Wednesday, 25 June 2008


8 Out of 10 Cats
6x02 (20/6/08 edition)

2x10 Every Breath You Take
Appropriately-timed tennis-themed episode. Unfortunately, annoying daughter still featured -- somehow, she still manages to increase her annoyingness!

Wimbledon 2008
Odds and ends, including some of Roger Federer vs Robin Soderling and the final set of Amelie Mauresmo vs Virginia Ruano Pascual. But mostly the third set & tiebreak of Ana Ivanovic vs Nathalie Dechy, a match that became a three-and-a-half hour marathon in which an increasingly unlikeable Ivanovic, frequently seeming like a spoilt little madam, won with luck more than talent.


Blood Fever by Charlie Higson
Chapter 16 [2nd read]
Chapters 17 - 23
Returning to the second Young Bond novel, which I began ages ago (perhaps as much as a year) but never got round to finishing. With the fifth out in just over two months, I ought to get a move on with them...

Heat Guy J by Chiaki Ogishima; Kazuki Akane, Nobeteru Yuki & Satelight
Chapter 4 [the end]
While the first couple of chapters adapted episodes of the series, this manga increasingly goes its own route (with similarities), though there's a notably higher amount of gratuitous fan service here (that said, when is fan service not gratuitous?) For whatever reason the manga stopped after this chapter, so there are a fair few elements that seem pointlessly introduced (Boma, for instance). The anime is great though, so go watch that.

Heat Guy J Extra Material
J-Hot Paper December 2002 - April 2003
Anime Preview
Heat Guy J Animation Characters
Interview: Kazuki Akane [the end]

Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
Chapter III
Under the Hood by Hollis Mason V
See here for my thoughts on these chapters of Watchmen.

"Watchmen" by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons - Chapter III

The forthcoming Watchmen film unsurprisingly has to lose some content from the original -- after all, it's somewhere over 300 pages of comic, plus eleven sections of additional information between the chapters. One of the things left out that has received most attention is Tales of the Black Freighter, a pirate comic book that a minor character reads within the graphic novel, which thematically mirrors the journey of one character. The film originally had this in the script, to be shot in a stylised manner reminiscent of 300, but as it would've added $20 million to the budget it was scrapped... in that form. Now it'll turn up as an anime-style animation, direct-to-DVD just days after the film's release in cinemas (there's every chance that a later 'extended cut' DVD release of the film will have it edited in).

I'm recounting all of this trivia because Chapter III of the graphic novel is where Tales of the Black Freighter makes its first appearance. In typical Moore style, it's style of mirroring is pretty opaque, especially as all the text from it is in the faintly pretentious style that often characterises Moore's prose. More interesting is what's going on elsewhere, where Moore more obviously juxtaposes simultaneous events. as with some of the things I mentioned in previous chapters, it's a favoured mode of his -- which is understandable when it works so well. As for the content of the chapter, it largely leaves the investigation of the Comedian's murder aside to focus on Dr Manhattan and his relationships with others. It's at times like these that Watchmen's strengths shine through, and you see the reason it was so revolutionary, because this is all character drama, not superheroes punching the lights out of supervillains. The characters may be people who used to (or still do) dress up in silly costumes to fight crime, but their emotions and their actions are all still completely believable. It's a completely compelling read.

There's also a feeling that Moore is moving pieces around a giant chessboard, putting things into place for larger events, beyond the lead characters' control, that will come into play later. I very much enjoy books, miniseries, films, etc, that work in this way -- where you know there's more going on, bigger mysteries, but that the characters can't quite see them or can't quite reach them yet, but the author is in control of them and they're going to come into play eventually -- see State of Play for one of my absolute favourites (incidentally, also being remade as a movie next year -- it won't be as good).

With three-quarters of the story still to go (in Watchmen, that is), I'm sure there's a lot left to be revealed...

Doctor Who: Survival

So, to continue the story I was telling before... Doctor Who came back from its 18-month hiatus, returned to 25-minute episodes but with only 14 per year. It's returning season was one long story, appropriately titled The Trial of a Time Lord (it's out on DVD later this year). For whatever reason, it was decided following this that sixth Doctor Colin Baker should vacate the part, and so he was booted off the show and Sylvester McCoy came in as the seventh Doctor. The attempts to kill the show continued -- it was no longer in its traditional Saturday slot, but scheduled against the most popular programme on TV (Coronation Street) in the middle of the week. Ratings plummeted further, though considering the low quality of McCoy's first season this was perhaps inevitable.

But then the show began to claw back, producing two seasons of largely very good stories; though many may debate the quality of The Happiness Patrol and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (I think they're both great), fewer argue that Who wasn't finding its stride again come its final season. Unfortunately, while its quality was returning, its audience wasn't. Though plans were underway for a 27th season, Doctor Who was cancelled. In many ways it's a shame -- a few years earlier and many wouldn't've minded, but Who was dropped just as it showed signs of getting good again. On the other hand, it was looking increasingly cheap and outdated, and in retrospect the long gap that ensued has allowed it to be reborn as the most successful programme on TV. Perhaps the 1989 cancellation was a blessing in disguise.

Ironically, Who's final story was called Survival, and -- despite it breaking my self-imposed four-parter rule for this Who introduction -- it's the story I've chosen to represent the seventh Doctor. It was the first ever classic story I bought on video, and as such one of the earliest I saw... but I haven't seen it for years (perhaps even a decade or more), so how does it hold up today? Fairly well, in my opinion. 1989 may be nearly 20 years ago, but in many ways so little has changed that it doesn't look as dated as it could. Of course, the fashion often does, and the CGI (yes, it has some!) and direction aren't as sophisticated as you'd find in a modern production -- nor is the pacing, of course -- but it mostly stands up.

It's easy to count the flaws: the animatronic cats aren't entirely successful; it has the least exciting chase music ever (when a Cheetah on a horse chases Ace round a playground); the Master is underused; Part Two is mostly aimless running about; the ending is hurried and almost entirely inconclusive; the motorcycle explosion is pretty ludicrous... But, at the same time, there are many pros: the animatronic cats are actually aliens, so their slight weirdness is forgivable; the Cheetah People look fantastic; Anthony Ainley's Master gets his most unusual and interesting script yet, packed with moments to leave to you wanting more of him; Ace's storyline is brilliant, continuing to embed her as the most developed companion the Doctor ever had (to this point); the Cheetah planet is wonderfully achieved for the time; the Doctor-Master final battle is dramatic... and of course the Master escapes! There's not really any excuse for that explosion though. At least it look quite good...

In many ways, Doctor Who completely changed between its cancellation in 1989 and its revival in 2005 -- these days it's big budget, glossy, lightningly paced, CGI-stuffed, big, bold entertainment for everyone. On the other hand, it's remarkable how little jump there is from the plot of Survival to the plot of Rose -- a present day suburban estate setting, ordinary people getting caught up in extraordinary things, a mysterious central character who knows more than he lets on, and a focus on the life of a teenage girl, offered so much more by the mad adventures possible in a funny blue box. If you could match up the surface production values, you wouldn't think there was a decade and a half between them.

Days til New York...


For a full explanation, please see the start of the countdown.