purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
Reading: Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson - only two chapters in but so far and interesting if moderately standard mildly post-apocalyptic urban setting and a somewhat irritating patois spoke by the characters. Finished Red Seas under Red Skies which can indeed be pretty much summed up as good but not as good as The Lies of Locke Lamora

Listening: Just started listening to the first part of Sandstorm in Welcome to Night Vale. I'm told this two-parter is good, but I think it will have to be pretty stunning to persuade me to continue listening afterwards. I feel Welcome to Night Vale is a nice idea but mostly delivering more of the same.

Watching: Power of the Daleks (birthday present).
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Class)
Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart and Brave-ish Heart lack the compactness and clear focus of the preceding two episodes. This allows them to attempt a structurally more complex story but I'm not sure that entirely works in their favour.

Spoilers under the cut )

All in all, another strong pair of episodes. The greater length gave the story more room for maneuver and let it attempt to tackle several interlinked events and ideas but the price was that it lacked the clarity of focus of Night-visiting and, I have to admit, if you were going to pick an actress from the core cast to carry a two-parter, I would have opted for Vivian Oparah.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
I discovered Design Seeds quite recently via a recommendation on a crochet website. If you are at all in need of inspiration for colour schemes, then Design Seeds posts two a day, complete with RGB codes.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
"What's happening?" The Teenager asked, walking in on us watching Edge of Destruction.

"Over-acting," Tame Layman said.

The Edge of Destruction came about when a script fell through and the Doctor Who production team were left with two episodes to fill and a minuscule budget. The result is a story set entirely in the Tardis which is attempting to be a cross between a haunted house mystery and psychological horror.

It is the stagiest Doctor Who story I think I've seen. I think is partly because, well it's 1964, and partly because everything is focused upon the interactions of the characters. With little else of visual interest, David Whitaker frequently places the actors in tableau where they speak their lines facing away from each other and/or oblique to the audience.

Fan opinion of the story seems to be divided between those who consider it a bizarre oddity arising out of desperate circumstances and those who consider it something approaching a mini-masterpiece arising from its constraints. They speak of the drama and tension as Susan stabs her bed with a pair of scissors. Sadly, I think Tame Layman and I are in the bizarre oddity category and Susan's tantrum with the scissors struck us more as over-acting than a moment of intense drama. Tame Layman did get a laugh however, when it was revealed that the whole problem related to a single jammed switch. He was puzzled about why everyone had been behaving so oddly throughout. I had always understood that this was the Tardis influencing their behaviour in an attempt to communicate the situation to them, but that doesn't seem to be on the page. The crew just seem to spend two episodes panicking in a particularly bizarre fashion before the Doctor and Barbara jointly manage to figure out the problem and the Doctor works the relevant switch loose.

Because of the generally strange behaviour of most of the cast, it is difficult even to see this story as character development. The most successful part is the relationship between the Doctor and Barbara. She stands up to him. She refuses to be mollified at the end by anything short of a proper apology for his behaviour and ultimately it is Barbara who saves the day with the insight that the strange events inside the Tardis are not an indication of some hostile force but an attempt by the Tardis to communicate.

However, in the end, Edge of Destruction is two episodes of padding without even the dubious benefit of a monster and a corridor to run down. It's impressive given the circumstances under which it was produced, but that doesn't actually make it good.

By the end of episode 1 the Teenager was declaiming loudly on the morality of Video Game companies who produce misleading trailers for games. She did not come back for episode 2.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
The Space Pirates has a reputation for being very slow. I seem to recall, once upon a time, reading that this was because it was attempting to realistically depict travel times in space, though this isn't actually a point that is made anywhere in the episode (and doesn't really make sense if you think about episode length anyway). I suspect more of a problem, from the point of view of some fans, is that the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe have relatively little to do. In the first episode they arrive on a space beacon, get mistaken for the eponymous space pirates and then lock themselves in a room. They spend the entirety of the second episode floating through space in said room, the space beacon having been broken up by the aforementioned space pirates.

We were actually quite surprised therefore to find ourselves enjoying the story, and this in spite of the fact only one episode of it exists outside of telesnaps. [livejournal.com profile] daniel_saunders mentioned in my review of The Massacre that early Doctor Who historicals tended to treat the Tardis crew as witnesses to, as opposed to participants in, events. The latest DWM makes a, possibly contradictory, point that a number of changes in production practices meant that more effort was put into creating interesting secondary casts for 2nd Doctor stories. I rather chafed, while watching The Massacre, that Steven (and the largely absent Doctor) had so little to do, but I think that was because the secondary cast was failing to engage. I'd argue that the secondary cast of The Space Pirates is considerably more successful. There are four main groups interacting; the Space Police, the Space Pirates (who are genuinely pretty nasty, ne'er a swash nor buckle in sight here), Milo Clancy the aging miner on a mission of his own to defeat the pirates, and Madeline Issigri and her mining company, the pirates' unwilling accomplice. You don't really need the Tardis crew to tell an interesting story with these characters and give or take a few plot handwaves (could Caven really have kept Madeline's father secretly trapped in his own library all that time) the story manages this pretty well as the pirates seek to frame Milo and the Doctor for their crimes, Madeline tries to conceal her involvement from General Hermack who is clearly very keen to direct matters from the comfort of her office rather than his own space ship and Milo blunders around being cantankerous and difficult.

That said, Milo Clancy, who gets significant screen time as the story progresses is pretty irritating and his fake American frontier accent is risible and makes it hard to follow his dialogue. Mind you, when I commented to Tame Layman, that I thought the accent was unfortunate, he vigorously demanded how I knew that spacefarers in the future wouldn't speak like that, especially if they had been off on their own for a long time and become a little strange in the process.

The Space Pirates was covered in the DWM recurring archives feature in the very first issue of the magazine that I purchased and I remember reading and re-reading that article, even though I actually remembered very few of the details once I was watching. But I rediscovered a fondness for the story. That and the fact that we went into it with pretty low expectations, meant it was actually pretty fun to watch.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
Nightvisiting is another confident and assured episode from Class. The comparisons with Buffy are beginning to appear increasingly apt, since Buffy liked to make its Monster-of-the-Week an embodiment of the personal crises and dramas of its protagonists.

Spoiler Cut )

I feel about Nightvisiting much as I do about The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo. I can objectively appreciate its quality but I'm still waiting for the show to actually grab me. It may be that while its ideas and execution are pretty solid, it lacks much of a sense of fun (Miss Quill getting all the best lines). I think maybe its point-of-view is much more that of the teenager embroiled in the process of growing up than Buffy's (obvious point of comparison) which was always much more that of the adult looking back on their teenage years with compassion, but also with wry amusement at teenage obsessions and behaviour.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Class)
The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo is a much more assured episode than For Tonight we Might Die. It feels like, without the burden of introducing the set-up, the characters and including the Doctor, the show actually has the space to tell the sorts of stories it wants to.

Mild Spoiler Cut )

I feel somewhat remote from this show, and particularly from this episode. It is, I think, objectively better than For Tonight we Might Die but engaged me less. I appreciate what it is doing and can see that it is doing it well, but I'm not yet excited by it.

*of course he may not be sacrificial love interest but there has to be something up because, were it not for his billing as a recurring rather than main character, he'd be indistinguishable in significance from the rest of the team.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Class)
Class has been eagerly anticipated in our household since Patrick Ness is one of the Teenager's favourite authors. This episode certainly appeared to hit its target demographic pretty squarely (judging by an n of 1 + reported views of friends). I liked it, but less than the Teenager herself, who I think engaged very strongly with a vision of what might be like for herself in a couple of years' time.

Cut for mild Spoilers since I gather this has yet to materialise legally in the US )

There are a lot worse pilot episodes out there in the history of genre television, and indeed within the history of Doctor Who spinoffery. For all I felt For Tonight we Might Die struggled to fit everything that was needed into its 50 minutes, it did manage to establish a clear and distinct tone for the show: something clearly post-watershed in its use of violence and horror while at the same time focused around the viewpoint and concerns of modern teenagers. Something, in fact, distinctly YA which is unsurprising given the showrunner. While I did not feel entirely engaged by it, I wasn't irritated in the manner I often am by YA novels. I certainly have liked what I've seen so far better than both Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)




My family went to the Doctor Who Celebration at Longleat, though I don't remember much about it beyond the queues (I met Peter Davison while in the queue - things must have got desperate if they were sending the actors of the Doctor out to keep the queuing people happy) and the exhibition. At one point I had some autographed postcards which I think I got at Longleat, and I vaguely recall purchasing The Tenth Planet novelisation in the shop but beyond that my memory's a blank which is odd because I was 12 so really ought to remember more.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
I was a bit surprised when I thought "I'll recommend a Dr Who thing to follow" to realise actually how few Dr Who blogs I personally follow. I considered the official Doctor Who blog on the BBC website but, to be honest, I find the twitter feed [twitter.com profile] bbcdoctorwho better for just vaguely keeping track of Dr Who news, as well as getting random fun pictures and so on to look at.

However, if anyone wants to recommend some Doctor Who blogs I ought to follow, I'd be happy to hear about them!!!
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
The Massacre, I think, highlights the difficulty of attempting to tell a Doctor Who story centred upon a major historical event. Broadly speaking the outcome of the story is known and the major characters are not the Tardis crew. Mostly Doctor Who avoids these obvious problems by focusing on history as a setting or, when its purpose was more didactic, by focusing on the aftermath of major events.

The Massacre works hard to build a story around a group of protestants doomed to be caught up in France's St. Bartholemhew's Day Massacre but it is difficult to hide the fact that most of the narrative centres around Steven wondering about Paris, achieving next to nothing. The fact that the story only exists as telesnaps doesn't help the situation. I found it hard to distinguish one doomed protestant nobleman from another and ultimately didn't really care about any of them. The servant girl, Anne Chaplette, is more distinctive and sympathetic, but ultimately her role, much like Steven's is to wander about Paris achieving very little and one can't avoid the awkward feeling that she only exist to motivate the introduction of new companion Dodo Chaplet at the end of the story.

Meanwhile the Doctor vanishes from the plot at the end of episode 1 at which point it transpires that he has a double in Paris, the Abbot of Amboise. I was vaguely expecting us to get a lot of William Hartnell enjoying playing a double character but, in reality, we hardly see the Abbot either (I assume Hartnell was, in fact, on holiday) to the extent that the whole sub-plot feels like padding to allow Steven to spend episodes 2 and 3 trying to figure out what game the Doctor is playing.

All that said tame layman was more engaged than I was, but then I studied this bit of history at A level and he didn't, so he was genuinely interested in the religious politics of Paris in the 16th century and felt it was a refreshing departure for the show. I think even he, though, was beginning to lose interest as we moved into the later episodes which mostly seemed to be serving up more of the same of what we had in the first.

It's an oddity of a story, and one in some ways I'd particularly like to see recovered because that might well have a transformative effect on my engagement with the characters. But in general I think it is a lesson in why Doctor Who should not attempt to tell historical stories that focus upon famous people engaged in a famous event.
purplecat: (books)
Reading: Still Red Seas under Red Skies. It's been a busy few weeks with a fair amount of rushing around and reading tends to suffer in those circumstances.

Listening: Stuff you Missed in History Class episode on the history of American Cakes. It is slightly off-putting to realise I've no real idea what any of these cakes are. I'm still sticking with the podcast because I like the idea of it in a vague way but so far the topics haven't really grabbed me and this one definitely assumes context I don't have. I also find the adverts slightly off-putting as well (though, you know, I've nothing in principle against the idea of podcasts making money).

Watching: At the weekend I got halfway through The Five Doctors with G who wanted some Who that would cheer her up but hadn't realised quite how long a classic Who story would be.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
I had fond, if vague, memories of The Mutants from the Target novelisation which is slightly odd since, if I remember correctly, the novelisation is one of Terrance Dicks' 120 page wonders - a straightforward retelling that does its job but little else.

I mentioned to tame layman that I recalled it being somewhat "post-colonial" and, to be honest, was surprised to find that it was indeed (within the constraints of 1970s Doctor Who) distinctly post-colonial. The story itself, about a planet gaining independence from the Earth Empire is an obvious enough allegory of the break-up of the British Empire. However, when Doctor Who of this era wanted to suggest a multi-national cast of characters it tended to look towards European, American and Australian accents - here we have South African and (I think) Jamaican accents and we even have two black actors one of whom has a significant speaking role which, again, is a lot for the time. It's a shame really that he's such a bad actor.

The central story idea, of a planet with a year measured in hundreds of our years and whose inhabitants mutate into new forms as the seasons slowly change is fairly unique in Doctor Who and is explored nicely, though it's certainly handy that the next mutational form turns out to be a god-like creature which can quickly solve everything in the final 10 minutes of the story. It's also interesting that the Doctor gains allies from among the Marshal's security guards, where Doctor Who is not generally particularly interested in the equivalent of hired muscle. Framing the science-fictional idea within a tale of the bureaucracy and the tensions that might accompany a handover of power also gives the tale more to work with than it might otherwise have had. That said the story also has to sustain itself with a fair bit of capture-escape and the Marshal's motivation, as is so often the case in Doctor Who, is clearly dependent upon at least some rationalisation along the lines of "he's mad as a box of frogs". It's not really clear what the Time Lord interest in the whole situation is either, they serve as a convenient excuse to get the Doctor into the story but the mechanism (a box that only opens for Ky, but contains writings he can not decipher and has no interest in deciphering) seems pretty clumsy and one does wonder if the story wouldn't have been stronger if the Doctor hadn't just randomly shown up.

Still, I liked this. It reinforced my fond memories of the story from the novelisation.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
Sunday: Normal Sunday stuff, running, housework, watched second episode of Class.

Monday: Resident's Association AGM, characterised by a lack of enthusiasm for a litter rota.

Tuesday: Spent a lot of time trouble-shooting a student's Raspberry Pi Camera connection (only to discover I was repeating work he had done, but which his English wasn't really sufficient to explain to me). In the end I told him to buy a second camera which seems to have fixed the issue.

Wednesday: School "Networking" meeting. I think this was supposed to allow Electrical Engineers and Computer Scientists to get to know each other, but was characterised primarily by Computer Scientists complaining about the way research funds are allocated internally.

Thursday: Actually managed to spend a good chunk of the day actually doing research - or at least programming integrating a Prolog based planner into our system.

Friday: Experimental Words - the Poets meet Scientists event. This went better than I had feared (I had been fairly gloomy about it at some points in the preceding weeks) and we had a very indulgent audience, which helped. That said, I'd say there was (possibly inevitably) a distinct air of the amateur about it.

Saturday: Only 2s off my personal best in the Park Run. I think I can safely say I have now regained the form I had at the start of the summer. We went to Dr. Strange in the afternoon, which we enjoyed, then I dashed to Piccadilly Station to meet [livejournal.com profile] rain_sleet_snow for coffee as she passed through on her way to a halloween party. In the evening we made yet another attempt on the Eldritch Horror board game. This ended with a general agreement that the difficulty of the game is set a bit higher than we enjoy - discussion of appropriate "house rules" that would make it easier ensued, because we like the basic format of the game.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)




I can't quite put my finger on what it was about Timewyrm:Revelation, Paul Cornell's first novel, that was so exciting, because I can completely understand the criticism that it is basically too wierd. But I think it was the first time official Doctor Who canon (even if this is a branch of canon that has since been side-lined) served up something that was from a fan of the show being explicitly fannish about the show.

I'm inclined to say this was the moment that the inmates began to take over the asylum. Although arguably that happened in 1988 when John Freeman took over DWM.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)



This is me as Mrs Muddle in the OULES Christmas pantomime of, I think, 1992. OULES spent most of its time touring old peoples' homes in the Oxfordshire area and singing medlies of songs, but at Christmas we would produce a pantomime which we took around local primary schools, childrens' homes and childrens' wards in hospitals. This was not the pantomime for which we got the immortal review "the acting veers from the timidly embarrassed to the outrageously ham somehow managing to miss basic competence in the middle" but I suspect the standard was similar. I have a feeling my performance was at the "outrageously ham" end of the scale.

Should anyone be in Manchester tommorrow evening and anywhere near [twitter.com profile] EagleInnSalford then you can judge if my acting has improved since for (aided and abetted by [twitter.com profile] CiaranHodgers) I'll be performing a piece about Ethics and Autonomous Systems as part of Experimental Words, a series of team-ups between poets and scientists laid on by Manchester Science Festival.

NB. Attempts by certain parties to make me break into the Pizzazz the Garden Gnome song at this juncture will not succeed. You know who you are!
purplecat: (books)
Reading: Red Seas under Red Skies - I'd been avoiding this book because I loved its predecessor, The Lies of Locke Lamorra and had been told the sequel wasn't as good. I told my sister this when she gave me this book for Christmas and she said something to the effect of "yes, but it's still a good book". So far, yeah, it's good but not as good as lies. And, note, I've now caught up in my to read pile with books I was given last Christmas and it's not even this Christmas yet!.

Listening: I tried out a bunch of new podcasts of which the only one that has stuck is Stuff you Missed in History. This one's current status is "I'll listen to a couple more episodes and see". It's quirky and interesting but a lot more obviously commercial and slick than most of the podcasts I listen to, and I'm not sure how high my tolerance is for what seem to be, essentially, random historical anecdotes.

Watching: The Space Pirates for the Randomizer. So far this is proving more watchable than anticipated.

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