...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, November 17, 2006

Day 2139: TORCHWOOD: Small Worlds


More good stuff for watching from under the duvet. No gore or swearing this week but much more TERROR! Mr Stripy was in need of a good cuddle, I can tell you.

I can appreciate why the makers of "Torchwood" would want to get away from the "Doctor Who" model of "mysterious time-traveller" + "young down to earth human woman". Apart from the obvious desire to give a different dramatic balance to help make "Torchwood" its own show, it is also hell on the actors when there are only two leads and they have to carry every episode.

But this week shows that "Torchwood" really works if you play it exactly that way: Captain Jack has his secrets, which we gradually unfold (ooh, 1909, that's a lot earlier than we were expecting to see him); Gwen has her home and life and we take the journey with her away from them and towards Jack's world. Gwen has the joy and discovery of the believer; Jack has the cynicism and darkness of the man who knows. Together they provide a central axis around which we can explore this week's mystery with them and we can observe the mystery of them.

Owen, Toshiko and Ianto are their support, and trying to make the supporting characters co-equal seems to make the whole become unbalanced.

It's ironic, given how much people were complaining that the other characters were merely ciphers, but perhaps it would have been better to build a solid central relationship first. On that basis we should have up-fronted much more Jack and Gwen episodes, and then later in the series gone to explore the other characters – for example "Cyberwoman" told us too much about Ianto too soon: it could have been better if we built up to it, becoming used to seeing Ianto potter in, do a bit and then disappear, and then discovering he had been keeping a Cyberman in the cellar for the last eight or nine weeks when we though he was a harmless part of the background.

What I'm saying is we should have had a lot more like this!

Expectations were high for an episode from the creator of Sapphire and Steel, and we were not disappointed. We learn more about Jack here than we have yet in the series, and what we see only raises more questions. Was he in 1909 as part of his life as a Time Agent (obviously not the "missing two years") – a possible clue in the Torchwood website suggests that this was one of his scams. Or has he spent a lot longer on Earth than we realised – like the BBC Books eighth Doctor, Alex suggests, spending his century in England awaiting his TARDIS recovery.

The episodes of the eighth Doctor's "trapped on Earth" arc also fixated on the wars of the twentieth century: the First and Second World Wars, the Cold War and (sort of) UNIT's war with the aliens in the 70's/80's (delete as preference takes you).

Certainly, "Small Worlds" makes you reassess Jack's Second World War service too: records referred to in "Everything Changes" indicating a Captain Jack Harkness who disappeared appeared to be alluding to his time in "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances" during the Blitz. But was that the same period as for his relationship with his war-time love, Estelle Cole, or was he there twice?

We also see an opening up of Jack's emotional story: evidenced first by his love for Estelle, and also his compassion – first in leaving rather than letting her age as he clearly hasn't, but then in returning in the role of his own son to see her right. And it was good to see Gwen spotting the obvious exactly as quickly as the audience. Beautiful and subtle (and making last week's "have you ever loved anyone that much" seem oh so crass.)

And this was mirrored at the conclusion by his pain and anger at what he has to do, and then his pain and anger as his team refuse to see that he very much had to do it. These are very much from the human side of Jack.

Alex and I did ask each other if we would have found the ending more shocking if it hadn't been the one from P J Hammond. Here Jack is expected to play the role of Steel and make the sacrifice that will save the world – in fact it would be easy to imagine these Faeries in "Sapphire and Steel", with their elemental power and non-linear lives, part of a plot by Time to destroy the world.

Kudos goes to John Barrowman for playing Jack as sufficiently inhuman to be able to play in Steel's league and still sufficiently human to be unable to bear the price of doing so.

It is an episode full of sly references: Jasmine's face appearing in the Conan Doyle fairy photo is reminiscent of Sapphire and Steel Adventure 4, of course. And the Chosen One in every generation is surely the Vampire Slayer. Then there is Jack's casual suggestion that the faeries are "part Mara" (it's been suggested that Jack linking it to the word "nightmare" means this is actually a reference of the Scandinavian female wraith as this is the correct folkloric source, but one could hardly blame a Doctor Who fan from jumping to spot the "Kinda" / "Snakedance" connection, even though that Mara is in fact based on a completely different Buddhist demon). And the Faery woods – with their stone circle – are named as Roundstone Woods, reminding me of Ringstone Round in Nigel Kneal's Quatermass Conclusion, another site where young people were "taken" by an unearthly force that is not nearly so benign as first believed.

The Faeries themselves are very nicely realised: the daddy-long-legs whickering of their wings throughout the early scenes where they "appear" but always slip out of sight when we (the adults) are looking is particularly effective and unsettling. It does make them feel like that sensation that one sometimes gets when alone in the house of something moving in the corner of the eye that vanishes when you turn to look.

In as much as they were only "visible to children" it might have been better for us adults never to see them, but when we did at least they were some of the better realised CG creatures. They certainly weren't "fair" (hence I'm using "faery" rather than "fairy" – except for their duplicitous Tinkerbelle appearance for photographs) but excellently creepy and otherworldly.

And their killing of Estelle really emphasised how dangerous and malicious and arbitrary they were. The death was shocking as much for its unexpected timing as that it happened at all: it's just not done in drama to introduce a major seeming character and kill them at random half way through – death comes early to establish the threat and at the end to be tragic, but this was unexpected. The time seemed out of joint!

The "prank" devastation in Gwen's home, on the other hand, seemed jarring because it came out of nowhere. Why did they suddenly pick on her? It didn't seem that she had especially threatened them or their Chosen One. And, I'm sorry to say, the child playing Jasmine was just not terribly engaging. Yes, it's harsh to judge the acting talent of a young person. On the other hand, the actor playing her mother was awesome in the rawness of the emotion when she lost first her partner and then her daughter.

As someone on the Outpost Gallifrey boards put it: well she's going to be spending the rest of her life on leather couches!

This, finally, was what we really expected adult drama to mean: from subtle and difficult love stories that intertwine with time to the awfulness of losing a child. The paedophile was caught, and vengeance was extracted, and it didn't make the outcome any better: the child was still lost.

This isn't yet what "Torchwood" should be about, but it is certainly what drama should do.

Day 2138: Unfair Farepak


Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat. And has apparently been stolen by Halifax Bank of Scotland.

This is a TERRIBLE story about people whose Christmas will be ruined because the Farepak Christmas savings club has gone bankrupt.

These good people have been doing exactly what everyone says that we should: putting a little bit aside each month in savings in order to be ready for Christmas and not to have to add to the trillion pounds of debt that the nation has managed to run up.

The rumour is that the company's bank knew that they were in trouble months and months ago, but allowed them to keep on running so long as they were getting the savings money in – thus reducing the amount of the bank's money that would be lost, at the expense of mummies and grannies the length and breadth of the country.

The company bosses Sir Clive Thompson and Mr Nick Gilodi-Johnson have said how sorry they are and blamed it all on the bank!

The bank – you will not be surprised to learn – denies this entirely and blamed it all on the company bosses.


MP's discussed this in the House of Commons and Mr Iain McCartney called on them to donate just one day's pay each to a fund to help the victims.

News came in later that Tesco and Marks & Spencer's would also be making donations and Sainsbury's will be sending Christmas vouchers to Farepak savers.

Apparently SHAMED by the news that even our so-called fat-cat greedy MP's were being more GIVING than they were, and not at all because of the CALAMITOUSLY BAD PUBLICITY they were generating, HBOS agreed to donate £2 million out of their profits of £4800 million to try and stop themselves from looking completely sh…ort of generosity!

And only a day too late to do any good, then.

Not to be left behind, MSP's in Scotland – where there are many more Farepak savers – will also be holding a debate and will also be recommended to donate a day's pay.

Now for another TERRIBLE confession: Bad Daddy Richard has his savings in a Halifax savings account. Oh dear.

So where should he move them to?

Meanwhile, if you have lost money to Farepak and HBOS, you might want to look at these tips from the Money Saving Expert.

What they really need is ROBBIN' HOODIE to come and rob from the rich and give back to the poor.

Oh, I seem to have forgotten to bother to get Daddy's review this week!

Day 2137: If at First You Don't Succeed… Change the Rules


It there is one thing that really gets me in a fluffy bait it is people who are BAD LOSERS.

Two examples this week: Mr Frown (wants another go at changing the right not to be locked up without reason) and Mr Frown (wants another go at changing the right to free speech).

First Example:

No one should be surprised that the Labour are DEVOUTLY convinced that they know best about everything!

In particular, they can tell who a TERRORIST is just by looking at him!

(Or indeed NOT!)

And if they say someone should be locked up, why should anyone doubt them?

So they brought legislation to the House of Commons to let them lock people up for 90 days without bread or water charging them with a crime.

Of course, they COMPLETELY FAILED to make a good case and so the House of Commons – who are after all the people who are there to represent you and me when it comes to saying "yes" or "no" to government policies – the House of Commons said: "NO! You cannot do that!"

As a COMPROMISE – and because Mr Balloon lost his bottle – the House agreed on increasing the number of days detention in custody from 14 to 28. That is four weeks to hold someone in a cell while rifling through their belongings looking for clues: it is really quite a LONG time, especially since the police would not be arresting people just at RANDOM (we would hope) but only after they have already built up a file of evidence against them.

But was this good enough for the Labour? Oh no! They know BEST remember.

So they have waited barely a year (or less: in fact the extension to 28 days was only enacted in July) before now they are trying to have another go. They are like NAUGHTY CHILDREN who PESTER their parents to try and get their way.

Mr Frown – soon to be anointed incumbent of Lord Blairimort's sacred sofa of decision making – has decided to start as he means to go on by being an utter, utter, utter… very tough person.

By a total coincidence, the Home Secretary has granted permission for a speech from the Head of MI5 (this is VERY RARE because normally she is too busy filming SPOOKS). Dame ELIZA MIND-YOUR-MANNERS-AND-HAM BULLER said: "Be afraid, be very afraid!"

By ANOTHER total coincidence, that clone of Lord Blairimort who is still somehow in charge of the police in London (good week for showing off how COMPETENT his police force is), ALSO gave a speech. He said: "Be afraid, be very afraid!"

Through this carefully co-ordinated campaign of total coincidences, Mr Frown was able to say that he entirely agreed with all right-thinking (and far-right thinking) people that it was time to create a GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC


What has brought about this AMAZING need to overrule the decision of the sovereign parliament? (Do not say: because they want to!)

Allegedly it is because of two TERROR PLOTS that were uncovered by Nice Mr Dr John. PERSONALLY!

The first is the case of the terrorist that has been convicted and sent to prison for forty years.

Actually, that seems like a case of the police GETTING THEIR MAN within the time limits allowed.

Ah ha! Say the police, but we were WITHIN SECONDS of having to release him until we found the crucial evidence.

Except, wouldn't that have been under the OLD rules – the 14-day limit rules. Or to put it another way, would that have been 14 and a bit days before you would have had to release him under the compromise new rules?

The second case is the terrorists who were going to explode aeroplanes with baby milk.

Except, again, those people were all up in court before the 28 days had elapsed (arrested 9th August; charged by 4th September).

"Neither the government nor the police have yet given any new evidence that would justify reopening the debate all over again" said Mr Clogg for the Liberal Democrats.

Which is TRUE! What the government cannot say is how long the police ARE keeping suspects for and how many they are having to release because their 28 days are up. Mainly because they are not keeping the records.

We cannot dismiss the police when they say that doing their job in the time allowed is very difficult. But that is a reason to give them more RESOURCES – more money and more officers so that they can bring more talent to bear on the investigation and do more more quickly.

It is very PECULIAR that Mr Frown and Lord Blairimort's idea of giving the police "all the support they need" is NOT to give them more resources but to give them more laws to enforce instead.

Second Example:

The completely ghastly leader of the (other) British Nasty Party, Mr Nick Griffin, has been found not guilty of inciting horribleness.

It seems pretty likely that Mr Griffin IS pretty horrid, but that is what we have JURIES for: we ask them to look at all of the details and listen to all of the arguments and then they decide whether someone has broken the law or not.

But was this good enough for the Labour? Oh no: they know BEST, remember!

So they brought legislation to the House of Commons to make "incitement to religious hatred" a new crime.

They pretty much decided to ban anyone from saying anything that might offend anyone else, and refused to listen to the criticisms of people like noted philosopher and moral theologian, Mr Bean.

Fortunately, Mr Bean's friend the Lord Blackadder and the rest of my chums in the good old House of Lords Club amended the bill (coo, same picture!) in order to make it less DRACONIAN – you would only commit a crime by THREATENING people, not just if you OFFENDED them. This was entirely sensible and so everyone expected that it would be thrown out by the lower house.

But when the Bill came back to the Commons, the MP's agreed with the Lords and the government was defeated!

They were defeated by exactly one vote, meaning it was rather unfortunate that Lord Blairimort had failed to turn up to cast a vote of his own.

This was only the SECOND TIME that Lord Blairimort's government had been defeated! For the FIRST time – see above!

Now, Mr Griffin was in fact tried under the OLD law, because religious discrimination wasn't against the law when he said what he was caught saying.

But that is not going to stop Mr Frown from putting freedom of speech up for another battering, and he has called for an even tougher tightening of the law.

The BBC report that Nice Mr Dr John Reid as fawningly following the Iron Chancellor saying "anythings you says, master, my precious, my precious."

Though oddly, the Grauniad describes a rift between Mr Frown and the Feared Friendly Minister of Justice, having him say: "we hates him, we hates him, we hates the master, my precious, my precious."

So no confused spinning going on THERE then!

Meanwhile, never one to keep his sticky fingers clean of a controversy, the Attorney General and man standing between Lord Blairimort and a case before the CPS, Lord Goldfinger, is to probe the gap in the law.

A griffin, incidentally, is what you get when a LION and an EAGLE have a car-crash – which seems appropriate really as Mr Griffin is definitely a CAR-CRASH.

But aren't we better off KNOWING what the Nasty Party has to say to each other, because then we can tell them that they are RUBBISH!

It really is about time we had some proper DEMOCRATIC government, where the will of Parliament actually means something and, when people disagree, Mr Frown doesn't demand to get his own way or he'll scweem and scweem and scweem until he's SICK!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Day 2136: Follow My Leader


New news from festering sore of hate and recrimination that is the Labour Leadership – and the hot question is: "who is going to throw down their political life just so that Mr Frown can crushingly defeat them?"

Alan Johnson says "it's not going to be me, guv!" and he's probably going to be backing Mr Frown… while subtly suggesting it's up to that nice Mr Dr Reid to challenge for the leadership.

Nice Mr Dr John Reid says: "I shall never surrender and on those terms I surrender the leadership to Gordon."

And Tangerine Toned Turncoat, Mr Peter Hain summed up the party mood that there ought to be a proper democratic contest: "We'd prefer a coronation," he said.

Meanwhile, the Labour's leader in Scotland, Jack McConnell, signalled the undying support of the highlands for the beloved Lord Blairimort: "Tony, don't go until you can take the blame for next May's disaster", was their rallying cry.

Ahh, unity.

Day 2135: From Beyond the Grave!


Does anybody remember the Conservatory election campaign from last year, wot Mr Balloon did write?

Here is a reminder!

Fortunately, in the intervening year, the Conservatories have learned their lesson – they have replaced nasty old Mr Something of the Night and buried him at a crossroads with last year's manifesto through his heart.

Now they have shiny new Mr Balloon, without a care or a policy in the world.

[Plays hearts and flowers music]

Out with all those old policies that lost them the election by being too right wing and horrid.

Away with "limits on immigration" now we are clean and pure and new!

Welcome new "significantly less immigration". Erk…

[Hearts and flowers music ends with discordant crunch]

The most BIZARRE thing is that after spending all year trying very hard not to have any policies at all, suddenly Mr Balloon stands up and blurts out this old nonsense. Maybe he is having a funny turn. Or an LSD-type flashback to the general election.

The Conservatories may think that it is not racist to bang on about immigration but it certainly brings them out of the woodwork!

Whether it is councillor and "firm supporter" of Mr Balloon, Mrs Eleanor Bland forwarding unfunny e-mails or the (not surprisingly now-sacked) deputy chairman in charge of the A-Team, Bernard Jenkin admitting he would be "shocked if a white male candidate was not selected" those old Conservatories just keep on coming back!From beyond the grave!

Of course, the big difference this year is NOT that the Conservatories have moved away from their old NASTY PARTY policies – it is that the Labour have move much closer towards them!

Never mind the arms race that is going on about who can be "tougher on crime" (like THAT will make any difference to how safe people ARE or how safe people FEEL) this is the GERM WARFARE of Home Office policy – the bio-weapons used in the fight to try and get the vote of Mr Sun and Little Miss Daily Mail. The problem being that once you let it out of the lab, EVERYONE ends up POISONED!

Liberal Democrat campaigns chairman Mr Ed Davey, had already written to the Commission for Racial Equality about Mrs Bland.

"Racism has absolutely no place in British politics," he said.

And home affairs spokesman Mr Nick Clogg put Mr Balloon in his place, saying: "Conservatory plans don't add up!"

My suspicion is, though, that Mr Balloon has been very cunning – he has managed to find a window to slip this announcement out without gaining too much BAD publicity. He will now keep completely schtum about immigration so as not to remind anybody… except when it is necessary to give a NOD and a WINK and a quite PAT ON THE BACK to UKIP and British Nasty Party voters that "Dave" will see them right.

Until the next time their Nasty Party habits return to haunt them and us all... From beyond the grave!

Day 2134: Secret and Loans


Anyway, speaking of SINISTER BUSINESSMEN, the controversy about selling ERMINE and RED LEATHER continues to dog Lord Blairimort, while Mr Balloon is constructing an enormous GLASS PALACE to throw bricks from.

First to the Labour, and Inspector "Lord" Yates of the Yard and his policemen have been around to call on every government minister… except Lord Blairimort!

Although it is his ministers who have been probed, the finger is now pointing firmly at Lord B as the ODD MAN OUT.

I do wonder what Mr Frown, and Nice Mr Doctor Reid and trustworthy Mr Man O'Straw have had to say about the man they all know affectionately as "our soon to be ex-boss".

One man who has had enough of all this is the Minister for Science and Home Economics, Lord Sainsbury. He has quit his job rather than face the music have to put up with any more INNUENDO!

He will be leaving the government to spend more time with Jamie Oliver.

Clearly, it is a bad time to be Lord B. In a sticky situation like this, it is always good to know where your friends are. Lord Blairimort knows where HIS friends are – usually because he has put them in high government offices, friends like the Attorney General, Lord Goldfinger.

Lord Goldfinger, if you recall, has already helped Lord Blairimort out with one tricky moment by SUDDENLY DISCOVERING that the war in Iraq would be not in any way completely illegal after all.

Wasn't that handy!

You would have thought that being a CHUM of the person about to be arrested, convicted and get sent down to the big house connected to the case would be an obvious case of CONFLICT OF INTEREST. In which case, the Attorney General should make his excuses and leave it to people without an interest in fixing the outcome.

But lo! Lord Goldfinger has once again SUDDENLY DISCOVERED that the British Constitution (not available in paperback for obvious reasons) does not allow the Attorney General to step aside. He cannot avoid the RESPONSIBILITY. There is no question of him standing aside!

Oh, isn't he dedicated!

Fortunately, Lord Goldfinger has given his PLEDGE that he will be completely impartial and will ask for independent advice, which he will publish afterwards. So we will all know if he SUDDENLY DISCOVERS a good reason to let Lord Blairimort off the hook. A reason like "if he really wants to".

Funny how Lord Goldfinger insisted that it would be COMPLETELY impossible to publish any of his advice (such as why it was SUDDENLY DISCOVERED that invading Iraq was not illegal) because it would set a TERRIBLE PRECEDENT that would make it impossible for anyone ever to be Attorney General ever again.

I guess he SUDDENLY DISCOVERED something that made it alright to publish his advice after all. He must work very hard to make all these discoveries, do you not think?

Meanwhile, Lord Blairimort's TENNIS PARTNER and ROYAL PRIVY HOLDER OF THE OFFICIAL PIN NUMBER NUMBER, Lord Levy says: "can't blame me; it was the Conservatories wot put me up to it guv!"

"Well," as MANDY RICE-DAVIS once said, "he would say that, wouldn't he!"

In fairness, though, it is not like it is as completely implausible as (say) discovering a bit of the British Constitution that just happens to mean you have to let your friend and boss off the hook. For example.

It is not like the Conservatories do not have FORM on this, what with having umpteen squillion in undeclared loans themselves during the last election.

But, that's not all!

No, apparently having gotten a nasty whiff of the way the way the wind was blowing on the secret loans front – and hastily repaying them with interest (though where THAT money came from is another interesting question) – they've already been exploiting ALTERNATIVE METHODS to keep their donors' millions away from the prying eyes raise money through the ENTIRELY LEGITIMATE lobbying of concerned billionaires!

It seems like quite a lot of Conservatories were relying on some unfortunately shady-looking funding to keep their majorities propped up.

Yes, this is the news that so-called lobbying firm and alleged front-company for Conservatory bungs, the "Midlands Industrial Council" has been brought into the light by the BBC's Politics Show.

It is usually at this point, by the way, that the Conservatories start whining on about a man called Michael Brown.

(Spot the examples of their FULMINATING on The Liberal Review and Liberal Democrat Voice.)

Hint to the Conservatories – when you are caught with your hand in the cookie jar, "they did it too" is (a) not an excuse (b) a big fat fib.

Mr Michael Brown is a CROOK. He gave – or rather a company that he controlled gave – two-and-a-bit million pounds to the Liberal Democrats. The differences are:
  1. A gift not a loan
  2. Declared not secret
  3. Mr Brown got NOTHING from the Liberal Democrats in return, not so much as a smidgeon of a CBE, let alone a BIG FAT PEERAGE
And it seems almost INDECENT to mention that the Liberal Democrats were CLEARED BY THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION!

It may turn out that it was not really Mr Brown's money to give to the Liberal Democrats, but that leaves us the VICTIMS of his con, not the perpetrators.

Contrast with the Conservatories DELIBERATELY getting their stickies on SIXTEEN (bit more than two-and-a-bit) MILLION POUNDS of UNDECLARED LOANS raised by ennobled-in-the-last-honours-list Lord Marland. Who EXACTLY is practicing to deceive here?

Conservatories say that they only want to CRACK DOWN on people who BREAK THE LAW – after all, if some one ADMITTED they had committed a crime (like taking DRUGS maybe) then the Conservatories would be all a clamour to make sure that they paid the proper penalty!

Unless of course, you know, they weren't.

If the Conservatories believe that they have behaved OPENLY and HONOURABLY then they really should be able to defend their own actions, don't you think, rather than running around trying to start distractions with smears about other people.

In the meantime, the Politics Show people have tracked down the link between the MYSTERIOUS "Midlands Industrial Council" and the Conservatory Parliamentary Party: Ms Julie Kirkbride (of Dracula), who was once sacked to spend more time with her family when Mr Something of the Night was in charge. This was allegedly because she is too liberal (though not, apparently, on the subject of gay daddies!)

Obviously it is an OVERSIGHT that her ex-officio position with an organisation that regularly hands hundreds of thousands of pounds over to her party does not appear on her register of members' interests.

She is clearly a very nice lady – look she has donated a picture of one of her business friends for national DOODLE DAY. Isn't that nice!

She is even married to another Conservatory MP – one from the Berks, apparently.

The Conservatories should be ASHAMED of themselves for getting a nice lady like that mixed up in slush funds and other dodgy goings on!

What WOULD Mr Balloon say!

Actually, he could tell her as her husband works for him as a special advisor.

Poor Mr Balloon: he can only reflect on the old saying:

"Do not build your glass house in Notting Hill – it is only a stone's throw away from Crystal Palace!"

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Day 2133: DOCTOR WHO: The Invasion


You probably remember me telling you all about "The Evil of the Daleks" a little while ago: well, now for news of ANOTHER adventure for Dr Who where the BBC threw away some of the recordings!

This time it is the turn of Dr Who's OTHER famous foes – the rather rubbish CYBERMEN in "The Invasion".

Unlike "Evil of the Daleks", which only has Episode Two left, six out of "The Invasion's" eight episodes remain – in telefilm recording form – kept in the BBC's archive/bunker/disguised volcano base. These have been cleaned up and made back into video-looking recordings with the hard work of the Restoration Team and their VidFIRE computer whizzery.

For the two completely missing episodes, the BBC have turned to makers of "Count Duckula" and "Danger Mouse", Cosgrove Hall, to create "Re-Animated" versions!

Is it any GOOD though?


It is in fact BRILLIANT!

There is no sense in trying to pretend that the animated episodes are exact replacements for the missing live action, because Cosgrove Hall haven't done that but instead they have made very stylish – and stylised – black and white noir-cartoons (or "Noir-toons", you might say) that more than adequately stand in as an alternative way of seeing the episodes.

It would certainly be worth seeing a WHOLE STORY made in this way. There is a bit of a change of brain gear needed when swapping between re-animation and original (not a serious problem) that reminds you that in fact there are bits missing even though you've just watched them. A whole story animated would look just made to be that way!

(Rumours fly around the Internet that "The Power of the Daleks" would be the animators' story of choice – GO AND BUY lots of copies of "The Invasion" and maybe they will get the chance to try some Daleks!)

The animation isn't COMPLETELY perfect (Jamie and the Brigadier are not terribly well realised, and you will start to recognise the characters appearing in the same poses appearing a few times) but it is REALLY JOLLY GOOD. There is some exceptionally nice use of photographic backgrounds – or photos that have been drawn over or given a drawn over look – apparently lifted from the actual episodes. The use of light and shadow is excellent and adds hugely to the atmosphere, as do the occasional incidental touches like the fading wisps of smoke as a motorcycle patrol passes, or the camera work on Tobias Vaughn as he surveys London from his office window.

(Two very small boo-boos: one, that they admit to on the commentary, is putting Zoë in the wrong costume for the first part of episode one; the other is not getting Vaughn's lazy eye right!)

As a story, "The Invasion" builds slowly, pacing itself over the eight episodes but gripping you from very early on with its eerie thriller-type storytelling and sinister sixties piano music ("It's the Ipcress Files, I tell you!" cries Daddy Alex several times.). By the middle they are performing James Bond stunts and daring helicopter escapes before the Invasion itself, cleverly and convincingly staged to make you feel that events have gotten HUGE!

Thanks to ingenious plotting – and the power of Cyber-hypnosis – the story turns the ENTIRE EARTH into a "base under siege"! In this way, "The Invasion" is not only the prelude of the Twerpee-era of UNIT stories and Earth-invasions, but also the apotheosis of the Troughton-era of fighting off the monsters with a tiny cast against desperate odds.

Dating Doctor Who stories is notoriously difficult (at least until Mr Russell TV Davies got his hands on the series) and doubly so when UNIT and the Brigadier are around (as they are here, making his second and their first appearance)!

If you are NOT a Doctor Who aficionado: look away now!

The way this USUALLY goes is: in "The Web of Fear" (when we first met the then COLONEL Lethbridge-Stewart) Professor Travers and his daughter Anne between them date the even earlier story "The Abominable Snowmen" (to which "The Web of Fear" is a direct sequel) as both "1935" and "over forty years ago".

That means that "The Web of Fear" must take place in at least 1975.

Then in "The Invasion" (newly promoted) Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart refers to "The Web of Fear" as over four years ago – making "The Invasion" take place in at least 1979 and the UNIT era generally in the 1980's.

(And Sarah says "I'm from 1980" in "Pyramids of Mars" too!)


All this adding up is knocked on the head by "Mawdryn Undead" which DEFINITELY takes place in two time zones: 1977 and 1983 – and the Brigadier has retired some time BEFORE the 1977 part of the story.

i.e. the Brigadier RETIRES from UNIT before FOUNDING the organisation. (© Lance Parkin) So he's probably like MERLIN and lives backwards or something!

Okay, you can look again now!

The UNIT dating conundrum has puzzled less fluffy minds than mine, but it DOES mean that "The Invasion" certainly doesn't take place any LATER than 1980.

So this is in fact the EARLIEST CHRONOLOGICAL story for the Cybermen!

  • Their first appearance, "The Tenth Planet" is said to be in 1986. (The book re-dates this to 2000, but "Attack of the Cybermen" puts it back firmly in 1986.)
  • "Silly Nemesis" takes place in 1988 because it is the twenty-fifth anniversary of Doctor Who, er, because the Nemesis statue returns to Earth every twenty-five years.
  • Other adventures with Cybermen ("The Moonbase", "The Wheel in Space") have rocket ships in them and so take place in "the future", probably the twenty-first century.
  • "The Tomb of the Cybermen", "Earthshock" and "Attack of the Cybermen" all take place after the Cybermen have been in frozen hiding for hundreds of years on Telos.
  • Finally in "Revenge of the Cybermen" the Doctor talks of them being the last of their kind after the Cyberwars wiped them out.
Which means this is probably where everything starts to go wrong for the infamously inept Silver Giants.

In this story they have an invasion force poised to take over the world. Coo! Until they all get blown up by Dr Who's clever friend Zoë. For an encore, the UNIT people also use a Russian space rocket to explode the Cybermen's mothership.

The menacing metal morons actually manage to top this second time around (or first time around, since it's their first appearance) by getting their homeworld Mondas blown up in "The Tenth Planet".

A huge Cyber-fleet (probably the LIFEBOATS from Mondas!) is then exploded by the Nemesis statue as manipulated by the seventh Doctor in (guess what) "Silly Nemesis".

After this the survivors get a bit desperate – which REALLY is in keeping with their motivation, as EVERYTHING about the Cybermen (well the PROPER Cybermen) is about their desperation for survival. They try a couple of "Let us conquer the Earth" plots but quickly decide that a better plan is to go and hide in their Tombs until Eric Saward comes along and decides that they ought to bestride the galaxy.

That lasts about ten minutes before the Cyberwars wipe them all out again!

So all in all, the Cybermen are probably at their most powerful in this story, and it is probably not far off the best Cyber-story there is. Which is REALLY IRONIC because the Cybermen are hardly in it at all!

The first we see of a Cyberman is the cliff-hanger to episode four – half way in! Episodes five and six feature our young heroes (or in the Brigadier's Scooby-Doo-esque description "those crazy kids") tangling with them in the sewers before the invasion itself takes place at the end of part six creating all those iconic images as they emerge from the sewers and stride down the steps in front of St Paul's. And then – reprise aside – they don't appear AT ALL in episode seven! There is a VERY SATISFACTORY big fight in episode eight to make up, but really there are almost MORE Cybermen in "Silly Nemesis" (three episodes) than there are in this one!

Fortunately, that hardly matters because there is a MUCH BETTER villain – no, not the "brain in a hair-dryer" Cyber-director (though that IS pretty creepy if you think what it is probably made of) – I refer to Tobias Vaughn played with great aplomb and drooping eyelid by the great Mr Kevin Stoney.

The long running-time really plays to Vaughn's advantage too: with three episodes of build up, him all suave sinister surety, when he finally goes into a full on rant it is REALLY SCARY!

He makes a perfect foil to the emotionless Cybermen too – he has one of the widest ranges of emotions of any character in all of Doctor Who! Often amused and urbane, occasionally furious and frightening, even despairing when the Cybermen betray him. He is a MUCH BETTER version of Eric Kleig from "Tomb of the Cybermen" too – for all his much-vaunted Brotherhood of Logicians credentials, Kleig really hadn't thought things through. This time around, we get a villain who genuinely seems to be thinking two or three steps ahead – he's invested much of his research in Professor Watkins' machine in order to be ready to keep the Cybermen in line. (or more probably try to betray them before they can betray him!) But he's quick enough to recognise that getting hold of the Doctor's "travelling machine" would give him a handy escape route, a back up back up plan! And you get the feeling that he might just have pulled it all off if the Doctor hadn't turned up and inserted his usual spanner!

Which is GOOD, because having a serious and dangerous foe to beat is what makes the Doctor look really clever and heroic. Beating tin idiots from space is a doddle to the Mighty Trout by now, but thanks to Vaughn "the Invasion" becomes a classic battle of wits.

Troughton – often tired in his third season – is here back on top form, probably because it is such a good story. (Though he STILL manages to slip in THREE "oh my word"s; something that doesn't seem to happen at all before the third season!) Jamie and Zoë are both brilliant here too, and first time out as the Brigadier, Nick Courtney shows how jolly lucky we all were that the actor who SHOULD have played Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in "The Web of Fear" retired sick and Mr Nick got the promotion. The way that the Brigadier can turn the charm on and off, and can switch from affable to icy clearly show the actor brings something special to the character.


Meanwhile, everyone else go out and buy yourself a copy of this classic Doctor Who story. MILES better than certain other stories (cough, cough "Rise of the Cybermen" – Daddy Alex says "surely you mean other versions of the SAME story") I could mention!

Day 2132: TORCHWOOD: Cyberwoman


There is one word for this one: "Eww!"

It was especially cool when the dinosaur fought the cyberwoman. Mr Stripy and I have been playing that all day with Daddy Alex's action figures!

This one seems to have divided opinions quite sharply: those who think it was a terrific base under siege action piece and those who think it was a poorly scripted run-around that literally goes in a big circle and ends up back at the start.

For the record, I'm with the former: yes, it might be a bit rubbish when you analyse it, but watching it, it was very tense and exciting, and that works for me.

The episode hangs on Ianto and we learn why he's been keeping so quiet for the last few weeks. Partly it's because he's the bag man who just gets left to clean up the mess that the others leave behind, but mostly it's because he's been looking after his girlfriend in the cellar.

Why's she in the cellar? Well, unfortunately, it's because she's half way to becoming a Cyberman.

(We do hear that Ianto made her a life support unit out of a broken Cyber-conversion machine, but did he also fix up the Seven-of-Nine-esque Cyber bustiere and thong look, not to mention the Cyber kitten-heels? If so, he's one mixed up puppy!)

It seems like they could have focused more on Lisa's story: finding herself trapped between human and Cyberman and the disintegration of her mind. But maybe they thought that would be too much of a cliché. Instead the story is more based on Ianto, trying to do absolutely the right thing in totally the wrong way, his discovery that he has messed up big time, and his inability to cope with the outcome.

It is pretty obvious that Lisa's brain has been converted into a Cyberman even if the rest of her body hasn't and (at least as far as the writer is concerned) Jack is completely right: there is no way back. Anyone confused by Lisa's final transplantation of her brain into a human body is mistaken if they think she is trying to become human again – it follows entirely naturally from the earlier scene where she sees her partially upgraded form and finds it "disgusting". Her logic is to go back to the beginning and start again – to reboot, Alex puts it, cleverly. Obviously (and for dramatic reasons) this is why Franken-Lisa doesn't get blown away by the rest of Torchwood until she condemns herself with the phrase: "we can upgrade together!"

Gareth David-Lloyd as Ianto gets to do some marvellous acting. Okay, a lot of it is blubbing, but there is also the nice touch of jealous anger at the start as cybernetic specialist Dr Tanizaki (also a lovely, if short lived, performance) starts prodding girlfriend Lisa as though she's an object not a person.

Nice that in the end he couldn't bring himself to shoot her even though he knew he should do – very human that. But Ianto really should be very sacked after this. In fact, for a moment there, I did think he'd been given the black bag treatment and was supposed to clear his desk, but Gwen's question: "will he stay" suggests that the ball is very much in Ianto's court on that. That could have been a shock and a shake up – people would certainly not be expecting a second main cast member to go after the surprise ending to episode one.

One observation that I've found myself agreeing with is that – aside from trimming a little language and gore (though what kid wouldn't have gone "Eww" with delight at the sight of Dr Tanizaki with half a cyber dinner service inelegantly stuck in his head?) – this could have been a "Doctor Who" episode. The base under siege is a staple of "Doctor Who", of course, and this kind of emotional dilemma is also very new series. And using barbecue sauce to sic a pterosaur on a Cyberman is a very Doctorish thing to do, too. All we really needed was for Jack to say "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry" as he squirted Lisa with the ketchup.

Just to be a little critical for a moment, though, this seems to be one of "Torchwood's" problems, because as a series "Torchwood" hasn't really decided what it is for, yet.

With other ongoing genre series like "The X Files", "Buffy", "Deep Space Nine" or "Babylon 5", you do quite quickly get an idea what the through line, the main thrust of the series is going to be. Put simply it's Mulder looks for the truth about aliens and sometimes gets distracted by other weird stuff; Buffy fights Vampires, as metaphor for teen angst, and sometimes gets distracted by other weird stuff; Sisko deals with things coming through the Wormhole and sometimes gets distracted by Bajoran weird religious stuff; Commander Sinclair holds the ring while the aliens duke it out and sometimes gets distracted by Minbari weird religious stuff.

The opening of each of these series sets out the stall, as it were: "Pilot" and "Deep Throat" set up the aliens, abductions and conspiracy theme of "The X Files"; "Welcome to the Hellmouth" introduces Sunnydale and its Hellmouth, Vampires and Buffy's (pointy) relationship to them, and the season big bad The Master; "Emissary" shows us how the Deep Space Nine station is so clunky and broken down compared to the shiny USS Enterprise, establishes the political tensions between Federation and Cardassia and on Bajor, and finds the magical Wormhole that will change everything; "The Gathering" and "Midnight on the Firing Line" are both, in their different ways, about the imminence of war, and the tightrope that Commander Sinclair and his crew have to walk to keep everyone on the side of peace, especially when their own superiors seem to be at best disinterested.

And, of course, "Doctor Who" is about adventures in time and space, and both seasons of the new series begin with three adventures that come together to sell that: "Rose", "The End of the World" and "The Unquiet Dead" (present, future, past) or "The Christmas Invasion", "New Earth" and "Tooth and Claw" (likewise) both say "the Doctor stops the Earth being invaded and travels to meet fantastic aliens from the future and terrifying monsters in the past". (You could do a trailer based on that…)

"Rose" shook Rose Tyler's world to pieces; "Everything Changes" barely disturbed Gwen Cooper's existence, more of a knee-trembler actually. "Torchwood" needed a much bigger opening, one that left an open-ended threat unresolved to give us that central core to the series: some uber-alien controlling the rift and ready to invade, or Gwen's partner Rhys kidnapped and carried off so her joining Torchwood is in part a quest to get him back (and think how much that might add to any kind of relationship she establishes with Captain Jack). Yes, those are both clichés – I don't get paid Russell T Davies big bucks, do I – but it would give "Torchwood" the sort of core idea that I think is so far not apparent.

Yes certainly we have the ongoing plot strands: I still expect more from the Weevils; Jack's heart of darkness routine is probably going to open up to somewhere; and Gwen's relationship with Rhys has big red danger lights flashing over it. But these are the glue that holds plot arcs together; they are not the raison d'etre for the series as a whole.

There are unexplained ongoing plot strands set up in the other series I mentioned – Mulder's sister in "The X Files", Buffy's relationship with Angel, in "Buffy" – and some mysteries to ponder and unfold (even if in "Babylon 5's" case it is a bit of a red herring as the seemingly central Jeff Sinclair / Earth-Minbari sub-plot gets wrapped up at the start of the second season when the real main story starts to come forward).

But in each of those series you have that main handle on what you think the series is doing and likely to do.

I can't really say that about "Torchwood" yet.

"Torchwood" feels almost like it has skipped straight to mid-season – the point where you do some exploratory and experimental stories that branch away from your main through line, and where you can afford to shake up the viewers' expectations before you pull it all back together for the big finale.

In fact the series that it most reminds me of in this respect – and I'm aware that the series have been compared for other reasons – is "Angel".

In the same way as with "Torchwood" it was decided "let's have a more grown up spin off from our big hit series, Buffy, and stick popular character Angel in as a brooding tormented hero". "Angel's" opening stories all have that "didn't I miss something?" feel, mainly because all the big opening is actually in the previous two seasons of "Buffy". It took the makers of "Angel" a year to realise that they actually wanted to write stories about looking for redemption in all the wrong places and that a series with a brooding Vampire hero would be just the place to do that.

"Torchwood" isn't quite sure what "world" it is supposed to be in. Mulder's FBI is squarely in our real world, which just happens to have more unbelievable things in it than we realise; Buffy's world is a fantasy version of ours where magic really works and people really kind of know about the demons. "Doctor Who" inhabits a hyper-real reality: it's our world but with all the colours turned up to max. Torchwood is trying to do almost a noir version of that hyper-reality and that's not quite working. The "realism" of their investigative techniques sits badly with their batcave and pet pterosaur. Also, playing basketball always bad for a series – look what happened to "Crusade"!

"The X Files" achieves a kind of faux-documentary realism by the style of filming that they use, close to reportage. With their little location labels typing up in the corner, a grainy muted quality to their picture and lots of middle two-shots of Mulder and Scully and hand-held work, they are trying to convince you that there is a real documentary crew actually there following the agents around – it's to fool you into investing the series with extra realism.

Conversely, "Buffy" uses a very comic-book style: the darks are very dark, the lights are very bright and colourful; there's a lot of use of close ups and dynamic shots – Buffy practically has the whiz line drawn on her in some of the hero scenes – and steady-cam and even crane shots all to give you unexpected points of view, and obviously there are the big set piece moments, often in slow motion, that would be the big whole-page frames in a comic book. It is all to sell the Buffy "world" to you so that it is not out of place when a vampire or demon jumps out at you, nor when it gets handed its arse by a little blonde.

"Torchwood" appears to be using a much more naturalistic filming – that is one that takes off some of the rough edges and smoothes the picture and action to disguise the fact that you are watching a performance. Or, more kindly, it tries to try and make you feel that you are actually there, as opposed to a "realistic" form which tries to convince you that you are watching something recorded by people who were actually there. It's the traditional way of making television drama – particularly in this country – but it looks a little odd these days as we've become used to the more "realistic" style of "Spooks" or "Battlestar Galactica" for high-end drama. (I use "realistic" ironically in both cases, as both series employ faux-realistic techniques like fake camera distortion for "CCTV footage" or fake camera shake on entirely CGI shots of spacecraft.)

"Torchwood" uses some of these techniques too, along with the ramping and the snap-zooms and the helicopter shots, but in the midst of all the EastEnders style dinner table scenes it does seem a bit schizoid when it does so.

All too unfortunately, it reminds me of those years when the Doctor Who producer would turn to the script editor and say: "Let's have a Dalek story – what are we going to do with them?" You need to start with your stories first and then – should it turn out that you have maniacal Nazi-like invaders – decide whether it shouldn't be the Daleks after all. It just seems that someone has said "Let's have a series for Captain Jack and set it on Earth – now, what are we going to do with him?"

I don't mean this to be damning: I've enjoyed all four of the episodes so far and John Barrowman and Eve Myles are captivating, particularly when they are given screen time together (in many ways, despite how good the rest of the cast are, I'd rather watch a series that was about Jack and Gwen and lost the contradictory Torchwood back-story).

But I know that so far I am watching it primarily because it's from those Doctor Who people. I hope that it finds its own mojo soon.

Day 2132: ROBIN HOOD: Turk Flu


We have had a bit of a Cyber-weekend at my flat, obtaining the very excellent "The Invasion" on DVD, listening to Big Fish's "The Gathering" on CD and then staying up late to watch "Torchwood" from under the duvet without Daddy knowing.

But first, you are going to have to put up with Robbin' Hoodie again. I did!

Comparison with Shakespeare probably isn't immediately obvious for this very 2006 series of "Robin Hood", but this week we have an outbreak of one of the most Shakespearean of traits. Yes, it's "I can't see your breasts, madam" week.

Cross dressing is a great staple of the theatre and now, it appears, also Sherwood Forrest where somehow Sir Guy is completely blind to the moulded leather bodice of Marion's "Night Watchman" super-hero costume, and at the same time Robin and his merry men are taken in by new character Safiya's cunning disguise of, er, short hair.

I hope Alex won't mind me saying that he was genuinely surprised by the revelation that she was a woman not because he hadn't thought she was a woman but because he hadn't conceived of the possibility that we were supposed to think she was a man.

Safiya is a character new to the Robin Hood myth, clearly created because (a) the original legend does not have enough roles for women and (b) Nasir was created by Richard Carpenter for "Robin of Sherwood" even though the American makers of "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves" did not realise that. She comes readily equipped with the knowledge of her physician father and the secret sciences of the Saracens (a handy magnifying glass cum laser beam for lighting fires being the obvious one).

It's fair enough that Robin should be recruiting. It may be convenient for the opening titles and to make sure all our actors have lines each week (or not, if you're Gordon Kennedy) but as fearsome bands of outlaws go, five is not going to cut the mustard. "Robin of Sherwood" adopted it as almost a stylistic device – in a very stylised series – but seriously, the logistics of Robin's organisation takes some thinking about. Standing guard over the camp – especially at night, hunting for food, making the arrows, spying out merchants and tax collectors to rob, distributing gold to the poor, washing and darning those attractive combat pants: all these things take time. Robin really needs a band of at least ten, and probably twenty to thirty if he is to do any damage at all to the Sheriff's income from merchant and tax collectors.

Bizarrely, this week also played out one of the other central planks of the Robin Hood story, the archery contest for the sliver arrow. "Robin of Sherwood" (yes, them again) take a very novel twist to this by endowing the arrow with mystical qualities and making it a sacred symbol of local Saxon deity, Herne the Hunter. "Robin Hood" also has a novel twist – they reduce the archery contest into a minor sub-plot. This does seem an awful waste of a major set piece.

The main plot was I'm afraid something of a mess as well, revolving as it did around the Sheriff's iron mine. The dangerous conditions and poor wages had led to a bit of a miners' strike. The Sheriff promptly laid all the miners off having Gisborne murder one into the bargain (no Human Rights Act in those days!) intending to replace them with foreign slave workers. Never fear, Robin will put this right for them by… blowing up the mine and leaving the miners, er, still without any livelihoods. Nice explosion, though.

With charming naïveté Robin also managed to recommend that the freed Muslim slaves take sanctuary in Kirklees Christian Abbey. Good job the Church wasn't promoting any major inter-denominational warfare at the time, eh! Or indeed supporting the idea of slavery for non-Christians. Where was that you were just back from, Robin?

Perhaps in an effort to put some peril into the plot, or maybe it was just time for another stunt, they contrived to drop poor old Gordon Kennedy down a previously unseen pitfall. Robin's cunning plan to use the fire at the mine to lure the Sheriff away from Nottingham Fair – and that silver arrow – thus seemed likely to rebound on him and his men. Except the scenes played out with almost no sense of tension or indeed any idea of pace. John's in trouble, Safiya can help, he's safely out just as the Sheriff rides up and there's a brief fight for Robin before everyone escapes: it was all very… perfunctory.

It wasn't really a saving grace, but there was a particularly good scene for Marion towards the end where she convinced young Rowan Dunne, son of the miner murdered by Gisborne, not to shoot her in revenge. (Robin rather stupidly gave Rowan the impression that Marion and Guy were dating.) Having persuaded Rowan that his bow would be better used winning the silver arrow, which could then pay for food for the now permanently jobless miners, her rather waspish instruction to Robin to make sure he wins was also nicely delivered.

Last week's ("Parent Hood" ho, very, ho) was a curious mix of comic and very grim; this week was just back to very flat.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Day 2131: Build a Better Bond



We have seen lots of posters, and adverts and even a whole BUS painted silver – even better than the bus with Captain Jack on the side!

Better still, the critics love Mr Daniel, who I have decided is my new FAVOURITE James Bond, and the film is supposed to be quite good as well too.

Book the tickets Daddy!


Day 2130: DOCTOR WHO: Sarah Jane Smith


These are a series of adventure stories on shiny disc from the awfully nice BIG FISH people about Dr Who's one time Best Friend Sarah.

I know that we are RATHER LATE in reviewing these adventures, what with them having first come out – with REALLY LUCKY timing (Daddy says SERENDIPITOUS and I frown at him) – between January and April this year, but we got them for Daddy's birthday and listened to them all in a row to try and cheer ourselves up while in the car.

On the other fluffy foot, being six months late is a good excuse for oodles of SPOILERS!

The first "season" of Sarah's Big Fish adventures came out YONKS ago [R: July to November 2002, in fact]. They were a bit, er, PATCHY, is the kindest word to use. The best adventure was probably the third story, David Bishop's "Test of Nerve". The best single moment in the five CD run being the EXCITING REVEAL at the end of that story of the season BIG BAD villain.

Well, several months later for Sarah – and several YEARS later for the rest of us – she has returned for another "season". This time, though, it is more of a single adventure in four chapters, and all of them are by the same author this time: promisingly, the same David Bishop who did the good one last time!

And three of them this time, the first three, are actually rather good too! They are like self contained mini-adventures that build up into a bigger story. On the other fluffy foot, this means that the fourth is rather more of a DISAPPOINTMENT. My Daddy Alex had thought of something REALLY CLEVER based on the first three episodes, but instead the last story really didn't have anywhere to go and the "surprise twist" of "oh he was one of the villains" was really QUITE BAD: a bit like having beaten SPECTRE in chapter three only to have the "surprise twist" of "oh, he was a minor henchman of Blofeld's that we never heard of before and who is only out for revenge as there is no other point in his motivation by this point"!

The first story is "Buried Secrets" which is based loosely around an (oh so easily solvable) whodunit murder in a SINISTER CRYPT in Florence. Yes, Sarah does that DA VINCI COD. But actually, rather more of the running time is spent setting up the overall STORY ARC. Listening to them one month at a time that might have been frustrating, but as part one of a continuous story it works very well. There is a clever device of opening the adventure with a fake NEWS report that is REALLY a TRAILER for the events of the other discs!

Also there to set up the next disc is the long bit at the start that consists of Sarah going to dinner and meeting Will (APPARENTLY by chance – like we believed THAT!), the brother of her old friend from Doctor Who, Harry.

Look out for the IRONY where Sarah tears her chum Josh off a strip for interfering in her life because he thinks she needs looking after – and then tears off to ITALY to interfere in the life of her other chum, Nat, because Sarah thinks she needs looking after!

Anyway, the REAL thing that you need to know is that there is a CULT called the Orbus Pastrami (or World of Pizza!) who have a GOOD side (the White Cultists) and a BAD side (the Red Cultists). The cultists all believe that the world is going to come to an end because of a book of prophecies from five-hundred years ago, and Sarah is identified as their HERALD because she is described in the book as having foretold the future to the book's author, identified only by her initials SJS.

(At this point your Doctor Who continuity antenna – free with episode twelve of "Doctor Who Adventures" comic – should start pinging!)

The adventure picks up in part two: "Snow Blind" which is set in ANTARCTICA.

Cool! (You may groan!)

Sarah manages to get VERY CONFUSED by thinking that it will be a sequel to "The Seeds of Doom". Which it isn't. SHE hasn't got her continuity antenna on!

At least she HAS bothered to check out that Mr Will is who he claimed to be. This is GOOD because it is in character for Sarah to be suspicious, but is does mean that the coincidentatron is going to be needed to explain something coming at the end of the episode!

There is some good acting stuff from Mr Tom "Duggan" Chadbon and Mr Nick "the Daleks" Briggs, although the small cast once again kyboshes any sense of surprise in the whodunit! And guessing who is this episode's "Red Chapter Acolyte" is not much harder! Never mind, the "twist" ending is very satisfying, if hardly surprising! Yes, you have probably spotted it: Mr Will is a "Red Chapter" BADDY! Or rather a confused baddy, who didn't know what he was getting into, oh woe, oh woe. More of that story later.

Other thing to spot: this month the base is nearly empty because everyone's just flown home for Christmas. This is quite handy but a bit OBVIOUS in the "let's disguise that we have no cast" stakes! (Though wait until next time!)

Slightly forced cliff-hanger ending aside, adventure three "Fatal Consequences" would have been a satisfactory wind up to this year's stories, featuring as it does the final thwarting of the "Red Chapter" and their plan to help the prophecy of doom along a bit, with a bit of genetic engineering and a bit of continuity linkage back to the very first Big Fish Sarah-Jane Smith story: "Comeback" by Terrance Disks.

Exceptional guest cast this time around include old "Blake's Seven" sparring partners Stephen Greif and Jacqueline Pearce as basically the White Queen and the Red Queen respectively.

The twist in the tale this time – somewhat telegraphed by earlier dialogue, unfortunately – is that (gasp!) Sarah's chum Josh is a "White Chapter" baddy. Well, they aren't supposed to be "baddies" as such but… The CLUE that we spotted was that Josh always calls Sarah "SJ" – just like she is known by her initials in the prophecy – because he has been brought up thinking of her that way!

It all builds up VERY EXCITINGLY to a multiple cliff-hanging question of "Has Josh shot Will?", "Has Will shot Josh?" and "Has Jacquie shot Sarah? (clue: we don't think so!)"

(The trailer for part four ALMOST managed not to give away who survived this cliff-hanger… and then blew it!)

Now, here is the CLEVER thing that my Daddies had thought of (it took both of them!): Daddy Richard spotted straight away in episode one the link between Florence, Italy; knowledge of the future; and Sarah Jane – the Mandragora Helix, due back in our neck of the woods at the end of the twentieth century and therefore overdue (hence the "Red Chapter" deciding to take things a bit into their own hands).

But what Daddy Alex thought – the REALLY clever bit – was this: the "Red Chapter" think that the aliens are NASTY and will do anything to stop them. The "White Chapter" are SUPERFICIALLY the good guys, trying to protect people – mainly Sarah – from the nasty "Reds" BUT they think that the aliens are GOOD. Only we already KNOW that the Mandragora Helix is really EVIL and wants to control mankind through SUPERSTITION.

So what ought to happen is that the "White Chapter" should be revealed to be SUPERSTITIOUS IDIOTS who will DOOM us all, while the "Red Chapter" are actually vicious killers with the wrong methods but the RIGHT IDEA!

Only that doesn't happen. Boo!

This means that the final chapter, "Dreamland" is a bit directionless. Sarah is persuaded by the "White Chapter" to go up in a space shuttle. And that's it, really. Why does Sarah go up in this shuttle? Why was it so important to the "Whites"? Was there any significance to the discovery of a comet last seen from Earth five-hundred years ago? Was the entire prophecy and the two cults just a MONSTROUS MISUNDERSTANDING?

Rather than any answers, we are distracted by the space pilot turning out to work for the "Reds" and dooming them all in rather pointlessly melodramatic fashion. Sarah drifts away into space and WE ASSUME does not come back.

David A McIntee had a similar go in his book: "Bullet Time". What is it with Best Friend Sarah that people want to kill her off ENIGMATICALLY?!?!?

In some ways it was a HAPPY COINCIDENCE (you see, I DO know what serendipitous means!) that these stories came out in the months before Sarah was seen on telly again for the first time in thirty years in "School Reunion". In others, it shot the continuity of this audio series completely to pieces, what with Sarah being very much ALIVE not to mention having her robot dog friend K-9 all in one piece (even if he's not quite working).

It is always good to here Ms Elisabeth Sladen reprising the role of Sarah-Jane: she brings a convincing sense of conviction, warmth, indomitablility and human vulnerability to Sarah. It is no surprise that she was the companion that got to come back and meet Dr Who again; nor is it any surprise that she has been given not one but THREE spin off series from the original. First there was "K-9 and company", then these audio adventures, and soon she will be back on the telly in "Sarah-Jane Adventures".

Third time lucky, anyone?

Day 2129: The Week that Wasn't


I am SORRY for not keeping up to date with my diary.

Everything got a bit MUDDLED for a week and so it is all out of order and out of date. AGAIN. But there are still some things that I wrote down while Daddy Richard and Daddy Alex were driving up and down the road to Manchester and back.

So now I have LOADS of diaries inside Daddy's computer, just waiting for my big fluffy nose to hit the "PUBLISH POST" button.

Here we go…

Day 2129: Questions in the House


"There will have to be an Inquiry, Humphrey. We shall have to ask a lot of questions. Starting with why didn't you ask a lot of questions?"
– Prime Minister Jim Hacker
"One of Us"

It seems that a certain silliness about questions has gripped the House of Commons this week.

The Speaker of the House who is called Mr Speaker has said that Mr Balloon cannot ask who will succeed Lord Blairimort as Leader of the Labour but he can ask about who will succeed Lord Blairimort as Leader of the country.

This has caused great confusion among Lord Blairimort's backbenchers as many of them do not realise that there is a distinction.

It seems that Mr Balloon is more keen to pull POLITICAL STUNTS than to try and ask serious or important questions about the business of the day. I am sure that it is JOLLY LARKS to tweak Lord Blairimort's nose about him not really wanting Mr Frown to be Prime Minister next, but does it actually tell us anything we do not already know? Or could it be described as "Punch and Judy Politics"?

Mr Balloon has been asking this same question every week for a while now. "Boring" is clearly not a word that he learned while he was at Eton. And Lord Blairimort has clearly been getting very FED UP about having to have the same old slapstick rubbed in his face week in week out. So it was fairly obvious that SOMEONE had had Mr Mr Speaker NOBBLED!

Anyway, the attempt BACKFIRED, obviously. It is Mr Balloon's right to waste his questions at Prime Minister's Mud Wrestling Time by being smug and silly if he likes. Trying to MANIPULATE Mr Mr Speaker into throwing him off merely gave the Conservatories a lot of free headlines about their SHOCK and OUTRAGE.

The kerfuffle over this NONSENSE rather drowned out the somewhat more important news of Sir Mr the Merciless's question, and Lord Blairimort's reply that in fact his is NOT ruling out a proper inquiry into the fiasco that we call the Iraq war… in the fullness of time.

The question of whether to ask a lot of questions about how we got ourselves into such a DREADFUL MESS was also one that was troubling the House – if not, Mr Balloon – this week.

The Nationalist Parties of Wales and Scotland (not the British Nasty Party) supported by the Liberal Democrats used their debate day in the Commons to call for a proper look at how it happened and what was done and by whom.

Even though lots of the Labour MP's had said that they were opposed to the war and that they wanted an inquiry, in the end only twelve actually stood up for what they believe. Many of their comrades would have LOVED to help, but suddenly realised that they would be WASHING THEIR HAIR on the night and would not be able to vote. Happily, this COINCIDENCE means that Mr Frown might be able to find places for them in his government!

The Conservatories had managed to promise that they would support the government if there was going be an inquiry in a year's time, and also promised to support the Nationalists if there wasn't.

Some people have said that this was another POLITICAL STUNT by Mr Balloon, but this is NOT TRUE. What Mr Balloon wanted was a POLITICAL STUNT in a year's time when Lord Blairimort is already gone and it is calculated to EMBARRASS Mr Frown by making him carry the can.

Voting with the Nationalists today was just an example of Mr Balloon throwing his toys out of the pram if he cannot get his own way!

Mrs Bucket, the Caravan and Camping Secretary, stood up and said that an inquiry now would undermine the morale of our troops. I do hope that she is going to ROUNDLY CONDEMN the American Monkey-in-Chief for sending Mr Baker to, er, make an inquiry!

Still, it is IMPORTANT that Lord Blairimort and Mrs Bucket remain CLOSE to the American government – otherwise they might not know when the American Army is going to run away; THAT could leave our troops in the lurch! Good to know we're not going to be undermining their morale, anyway!

Personally, I think we should ALWAYS have an inquiry within a YEAR of starting ANY military activity. After all, if you are still there after a year then SOMETHING has obviously gone WRONG! No question.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Day 2127: Rums-felled


Daddy Alex’s birthday, 30th October, and we ask: what do you want for your birthday, Daddy?

Oh, no more than for George W Bush to get his richly deserved comeuppance, he says wistfully…

[wibbly-wobbly time effect]

Happy Birthday Daddy!

At the time of writing, I am looking into the future and seeing that now everybody except the official result is saying that the Democrats have won the last senate race, the one in VIRGINIA (the state named after the FAMOUS BRITISH QUEEN i.e. Madonna who is "Like a Virgin").

The Republicans have not conceded yet and there is some chance that they are going to demand a recount.

This is just like in 2000 when the Republicans said that calling for a recount in Florida was a sign of being a BAD LOSER.

It appears that the Republicans were against recounts before they were for them.

Even so, the likely taking of the Senate, and the huge victory in the House of Representatives mean that the American people have managed – in spite of the best efforts of Mr Senator Herman Kerry-Munster – to make up their minds that the ruling plutocrats of the Republican Party are actually a bit BAD.

War, corruption, scandal, broken promises, a trillion dollar deficit and a SHAVED MONKEY in the Oval Office, you would have thought they could have worked this out before now!

No, to be FAIR, the Republicans had said that they would reduce the size of the government, AND THEY DID! – Nobody specified that it would be the AMERICAN government of course, but the Iraqi government has been pretty effectively reduced. All you need to run Iraq now is a TELEPHONE and the number of the PENTAGON. (At least that’s what is says in this memo from Mr Rumsfled…)

It is like the PROPHECY in STAR WARS about Anakin Skywalker bringing balance to the FORCE – before Mr Anakin there were THOUSANDS of Jedi and only TWO Sith; after he turned to the Dark Side, he reduced the number of Jedi to TWO as well. That is BALANCED!

The immediate result of course is that the Monkey in Chief has FIRED accepted the resignation (this time around) of Mr Secretary Donald Rumsfailed. In spite of being a secretary, Mr Rumsflavour was almost as good at MANGLING the English Language as his boss, the Monkey – you might think that this is why he was kept around the place. But no! Being a Secretary for Defence it appears is actually CODE for being “man in position to take the blame when election goes belly up”. Few of you will remember him, but there was a man called Mr Buff Hoon who used to do this job for Lord Blairimort.

If Mr Rumsfolly had been fired last week – when all four of the American Military newspapers called for it and his position really became untenable – then who would have been left to take the BLAME this week? It would have been Mr Bush or Mr Cheney, wouldn’t it? The President would have had to think long and hard about it, and then fired Mr Bush.


Anyone who has forgotten to send PRESENTS for Daddy’s Birthday should STRAIGHT AWAY send your boxes of STICKY BUNS to "Millennium Dome" at "My Flat". I will give him your love.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Day 2126: TORCHWOOD: Ghost Machine


Shhh! Do not tell Daddy that I have been watching "Torchwood" on the DVD recorder!

Appropriately for Halloween week, "Torchwood's" third episode is a ghost story, in the form of an homage to Nigel Kneale's classic "The Stone Tape".

If you're not familiar, that story concerns the discovery of an "explanation" for ghosts as the recording of events, usually highly charged emotional events, into the physical surroundings of a location. And jolly terrifying it is too!

Here, the Torchwood team discover for want of a better term a "Stone Tape Player": an alien device that reawakens those emotional memories connected to a place. It is not intrinsically bad, either – Gwen's first encounter, a small lost boy from the evacuation in World War II is poignant but hardly malevolent (though it might be foreshadowing future Captain Jack related events, as he has a connection to the blitz too, remember); and she later uses the device to recall happy times with her partner Rhys, recorded into their home.

But the device can bring back negative emotional memories too, and here the episode focuses on Owen and his reaction when the ghost machine shows him a rape/murder from forty years ago. Interestingly, given the amount of speculation that Owen himself is culpably a rapist from using the alien "cologne" spray in "Everything Changes", Owen becomes obsessed with bringing justice – or more likely vengeance – to the killer, even though he is now old and frail and played by Gareth "Blake" Thomas. Is this exaggerated response perhaps an indication that he recognises something of himself in the other, something he wants vicariously to destroy?

Later on we discover that in fact the device comes in two halves: one for the past, which they have already discovered, and one for the future. In some ways this is a shame, because the question "what would you do with knowledge of the future?" deserves a whole episode of its own to explore properly.

Gwen, of course, is the one who actually kills the old man: more blood on her hands from another mistake, she is certainly one dangerous lady to be around. She's also a victim of the old "misinterpreted prophesy" cliché – a necessary ambiguity, because genuine foresight obviously precludes free will. The question is: was it inevitable that Gwen would end up being the killer once she had seen the future echo? Or does she have choices left, even after seeing the future, choices that determine whether it is Owen or herself who ends up doing the deed?

Burnie on the other hand does seem to change his future, as he does not end the episode dead in the street as he foresaw. Alex suggests that by understanding what he has seen, and how it will come about, Burnie manages to avoid the possible future seen; by failing to understand, Gwen actually causes her future vision to be fulfilled. Or is this just a loose end that should have been tied off by the writer?

Even so, the episode is nicely constructed – for example, an early line, seemingly a throwaway joke, about Owen finding Ed Morgan in the phone book quicker that the Torchwood super-computer cleverly turns out to be a crucial clue. You see if Owen can find Morgan in the phone book then so can Burnie, and we know he's a self-confessed blackmailer. We get to put these clues together along with Gwen: a good "show rather than tell" moment.

Of course, good construction should come naturally to writer Helen Raynor as she has spent the last two years being script editor on Doctor Who. She's also been given a two-part story to write for the Doctor's third season of adventures, to be shown next spring, and based on "Ghost Machine", things are certainly looking promising for that.

Meanwhile, it seems increasingly difficult to reconcile Torchwood Cardiff (or Torchwood 3 – as seen on BBC3) with the original Torchwood at Canary Wharf (or Torchwood 1 – as seen on BBC1).

The down at heal Cardiff office, formerly part of Torchwood's secret network of Underground tube lines – hence looking in part like a Victorian station – seems miles away from the unlimited resources used to build a skyscraper just to reach a breach in space/time. The small cast contrasts with the busy and well staffed Torchwood Tower, full of scientists, soldiers and other Dalek canon fodder. But most of all, Torchwood 3 are scavengers, scrabbling around in the dirt for any leftovers they can find where Torchwood 1 would merrily shoot down passing Jathaa Sungliders in order to strip them down and steel their technology. The people of Torchwood 3 are, as Alex pits it, quirky; the drones of Torchwood 1 are like the lawyers of This Life if they happened to be running a secret fascist conspiracy. Jack says that their mission is to obtain alien technology to protect the human race – the whole human race – and that no one power should have it; Yvonne Hartman's drive was to arm the British Empire, full stop.

How can they be so different?

It seems to me that there are two possibilities (apart from the obvious dramatic reason – Torchwood 1 were out and out villains in "Doctor Who", but Torchwood 3 are anti-heroes in "Torchwood").

First, it could be that each Torchwood is very much created by the guiding influence of the single person who is put in charge: Yvonne is a management consultant so obviously Torchwood 1 is an evil power-crazed empire-building management-speak babbling monstrosity; Jack is a dark and brooding try-to-do-right kind of fellow so Torchwood 3 is kind of ambiguously trying to help. I remark that when Jack described the other Torchwoods he talked of Torchwood 2 as a "strange man" in Glasgow. That could mean that it is a one-man office – that's the obvious reading – but it could mean that Torchwood 2 is defined by the "strange man" who is running the show up there. Alex pointed out that it would be very appropriate for Torchwood's management structure to be monarchical!

The second possibility is that Torchwood 3 has in fact gone rogue; Jack has taken over and taken them off in his own direction, subverting a bad organisation to try and make something good out of it. That in turn leads to possibilities: Jack night not actually succeed and this could come back to haut him, or the other Torchwoods might decide that Cardiff have stepped too far out of line and come in to put them back on track – or put them down.

Having said that, why (apart from the anagrammatical connection) is this "Torchwood" at all? There's no particular need for Jack to be working for the Cardiff branch of Imperialists-R-Us, handy as it is for being able to get through police and army lines. (Yes, mentioning "Torchwood" is the equivalent of the Doctor's psychic paper – but actually Jack had some psychic paper of his own, back in "The Empty Child"). Why tie him to that other Torchwood at all?

It is as though Russell had this idea for a Torchwood (sinister organisation that is opposed to the Doctor) and this other idea for a Torchwood (mysterious organisation with Captain Jack, possible spin-off) and forgot that he'd used the same name twice.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Day 2125: DOCTOR WHO: The Evil of the Daleks


Ho ho! That fooled you, didn't it: you were expecting more Robbin' Hoodie! Well, instead, my Daddies have driven us off to PORTSMOUTH in order to see a PLAY. With DALEKS in it!

As you probably remember, the BBC made lots of Doctor Who in the nineteen-sixties and then carelessly INCINERATED lots of it. Boo! Fortunately, some bits still survived outside of their hands and over the years many have been recovered.

One CLASSIC story that is still in pieces is called "The Evil of the Daleks". Guess what it is about! Well, clearly the BBC didn't think to look for it to be left lying about on the stage of the new theatre royal in Portsmouth! And that is where we discovered it…

This is the third outing for Nick Scovell as the second Doctor, after previously appearing in adaptations of "The Web of Fear" and "Fury from the Deep". He has his own take on the character, distinct from Patrick Troughton’s, and it is a good one, all the better for not attempting a caricature. It’s a more abstracted Doctor, as though his alien thoughts are always far away from, and above, what we mere mortals might dwell upon. Where Troughton gives the impression of playing the fool to cover up for being so far ahead of the rest of us, Nick seems to be on a different plane altogether. In some ways it reminds me of the seventh Doctor more, though without the maniacal energy or quite the darkness.

And in some ways this was a more god-fearing Doctor: certainly one that seems more willing to engage with the moral and theological aspects of this particular morality play of an adventure. Though that may rather be the authorial voice rather than the Doctor’s, and a different viewpoint to avowed atheist Russell T Davis it is too. Religiosity runs through the play and the characters: the character of Edward Waterfield has been "reverended" to make him a vicar who has lost his faith, looking to regain it by touching the design of god through science only to find the devil instead; Ruth Maxtible, a very underused Bridget Forsythe in the televised story, here becomes quietly powerful through her own understated strength of faith.

In the question and answer before the play, Nick – who also adapted the David Whitaker screen play for the stage – admitted that where he had previously stuck quite closely to the television versions, this time he had adapted much more freely to try to capture more of the pace and emotional tone of the new series. This isn’t always successful – making Waterfield a reverend is a little heavy handed and does not add a lot to the character beyond an excess of hand-wringing – but quite a lot of it works. And, in fact, the play quite naturally fell into two forty-five minute episodes with cliffhanger (and intermission for ice cream).

If you are familiar with the original, you will know that the television "Evil…" is a sprawling epic tale that travels in time and space from London, Gatwick, 1966, back to Theodore Maxtible's county house in 1866 and then to Skaro, year unknown though believed to be sometime after the year 4000. For obvious reasons, this version chooses to compress events to just the Victorian house setting, allowing for a (seemingly) minimalist stage set: a walled up fireplace and two gas wall lamps, and the action taking place in front.

Surprisingly, this doesn't hurt the story – in fact, the first half (or episode) is rather improved as the pace is driven so much faster. Rather than slowly unfolding a mystery as the Doctor tries to trace his TARDIS back via clues that lead to fake antiquarian Waterfield and thence to Maxtible, we cut quickly to the chase. Waterfield and Maxtible have in the course of their experimentation opened a way to the Daleks to invade the house.

"The Evil of the Daleks" contains a number of particularly fine scenes, as the Doctor confronts the rouge Victorian scientists over the morality of their behaviour, or indeed confronts the Daleks themselves. Doing away with the need to pad out three or four episodes of television allows Nick to gather these together and present a much more powerful version of the central moral themes: unlike the Daleks, we are responsible for the consequences of our actions. Where they are conditioned only to obey and destroy, we have free will and that allows us to be either better or worse than they are: the two conditions being represented by Waterfield (who tries to make amends for his misdeeds and sacrifices himself) and Maxtible (who is consumed by greed and naturally ends up becoming a Dalek himself).

The second half after the intermission was not quite so successful, despite a genuinely amazing realization of the Emperor of the Daleks, a huge prop looking almost exactly like the one on television (1960's version, not 2005 CGI version), revealed to have been lurking behind that walled up fireplace.

Do not fight in here!

The story does depend more on action for its conclusion and less on the powerful dialogue that so coloured the first half. And, in all fairness, even the television series had difficulty depicting a full on Dalek civil war – resorting, infamously, to wind up Dalek toys for crucial filmed sequences. (And sadly not the last time the series tried that dodge, either!)

The script takes a few liberties with the story at this point, firmly establishing that this Emperor and his five Daleks are the last Daleks in existence from a point very, very far in the future. This covers them against questions of why they only have five Daleks on stage, of course, but does rather kick against the continuity of the new series: the Emperor has millions of Daleks up until the rather sudden end of the Time War, after which he has none and has to build himself some new ones out of dead people. I don’t really see where this Emperor is supposed to fit into that timeline. Also, with only five Daleks left in creation, would you really let the Doctor experiment on two of them with the human factor?

In fact, in both previous productions, they have made effective use of short film clips played in to produce action sequences larger than the stage could handle – just like the television would do, in fact. So, it was a shame that they did not employ that technique here.

On the other hand, having the power of friendship key to saving the Doctor from the Dalek factor treatment – rather than just his alien nature as in the original – is a great improvement, connecting as it does with the earlier themes of why the human factor beats the Dalek factor, and also clearing up a plot hole of the Daleks (who know that the Doctor is an alien, and indeed base their entire plot on his superior alien knowledge) looking rather dumb by forgetting that he isn’t human.

There were some particularly fine performances. The Doctor and Jamie (John-Paul McCrohon) are excellent as they have been in each of these productions. Add to that both Maxtibles: daughter Ruth (Sally Evans), as previously mentioned, and father Theodore (James George) played as Marvel comic villain the Kingpin – who he physically resembled too: bald headed, smoking jacket and cravat pin, all very different from Marius Goring's memorable beard and wild hair.

But the most important presence on stage was, obviously, the Daleks themselves. It is astounding just how creepy they actually are in the flesh. Or in the poly-carbide, I suppose. The audience reacted to their entrance with spontaneous applause, and after that they remained on the stage throughout, highlighted at the back of the stage with a couple of purple spotlights – a clever way of underlining their metaphorical presence throughout the story.

We heard all the stories from the chief Dalek operator (or self-styled Dalek Supreme) about cursed Dalek shells that try to impale the occupant, pitch themselves off the stage front or – most hilariously – miss their exit and have to tap-tap-tap their way along the back cloth using their sucker arms to find the way off stage. But never mind that, on the night they behaved impeccably, gliding with menace and deliberation, turning far faster than you would have thought possible and of course exterminating anyone they felt like.

The Dalek props were the property of fan group Devious who have apparently been building and filming them for their own fun for some years. For this performance they were "subtly" modified – by which I suspect they mean that they had fitted a more traditional Dalek body with the larger ear-light pieces of the Daleks from 2005/06. The colour scheme of silver with green bumps was, er, novel, but usually looked black in the stage lighting anyway.

The biggest change from the two previous plays was in fact the audience.

The final end?

Not only was it huge - the play was a sell out run in all of the performances - but the mix, at least when we were there on the closing night, included a great many families with young children, clearly fans of the new series and clearly hugely enthused by this play as well: their delighted, not to mention insightful, discussion of the action filled the auditorium after the show was over, as they stormed the stage in order to be photographed with their Dalek heroes.

Not bad for a story shown on the telly forty years ago.