Monday, February 04, 2008

January, part two

Really quite good so far. Surprisingly good! Good enough even to be worth rating on the Doctor Who scale out of 10! "WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE MAGIC OF TORCHWOOD??!?!" Ahem. The key change is that this year, the show has a sense of humour. Makes all the difference. The first series wouldn't have been half as bad if it hadn't been so bloody po-faced. And most surprising of all, the liveliest and, to my mind, the most enjoyable episode so far comes from no other pen than that of Chris Chibnall himself. He's taken the bum notes of the first series, turned them inside out and made a pleasing bit of off-the-wall pop music out of them. Bravo, we applaud. Consider last week's episode, very much on a level with the 1920s aviators episode of the previous series. There, it was a stand-out. Here, it's good (if a little obvious) but overshadowed by the preceding two episodes. May the goodness continue.
I've actually caught two whole episodes of it this year! Only managed one and a half last year. Admittedly, that didn't stop me figuring out what was going on, even though the whole one was the last in that series - this may be considered a good thing for the purposes of netting the casual viewer. This year's viewings so far: The One With The Big King Kong Worms, and this week's One With The Big Future Mudskippers. Again, missing the first episode was no barrier to working out what had happened since the end of the previous series (although I'd've been stuffed if I hadn't seen that final episode last year). Slightly disappointed the apparent cataclysm had no other effect than to slightly rewrite the backstory of one secondary character. Still, eh? Worms episode a decidedly average pulpy action romp ("It's a bit ITV..."). Sharks episode, however, really rather good. Perhaps I shall watch more.
Dancing On Ice
Yes, yes, stop that. I command my readers (if plural they be) to go over here and watch Chris Fountain doing the Timewarp and Gareth Gates dancing to "Razzle Dazzle", for these are fine examples of the dancing we call ice. And if any readers have already seen it, I command them to go and watch it again. I know I have. I think perhaps we see the final beginning to take shape.

Books read:
Time and Relative Dissertations in Space: Critical Perspectives on Doctor Who, ed David Butler
Because sometimes, you just can't get enough academic dissection of the TV series you love. A collection of essays from different authors, ranging from dry to vivid and from insightful to, frankly, not insightful. There's enough intelligent and readable material in here that I'm glad I paid the price for it, which was surprisingly close to mainstream retail considering it comes from a university press. Still, there'll be no more DW reference books for a while now.
The Ladies of Grace Adieu, Susanna Clarke.
Christmas book #1. A modest collection of short stories from the world (and, largely, in the style) of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. If there's one thing this book has brought home to me, it's that I like anthologies that don't just focus on one style in one world by one author. I honestly hadn't realised this before. It's a good book, don't get me wrong, and I do enjoy the written style (imitated or genuine) of Jane Austen, and I do also enjoy fairy stories of this somewhat sinister type, but after three or four in a row they start to wear a bit thin. Which is a shame, because three or four stories in is where this book really starts to serve up the quality material. "Mrs Mabb" is a little bit fairies-by-numbers, a little bit of a checklist of things you might find in tales of simple person versus fairy, but it's still extremely good. "Mr Simonelli" is another good 'un. This is a book for dipping into, and of all the stories here present I believe these will be the most dippable.
Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams, Nick Webb.
I'm counting this one in January because that's the month in which I finished it, even though I started it last autumn. I don't know why I find biographies such hard going. I suspect it's because they tend to run through the subject's life quite methodically and in some detail, where a novel would just skip between dramatic scenes. Or possibly it's that you get none of the lyrical scene-setting that novelists often indulge in. Still, there it is, I've clearly been conditioned to find fiction more interesting than real life. Ah, if only it weren't true.

Stereophonic sound:
Yello, The Eye.
Recent dance-tinged album from the surreal European pop-funk meisters. It's been fifty-fifty between this and They Might Be Giants. Most of the album is still growing on me, but I just can't get enough of "Planet Dada", the opening number. It just sets me right up for the day.

DVD rental:
Still on Gangsters. Now halfway through the second series, and the shift in tone is all too obvious. The suave and knowing titles have been replaced by something that looks like the title sequence from a Bond film rendered in crayons, and the theme tune is now sung, apparently by Van Der Graaf Generator raised by an octave. In fact (music nerd moment!) it sounds exactly like (but isn't) the guy who sings "The Tell-Tale Heart" on Alan Parsons' Poe-themed album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Lock me away now. The pioneering post-modernism I'd been led to expect is making itself known, so far in two scenes of the scriptwriter dictating to a typist in a street in Pakistan and a few scenes with whirling captions, including one brief pastiche of North by Northwest, but it's not much more than what was present in the first series. I'm expecting big things of the finale now.
All right, having the scriptwriter dictating the scene on-screen is quite good, but I was expecting a lot more. Damn you, Tat Wood. Final verdict to follow in due course.


Anonymous said...

I agree, Torchwood is doing so well for itself! To my pleasant surprise, some people are being introduced to the Whoniverse via this awesome spinoff.

Also, thank you for the book recommendations. I'm particularly looking forward to checking out 'Time and Relative Dissertations in Space.' It's one of those few things in life that continues to be enjoyable even after over-thinking it.

Thanks for the comment in my journal! I actually am feeling much better. I followed They Might Be Giants on tour last year and had one of the best times of my life. With any luck they'll get sick of the States and come across the Pond to visit you soon and promote their new rock album 'The Else.'

John Toon said...

I hope so, it's not that likely I'll be able to come and visit them in the States. Have already heard "The Else", as you can now see from my more recent blogging.