand the best chance of uncovering life NOT OF THIS EARTH!

And now we can reveal never before seen photographic evidence from the depths of the darkness and the knowledge that NO ELEPHANT WAS MEANT TO KNOW! See here for the first time the proof if you can believe your own eyes and in the icy wastes… a Christmas FAIRY FIGURE may emerge...

Go on... make a wish!

And a Very Fhtagn 17th Day of Advent to All of You Cowering Cultists at Home!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Day 2168: Ticket to Ride


Oh NAUGHTY Mr Balloon! He has been caught FARE DODGING! Being a CHEEKY SCAMP Mr B was able to blag his way out of the £20 fine.

He says that he bicycled to Willesden Junction and bought a ticket there but that he lost it during the journey. Perhaps he accidentally left it with his CHAUFFEUR to drive it to the other end.

"I don't routinely break the law," said the Conservatory leader who has previously confessed to routinely breaking the law on drugs.

Mr Tim Gordon has a good question to put to Mr Balloon. Obviously, Mr Balloon cannot have been thinking of slipping his trip to a music concert through his expenses. That is the sort of routine breaking of the law that he does not do!

Another question to ask is why does a man from NOTTING HILL not possess an OYSTER CARD like every other London resident? Maybe Mr Balloon does not really use the Underground very often. Or maybe he just does not like the idea of a CARD that tracks you every MOVEMENT.

What a good job he is such a sterling opponent of I.D.iot cards. Except when he's not.

Day 2167: TORCHWOOD: Random Shoes


I have flappy feet so I do not need Random Shoes, but my Daddies have lots. I have decided to help them! I will put all of the LEFT shoes in the fridge and all of the RIGHT shoes in the cooker. That should sort them out!

Let's see…
The week after Suzie Costello coldly informed us that there was nothing after death, nothing at all, we have the story of a ghost.

They could hardly have had this episode before "They Keep Killing Suzie" or Gwen would have had a great put down for her dead fellow traveller with: "well actually my life was saved by a ghost the other week, so you're dead wrong and that means your little killing spree was down to you being a psycho, bitch."

Alien technology aside, though, this would seem to be a flat refutation of last week – at the very least something of heroic loser Eugene Jones persists after his death.

The story is of Eugene's small life. That story looks at first like one of wasted potential, and futility. A life seemingly lost in dreaming and hiding from the facts behind comfortable lies: dad has gone to an important job in America; a job at the call centre isn't a dead end, it's "waiting"; there is an alien who will return for his lost eye. Eugene's so-called friends are both rather unpleasant creatures, really. Gary at least is sorry for his actions but Josh from the video store is a piece of work. And Eugene's life is ended at the moment when he still has so much potential, when, tragically, just as life has beaten him right down he realises he can still be happy.

But, and this is the point and this is why this is the opposite of "They Keep Killing Suzie": that life was worth living. Every life has its alien eyes and banana milkshakes and random shoes and every single life is worth living.

This was very much the "Love & Monsters" episode of Torchwood, and not just in the "life is good even when it's awful" message: taking the focus away from the familiar characters for a week to look in from the outside gives you an episode that is easier on the schedule for your main cast, so they can be off filming the season climax, say, while you cover this with a second unit.

Interesting to see Gwen and Owen's relationship from this perspective. They seem to be sniping at one another more and flirting less – though that could just be from Eugene's point of view, and anyway, their flirting was always fairly snippy. But more like it seems that the affair has reached a turning point, and you have to wonder if it wasn't Suzie's revelation last week.

And we see Gwen sleeping alone – ghostly Eugene aside. She's taken a weekend trip to Aberystwyth and is staying overnight, so there's no expectation that either Owen or Rhys would be with her. But it is an interesting motif, nonetheless.

"Love & Monsters" was also – notoriously – a pastiche, an homage to the Doctor Who fans, with their weekly meetings in their special club. In a similar way, Eugene is an archetypal sci-fi fan, here with the ultimate viewing experience: he can watch Torchwood from every angle, but like the viewer, cannot touch or talk to them, is in fact unseen by his heroes. And his "real" life is not nearly so exciting as theirs, with a low rent job and few friends. Torchwood are virtually investigating their own fan base.

"I don't want this to end," he says at one point – so he'll clearly be relieved by news of the second season, there.

Though there is the question of whether Gwen is aware of Eugene.

She seems unnaturally obsessed with Eugene even from the beginning – though this could just be more of the "big hearted Gwen" syndrome that we have had all season. Yes dear, and remember it nearly killed you last week? But as the episode goes on, we start to see that Eugene appears to be affecting Gwen's subconscious – first she orders his lunch, double egg ham and chips, in his café; then he persuades her to try Gary's speed dial on his phone; then stops her going in to see his estranged dad. By the time she's staring moodily out of the window of her Aberystwyth hotel he can blow on her hair and move it. When she addresses him aloud at the end, telling him the eye is no longer inside him, does she do so because she expects him to hear or is it just because of a feeling?

Alex suggests that she doesn't quite consciously realise she has her little ghostly puppy, but sees him from the corner of her mind.

Of course, it does all get a bit silly at the end when he returns corporeally to save her life and then, from the camera movement, appears to ascend into heaven. Bit embarrassing if Eugene was in fact the second coming.

Fittingly, for a story called "Random Shoes" the episode has odd random moments in it, adding to it's richness but if they signify something or nothing who can tell?

Alex pointed out to me that Josh charges Gwen £34 as a fine for returning Eugene's DVDs – the same £34 he offered to pay over for the eye.

Eugene's DVD, incidentally, is "A for Andromeda": a message from a dead civilisation creates a new life form… another form of life after death.

Captain Jack guesses Eugene's alien eye is a "Dagon Sixth Eye" without even seeing it, though when he does get a look at the end, he does believe it to be the genuine article. But then how does Josh know that the alien had six eyes?

(A "Dagon sphere" is, of course, important in Buffy's fifth season – the one where she dies before being dragged back to life.)

And it is almost impossible to believe that Russell T Davies did not instruct that the roadside caf should be called "Happy Cook" knowing full well how that would sound pronounced in a Welsh accent.

"Random Shoes" is a mixed bag of an episode. Coincidence and compassion lead Gwen around a collection of moments subtle and unsubtle and occasionally cringe-making. But on the whole it turns Suzie Costello's nihilistic worldview inside out: where Suzie thought "there's nothing beyond life so it's all rubbish", this says "even the rubbish bits are a life".

I recall a line from Neil Gaiman's endlessly superior "Sandman": everyone gets the same length of time to live – a lifetime.

And a Very Happy 16th Day of Advent to All of You at Home!