Saturday, 7 June 2008


Doctor Who [new]
4x09 Forest of the Dead
See here for my thoughts on this story.

Gilmore Girls
4x11 In the Clamor and the Clangor
Finally, after three and a half seasons, Mrs. Kim finds out the truth about Lane. Sadly, in typical Gilmore Girls fashion, it's nothing like as fantastic or victorious as it ought to be. Still, there's time yet...

Have I Got News For You
6/6/08 edition (extended repeat)

4x14 Living the Dream

Red Dwarf
2x03 Thanks For the Memory
More of an exemplary episode than the last, in my opinion, as it effectively combines character comedy, character drama, a clever (but not pointless) structure, and a handful of interesting science-fiction ideas. On the downside, it's not the funniest episode, which is obviously a problem for a comedy.


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)
[#39 in 100 Films in a Year 2008]

Bond from the Beginning #9:
The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
[4th or so watch]
See here for my thoughts on this film.


Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming
Chapter 8
Bond and Darius have dinner and visit the Paradise Club, "heaven on Earth" for people who like drink, opium, and naked swimming. Mainly, the chapter's about a little exposition and a little local colour. Also includes a reference to the Young Bond books, which seems to nicely affirm them as part of the Bond series as much as this is. (Of course, knowing Higson, he may've been referencing something from Fleming that Faulks is also independently referring to. Just to make things complicated.)

Bond from the Beginning

I'm currently in the middle of a little undertaking (for want of a better word) that I like to call Bond from the Beginning, which I shall now briefly (and, perhaps, pointlessly) introduce.

The task is simple: to watch all of the James Bond films, in order, from the start. The current iteration of this only includes the official Eon films -- so no TV Casino Royale, no spoof Casino Royale, and no Never Say Never Again. I've attempted this before (around 2002), where I only made it as far as Diamonds Are Forever. As you can see from my latest viewing, I'm doing better this time.

There are a couple of reasons for trying this. Like many boys & men in the UK (and elsewhere, of course), I've grown up with the Bond films around, catching them on TV, video and -- starting with Tomorrow Never Dies for me -- at the cinema. In this way I've seen them when I could, and generally out of sequence. I've never watched them progress in order from the start. Considering them in this way obviously puts each film in a different context to viewing them out of sequence, so I was intrigued by the chance to re-evaluate the 21 (so far) Bond films in this way.

Additionally, I've always struggled to definitively list my favourite Bond films in order of preference. Some people like to bandy around phrases like "it's in the top half of Bond films", especially as there are a neat 20 (before the Daniel Craig re-boot) and so they could be split cleanly into a Top 10 and Bottom 10. What better chance to create a definitive list of my favourites than when going through them in order? So that's what I'm doing. Obviously, I'll post said list when I reach the end. As I've been going I've also written mini-reviews of each film (intended for my other blog), which I'll now begin to post here.

I can't say how long this will take me to finish -- I've already been going since about April 2007 -- but now you can follow it all here. And at some point, there may be Bond from the Beginning 2...

Bond from the Beginning #9: The Man With the Golden Gun

I really like The Man With the Golden Gun. There seems to be a consensus (especially among those who only accept For Your Eyes Only, or perhaps The Spy Who Loved Me, as decent efforts from the Moore era) that it's a relatively weak entry, but I think it has more than enough going for it.

Put simply, it's entertaining. Christopher Lee is a great villain, Moore isn't yet too old for the role, the plot's decent enough, the action is exciting, the humour amusing, the one-liners memorable... I even like Lulu's title song. There are numerous other moments that could be expanded on -- most of M's dialogue, the amazingly designed half-sunken ship HQ...

Of course it has its weak points (a few plot holes, J.W. Pepper, and especially the 'woo-oop'ing car stunt), but they don't detract from how flat-out enjoyable it all is. More often than not, that's exactly what a Bond film should be.

Doctor Who: Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead

Steven Moffat's episodes of Doctor Who arrive with no small degree of expectation. Ever since he penned the first season two-parter The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances (which holds the rare honour of having both the best and worst episode titles ever, in my opinion), fans have revered Moffat as the God of new-Who writing. It's not an undeserved reputation: The Empty Child episodes are fantastic, one of my favourite ever stories (and winner of a Hugo); I think his second season effort, The Girl in the Fireplace (which also won a Hugo), is overrated by many, but it's still a good episode; and Blink (which has so far won a BAFTA, and would really be robbed if it didn't make it a hat-trick of Hugos) was an excellent concept wonderfully executed, with the best companion-who-wasn't ever. Then there's the Children in Need short he penned, Time Crash, which is just about perfect.

The news that he'll be taking charge of the whole shebang from season five (airing in 2010) has been greeted by many as if it were the second coming. I think they're being over-optimistic -- not because I think Moffat will do a bad job (quite the opposite), but because many are people who are somewhat unhappy with the way Russell T Davies has run things, and the quality of his episodes, and presume Moffat will bring more of the flavour of his episodes. I'm sure he'll bring his own spin to proceeding, but Moffat and Davies seem to get on well, and the former is clever enough to realise the reasoning behind Davies' showrunning decisions. If he chooses to pen five or six episodes per year, as Davies has, then I don't think anyone can expect them all to be of the same quality -- or indeed style -- as his one-or-two-per-year contribution so far, and he certainly won't make the whole season in the same vein. In my opinion, the correct outlook for Moffat's forthcoming reign is that it will continue Who in more or less the quality and style we've become accustomed to, and that's a good thing.

But analysis of a future that's two years (and nine episodes) away is slightly beside the point: what of the expectations for Moffat's latest two-parter, set in the 51st Century upon a planet that's one big library -- called, simply enough, The Library -- and concerning 'air piranhas' that live in the shadows and a present-day girl who may be dreaming everything... One of the first things that strikes me is Moffat's repeated motifs, which are arguably beginning to cover his Who work to the point of being too easily guessed. There's the faceless monsters (here, a skeleton in a spacesuit, following gas-masked zombies, clockwork droids and living statues); turning everyday things into scary things (ticking clocks, 'the monster under the bed', statues, now shadows); unusual female helpers for the Doctor (two this time -- River Song, who knows the Doctor from his future, and a little girl in another time -- following in the wake of a girl/woman he encountered across her timeline, and a girl interacting with a message he recorded decades earlier); which brings to light another motif, the mucking about with time (see previous examples); also mucking about with structure (more prevalent in his own series, Jekyll); an "everybody lives" ending; and catchphrases ("count the shadows", following "are you my mummy?" and "don't blink"). The only one he seems to have dropped is the banana.

Of course, this is repetition on an unintrusive level (with the possible exception of "everybody lives", which seemed to repeat dialogue wholesale from The Doctor Dances), and it's a tad churlish to pick on these things if the storytelling and new concepts are up to scratch. The latter certainly are: shadows are a great topic to pick on, and cunningly used; The Library is a beautiful idea (and prettily executed by all the design teams, especially the exterior vistas from The Mill); the human-faced helper statues are creepy; and, most effective of all, one of Who's best-ever death scenes, as the mind of Miss Evangelista remains stored in her suit and struggles to understand what's going on -- absolutely chilling, heart-achingly sad, and perfectly executed. Part two contains so many crazy, mashed together ideas that it's pretty hard to pick them apart. Which, in some ways, is a problem: the whole thing is so bold, so mad, so complex, so different, that it doesn't quite seem right at 7pm on Saturday on BBC One. Some people will love it, of course -- some would regardless, just cos it's by Moffat, so their views are virtually useless -- but I'd be fairly surprised if many of the show's target audience truly engaged with it.

As a fan, the main thing that troubles me is Professor River Song. She knows so much about the Doctor that it's incredibly tantalising for a viewer, wanting to know how and why she knows it all and what their adventures together were/will be like. On a practical, production level, the fact that she knows an older Doctor -- specifically, an older 10th Doctor -- is problematic. While it sounds great on the surface -- David Tennant for decades! Hurrah! -- on that practical production level, how do you assure he sticks around long enough to have a suitable number of adventures with River in the future? And that Alex Kingston (who everyone involved seems to think is a much more important actress than the average viewer would) agrees to return too? And if you don't do either of those things, surely this incarnation's final story is locked in as needing to end with some future-revealing montage that explains all this? Perhaps what worries me most is that, in their concern for telling a great story now and in their blithe disregard for such matters (RTD has often said how happy he is to leave continuity debates up to the fans), no one really bothered to consider all this, and it'll just be forever ignored for fans to argue about for eternity (the winner, of course, will be some alternative timeline theory, where the 10th Doctor didn't really regenerate at the end of the 2009 specials / season five / season six / etc, but lived for decades more and had his adventures with River, and somehow this River fell through some portal or other into our timeline and then met our Doctor and blah blah blah). On the bright side, perhaps they know something we don't about who's signed up for 2010's season five, or just what timeline-splitting events may occur in Journey's End...

I shouldn't worry so much of course -- I should, trust and/or ignore, and try to enjoy the story for what it is. But, as a fan, I can't help it; and, on the flip side, as someone who frequently enjoys engaging with Who on the same level as its target audience, I hardly think this new adventure from Mr Moffat is an unequivocal success.

In fact, a bit like Jekyll, I do wonder if I want to like it more than I actually do.