Wednesday, 19 November 2008


The Devil's Whore
Part 1 (of 4)
Andrea Riseborough leads a relatively starry/recognisable cast (including the likes of John Simm, Dominic West, Peter Capaldi, Maxine Peake, Michael Fassbender, Tom Goodman-Hill, and, next week, Tim McInnery) in this drama about the English Civil War. It may sound a tad staid as a setting, but the title is more of a clue: there's buckles being swashed -- and, indeed, buckles being undone -- left, right and centre. Hurrah! And some weird fantasy elements too. It doesn't feel like History, which is a good thing, and is all rather exciting executed, even if some of the direction is a little odd. Worth watching if you missed it; I'm very much looking forward to the rest.

Little Dorrit
Part 7 (of 14)


The Green Mile (1999)
[#78 in 100 Films in a Year 2008]
It's like the anti-Shawshank. Not in terms of quality though.


Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert & Richard Isanove
Parts Three - Five
I know it doesn't affect the quality of the story, but it's annoying how thin the pages are here. Clearly wanting to use glossy paper stock but wanting to keep costs down, it's all glossy but thin, making it too easy to turn two pages at once, especially as the glossiness helps them stick to each other.
As for the text itself, I'm still not certain. It occasionally falls into the usual traps of big team-ups/crossovers, especially regarding "assumed knowledge" -- for a book that looks very accessible to newcomers, due to its "fresh start"/no continuity approach, you'd think it would be free of this, but too often you feel you should know who someone is or will be.
On the bright side, a magic-based character like Dr Strange feels much more at home in a weird Elizabethan world than he would in the modern 'almost real' superhero world that the numerous film adaptations have given us. Plus, things are beginning to come together (I'd hope so too, as I'm over halfway now), and there's a very well-built cliffhanger on Part Three.


Doctor Who (before the Tardis) by Tom Geoghegan
(from BBC News Magazine)
A really very weak article about the newly-released documents I mentioned earlier today -- it's full of slightly-off facts and ill-informed opinion. The comments are also largely hilarious, especially the woman who thinks the article is suggesting the TARDIS should/will be removed from the show. Bless. Other people demonstrate why they're not in charge, wittering on about new series episodes being "so fan fiction" or "blatant nostalgia" and therefore not appealing to kids. Yeah, cos they show still being the most-watched by kids on the whole of TV clearly means it's too nostalgic or too simplistic for them, doesn't it.

Fox Lines Up X-Men: First Class by Chris Hewitt
(from Empire Online)
"If a movie studio can develop mutant powers, then we’ve discovered Twentieth Century Fox’s: the ability to create X-Men spin-offs." This one is, essentially, "teen X-Men". Yay, angst!

Introducing... Premakes! by Chris Hewitt
(from the Empire Blog)
Well, now, here's something that will never catch on.

Sergeant to pull out of Strictly
(from BBC News)
Mark my words, the BBC'll have 3,000 complaints before the week's out -- that's what the British public do these days.

World War Z, And Why You Should Care by Helen O'Hara
(from the Empire Blog)
"for my money it's the best horror novel in decades, and one that absolutely deserves the wider audience that cinema would bring."

Poem of the Day: Kubla Khan

or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

So, I forgot Poem of the Day yesterday. Easily done, but I'll try to avoid doing so again.

Today's poem is another fairly famous one, based on an opium dream the author had. I'd wager this is several hundred times better than any drug-induced poetry you might get today.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
     Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

     But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
     Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
     A savage place! as holy and enchanted
     As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
     By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
     And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
     As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
     A mighty fountain momently was forced:
     Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
     Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
     Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
     And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
     It flung up momently the sacred river.
     Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
     Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
     Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
     And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
     And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
     Ancestral voices prophesying war!

     The shadow of the dome of pleasure
     Floated midway on the waves;
     Where was heard the mingled measure
     From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
     A damsel with a dulcimer
     In a vision once I saw:
     It was an Abyssinian maid,
     And on her dulcimer she played,
     Singing of Mount Abora.
     Could I revive within me
     Her symphony and song,
     To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

"There is widespread speculation on the poem's meaning, some suggesting the author is merely portraying his vision while others insist on a theme or purpose. Others believe it is a poem stressing the beauty of creation, and some read sexual allusions throughout." (Source: as ever, Wikipedia. It's much better than some people say.)

The Genesis of Doctor Who: The Creation of a Television Hero

Heard of the BBC Archive? Unless you're very into TV history (or sci-fi -- this kinda geeky thing always gets reported by sci-fi mags) then probably not.

Essentially, the BBC are now releasing online selected documents from their history, for the first time allowing public viewers the chance to "explore who we are and see how attitudes have changed over the years through selections from an archive which began over 70 years ago... go behind the scenes to find out how the BBC archives are maintained, uncover forgotten stories from the Written Archives and see how broadcasting has changed through the decades." These are the sort of documents previously only available to Proper Researcher People and the like.

To tie in with the programme's 45th anniversary, the Archive have released a selection of documents from the birth of Doctor Who in 1962/3 -- that's the programme, not the character.

The collection, which can be read here, contains six documents and a photo gallery. The latter is a selection of 17 colour and black & white photos of the show's first cast and crew, mostly taken in the early '60s when the show was beginning, but with some from the '50s (on other productions) and '80s (when some of those cast members returned to the programme). It's not an especially comprehensive gallery, and most of the images will be very familiar to long-term or attentive Who fans, but for those unaccustomed to how the relevant people looked it's probably a nice primer.

The former includes the following documents:
  • Titled simply Science Fiction, the first document is a four-page 1962 report looking into whether the BBC should make science fiction drama for TV.
  • Equally simply titled, Report: Science Fiction is a three-page follow-up document, also from 1962, on the kind of stories BBC science fiction dramas might handle.
  • The third document contains two pages of general concept notes for a science fiction drama, though what's suggested doesn't necessarily resemble the final product...
  • The first series-specific document is titled "Dr. Who": General Notes on Background and Approach, a four-page outline of both production style ("a series of stories linked to form a continuing serial") and content (list of characters, etc).
  • Skipping ahead quite a lot, the penultimate piece is a Radio Times article previewing the very first episode, An Unearthly Child, as well as that episode's listing in the schedule.
  • Finally, a two-page Audience Research Report reveals both reaction and ratings. It's intriguing to learn that, in those days of just two channels (versus the hundreds we have today), Who's initial viewing figures were about half what they are today.

  • As well as these scanned images, each document is available in a plain-text version (very handy if you needed to quote it for any reason), though these unfortunately have to be viewed page by page and miss out some accompanying notes.

    But that's an incredibly minor criticism of a fascinating and valuable project. It won't be of interest to everyone, or even every Who fan, but it's an incredible opportunity for those who are interested. One of the things that most intrigues me is that the BBC were so specifically looking for a sci-fi show, as I'd always assumed Who was born out of the desire to create something educational.