by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Christmas Special: "The Runaway Bride"

Posted 17 August 2009 in by Catriona

I’m here! I’m here! I’m not too late or anything!

I was fretting that I’d be a little late to this, since we’ve been frantically watching True Blood. But no! I’m right here!

Though, actually, we never did finish the episode of True Blood. I need to watch the last ten minutes of that after I finish live-blogging this Christmas episode.

I wonder if they’ll go straight on to season three after this? That might be intriguing, though I do have a late, late teaching day on Tuesdays. I wonder if I could petition ABC to move this to Sunday nights?

Too late! Here is the beginning of the episode coming up now—though this jumping over walls lark is taking quite some time.

No, here we are—that looks like Earth. And there’s the blushing bride, about to be escorted down the aisle of a seriously enormous church—what’s the point of a veil when it’s worn thrown back like that, I wonder?

Of course, now the bride is literally glowing. And screaming. And disappearing, much to the shock of her guests.

And she reappears in the TARDIS, to the astonishment of a Doctor who really doesn’t need this, having only thirty seconds earlier failed to tell Rose that he loved her. (Or at least I assume that’s what he was going to tell her.)


And now the Doctor’s wondering how she materialised in the TARDIS when it’s in flight.

The bride demands to know where she is, and the Doctor says, “The TARDIS.”

“The what?” she says, before saying, “That’s not even a real word. You’re just saying things.”

The bride’s assuming that “Nerys” is responsible for this, and threatens to sue the Doctor. But when she throws the doors open, it’s obvious she isn’t getting back to the church any time soon, since there’s a nebula outside the doors.

The Doctor introduces herself, and Donna herself: the Doctor asks if she’s human, and she says, “Yeah. Is that optional?”

“It is for me,” says the Doctor, off-handedly.

The Doctor starts babbling about how impossible it is for Donna to even be there, but Donna slaps him—and I don’t really blame him, since she’s been quite hysterical about the idea of missing her wedding.

The Doctor says he’ll get Donna to the church, but Donna finds one of Rose’s T-shirts, and freaks out about whether the Doctor serially abducts women. But the Doctor says no: “I lost her.”

“Well, you can hurry up and lose me,” says Donna.

Back at the church, Donna’s mother is saying this is typical of Donna: “First day of school, she was sent home for biting.”

The TARDIS doesn’t land in Chiswick as planned, and while the Doctor is babbling about what Donna might have eaten or drunk or touched, Donna is freaking out about the dimensions of the TARDIS.

She’s well freaked about missing the wedding now, and the Doctor asks why she isn’t carrying a phone. She rants about the absence of pockets in the average wedding dress. The same goes for when they manage to hail a taxi, and she realises she isn’t carrying any money.

The taxi decants them on the pavement, as Donna shouts after the driver, “And that goes double for your mother!”

She’s such a shock to the system after Rose, is Donna.

The Doctor’s caught up in the “get me to the church on time” mode now, as he makes it possible for Donna to phone and goes to get some money.

But Donna, not trusting him, borrows a tenner from a woman in the street and grabs a taxi—a taxi being driven by one of those plastic Santas from “The Christmas Invasion.”

The Doctor freaks out, but he’s back to the TARDIS in a flash.

The taxi driver, oddly enough, isn’t taking the most direct route to St Mary’s, Chiswick, which makes more sense when Donna rips his mask off and sees what’s underneath.

The TARDIS is in “full explosion” mode.

NICK: Time machines shouldn’t be doing this, Doctor. It ain’t right, though it looks awesome.

But here comes the TARDIS, spinning down the freeway behind the taxi. The Doctor manages to keep the TARDIS running alongside the taxi while he opens the door (by controlling the TARDIS with string), but Donna’s unwilling to just jump out of the taxi).

NICK: Get some fuses, Doctor.

The integration of special effects in this scene is rather awesome.

Donna doesn’t want to jump.

DOCTOR: Trust me.
DONNA: Is that what you said to your friend? The one you lost? Did she trust you?
DOCTOR: Yes, she did. And she’s not dead. She’s so alive.


Donna jumps, much to the delight of the children watching ecstatically from the cars nearby.

The TARDIS is a little burnt out by all this—the Doctor points out that for a space ship, she doesn’t do that much actual flying: they need to give her a couple of hours.

Of course, they’ve missed the wedding by now, anyway.

Donna wishes that the Doctor had a time machine, because then they could go back and do it properly. The Doctor says yes, but no: he couldn’t go back on someone’s personal timelime. “Apparently,” he adds, diplomatically.

He gives Donna a ring/bio-dampener (“Do you have to rub it in?” she asks), to cover the signal that the robots are tracking.

DOCTOR: With this ring, I thee bio-damp.

The Doctor is still wondering why the robots are tracking her: he’s running a machine over her, and insisting, “I mean, you’re not special or anything.”

DONNA: This friend of yours, before she left, did she punch you in the face? Stop bleeping me!

Donna explains to the Doctor that she used to work somewhere called H.C. Clemens—“a fancy name for locksmith,” she reckons—and that’s where she met Lance, her intended.

But before the Doctor can figure out how this makes her attractive to the robots, Donna says it’s time to face to music—won’t everyone be annoyed at missing out on the huge reception she had planned?

But, no: they’re having the reception without her.

The Doctor’s not much fun at this party: he’s not wearing a tie on his head or inventing banana daiquiris or anything. What he is doing is flashing back on memories of Rose and generally feeling sorry for himself.

Fair enough—Rose only left about two hours ago.

So he wonders over to the videographer, and works out that what made Donna disappear were huon particles (oh, I’ll check the spelling later)—but they’re ancient, he says. So ancient that they can’t be hidden by a bio-dampener.

And sure enough, there are the robot Santas, and the Doctor now notices the Christmas trees everywhere. So Donna and the Doctor are screaming at everyone to get away from the trees, when Donna’s mother tells them not to be ridiculous.

Sure enough, the Christmas baubles start exploding.

I love Christmas.

I love long sequences in which things explode, because it allows me to catch up with the live-blogging.

The Doctor manages to make the robots explode—and various guests’ brains bleed out their eardrums—by plugging his sonic screwdriver into the sound system.

Donna tells the Doctor to stop rabbiting on: he’s a Doctor, she says, and people have been hurt. He could help. But no: he says he has to think of the bigger picture, the signal.

And Donna, like any good companion, barely pauses a moment before dashing out into the street after him.

The Doctor says that the signal is coming from above the planet, and we see a sinister red-skinned figure ranting and raving about the cleverness of the Doctor and the desire to descend to earth, as we see a wheeling shape that is half spiderweb and half Christmas ornament.

Somewhere in the next scene, the Doctor describes Donna as a pencil in a mug, which is a neat way of describing the way huon particles attract each other.

But on the computer, the Doctor can see something evident beneath the H.C. Clemens building where Donna, Lance, and the Doctor are looking for clues.

LANCE: Are you telling me there’s a secret floor in this building?
DOCTOR: No, I’m . . . showing you there’s a secret floor in this building.

Ah, narratology jokes. I love them.

The Doctor plans to descend, but Donna won’t let him out of her sight, and she orders Lance to go down, too.

Meanwhile, the red-skinned creature is a little too keen to see Donna coming, saying the bride is her key.

There’s an entire secret base under here, much to Donna’s surprise. (DOCTOR: I know. Oh, I know, love.) To the Doctor’s surprise, there’s a room devoted to building huon particles, which are inside Donna.

The Doctor gets a little too excited describing how the particles are activated by the chemical overload incited by the wedding-day excitement, and Donna slaps him again.

DOCTOR: What did I do this time?
DONNA: Are you enjoying this?

And the Doctor can’t say anything. And that’s why the Doctor needs Donna around: she can bring him down to earth (so to speak) in a way that his other companions can’t.

But the red-skinned creature speaks to the Doctor, and he taunts and taunts until the creature agrees to come down to earth: she is, the Doctor says, one of the Rachnos.

Empress of the Rachnos, she insists. And the last of the Rachnos.

The Doctor says that the Rachnos are ancient, but they should all have been wiped out. All but the Empress.

Lance is sneaking up on the Empress at this point, with a fire axe over his shoulder, and Donna distracts the Empress’s attention so that Lance can get close enough.

But Lance, of course, is in the Empress’s employ. He’s been dousing Donna with huon particles in their morning coffee for six months—he moans about the “never-ending fountain of fat, stupid trivia” that he had to put up with, agreeing to Donna’s proposal so she didn’t run off.

He’s a highly unpleasant character, is Lance.

Donna’s crushed here, but when the Empress asks her robots to shoot the Doctor, Donna jumps in front of him, telling them she won’t let them hurt him.

But the Doctor has a plan: just as the huon particles in the TARDIS drew Donna in, he can draw the TARDIS down to cover them.

And he takes them back in time to the beginning, to see what is buried at the planet’s core that could possibly be drawing the Empress of the Rachnos’s attention.

So they go back 4.5 billion years, to the moment when the Sun is brand new and the Earth is just now beginning to coalesce from the dust and rocks around them.

Donna says it puts the wedding in perspective, and that Lance was right (when he ranting about why he was betraying Donna): they’re so tiny.

But the Doctor says no: that’s what humans do, make sense out of chaos by marking it out with weddings and Christmas and calendars. All this is marvelous, he says, but meaningless if there’s no one there to observe it.

He’s such a scientist.

But, sure enough, the core at the centre of the new Earth is a Rachnos ship.

Meanwhile, the Empress is force-feeding Lance huon particles, to make him the key in Donna’s absence.

And the Empress activates the huon particles to draw Donna back to join Lance. The Doctor manages to keep Donna way from the Empress, but, as he’s explaining the Empress’s plan, Donna is kidnapped by robots.

The Empress really has a terrible, terrible sense of humour.

NICK: She must have been watching a lot of television while orbiting the Earth.

But her sense of humour isn’t necessary when she’s activating the key: she uses it to awaken her children, buried in the depths of the Earth for 4.5 billion years. As the children start climbing, and the Empress summons her spaceship to her, she also drops Lance down the tunnel to feed her starving offspring.

This is also what the spaceship is there for, to harvest humans for the omnivorous, starving Rachnos.

The Doctor manages to release Donna, though he doesn’t manage to catch her as she swings down from the web on the roof.

And the Doctor offers the Empress a chance: he will find her a planet on which she and her children can co-exist. When she rejects his offer, he tells her that what happens next is her own fault.

She tries to have her robots destroy him, but he has the control he took from Donna’s reception.

Then he reveals himself as a Time Lord—much to the Empress’s screaming horror—and blows up the Thames flood barrier above them, pouring water through the facility and into the tunnel up which the Rachnos are climbing, drowning them all as the Empress keens, “My children! My children!”

This is the most implacable we’ve seen the Doctor up to this point. This broke my heart the first time around.

But Donna talks the Doctor down from the ledge (metaphorically speaking): the Empress transports back to her ship but—under orders from Mr Saxon (hmm, I wonder who that could be?)—the army fires at will and blows her ship from the sky, as the Doctor and Donna climb up onto the Thames flood barrier, now in the middle of a completely dry river.

The Doctor drops Donna back at her house, but she points out that the absence of huon particles is a small blessing, considering everything else that has happened.

So the Doctor makes it snow for her. (“Basic atmospheric excitation,” he says.)


The Doctor asks what she’s going to do now, and she says she doesn’t know: “Just go out there and do something.”

You’re breaking my heart, Donna! Retrospectively.

The Doctor says she could come with him, but Donna doesn’t even pause before she says no. He’s hurt, but she explains that she couldn’t live her life like that every day.

DONNA: That place was flooding and burning and they were dying, and you stood there like, I don’t know, a stranger.

That’s why the Doctor needs you, Donna. You could always talk him down from the ledge, couldn’t you?

Donna talks the Doctor into having Christmas dinner but he, saying he just has to park the TARDIS properly (“She might drift off to the Middle Ages, or something”), slips into the TARDIS and starts to dematerialise.

Donna calls him back (“Blimey, you can shout”) and she tells him to find someone, because he needs someone to talk him down.

He leaves again, with parting words:

DOCTOR: Be magnificent.
DONNA: I think I will, yeah.

And you were, Donna. And then the Doctor stripped your mind and your memories and left you with nothing.

And I cried.

First Lizard of Spring

Posted 15 August 2009 in by Catriona

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "Random Shoes"

Posted 14 August 2009 in by Catriona

We have a special guest for the live-blogging tonight—our friend, Heather—but thus far, everything she’s said has been unsuitable for this time slot. So we’ll wait and see if she can keep it PG during the actual episode.

Of course, right now we’re stuck with that Rob Brydon sitcom that has never really appealed to me. Though I do find Sarah Alexander quite adorable.

I am deliberately not repeating word for word the conversation that Nick and Heather are having about exactly why men are from Mars (hint: universe’s tallest mountain) and women are from Venus (no hints there).

And now Nick has won an argument about whether this sitcom actually has Ben Miller in it instead of Rob Brydon. (He was right, but don’t tell him that.)

Here’s the opening monologue from Torchwood—though we’re actually talking about Guy Pierce, here in my living room.

HEATHER: God, I hate Owen’s pants.
ME: Yeah. Well, I hate Owen.

But we actually open on a guy lying in a road, apparently dead, except he’s opening his eyes and sitting up.

And there goes two paragraphs, as my Internet connection goes down. Bugger.

I can’t recall it now, but (in short) Eugene tracks down the Torchwood group at the side of the road and finds himself dead. I wrote quite a touching paragraph about that. (Not really.)

He doesn’t know whether he’s a ghost or a zombie. But he decides to stick with the “team,” to find out.

Once my Internet connection is back up, we find Eugene talking about losing a science competition, and being given an eye (HEATHER: Eye? Ew.) by his science teacher as a kind of comfort.

And Eugene’s family life is really screwed up, especially his father.

But we’re back with Eugene and David Bowie, and Eugene’s increasing obsession with the alien coming back to find its eye. He begins to collect alien artefacts, and that’s when he meets Gwen, who isn’t that interested.

NICK: Pushing through Gwen’s self-involvement take more effort than that.

Then he tries to attract Owen’s attention.

EUGENE: I’ve got this thing I need to show you.
HEATHER: Yeah. Yeah.

Meanwhile, as I try frantically to catch up with the narrative, Torchwood are explaining Eugene’s death to his mother. And then they’re rummaging through his collection of alien artefacts, and mocking the fact that he’s been taken in by so many shysters.

Back at the Torchwood Hub, Eugene is mostly excited about actually being in the Hub.

In terms of Owen being a moron, he’s now telling Gwen to do the autopsy, if she thinks it’s so important, because he has a stack of admin. to do. I really, really hate Owen.

Just as Gwen is about to start the incision, though, Ianto come up with a report of a drunk driver who admits to knocking a man over near Cardiff, and the investigation is called off.

Eugene lies in the autopsy room and looks at his own dead body, wanders around the Hub, and stands outside his own house to watch his mother cry.

But Gwen isn’t sure that there isn’t anything else going on. Owen mocks Gwen—of course—but Gwen backs down.

Of course, the next thing we see is Owen watching the DVDs that Eugene has borrowed from the video store before his death. Owen is really incredibly unbearable in this episode.

But Gwen offers to return the DVDs, and ends up in Eugene’s usual cafe, eating two eggs, ham, and chips for lunch, and working her way through Eugene’s friends [on his phone, I should have added] while waiting for his video store to open.

Gwen returns the DVDs.

VIDEO STORE CLERK: Dead, eh? Shit. That’s pretty final.

Apparently, Eugene owes thirty-four pounds in fines—while the clerk is cracking on to Gwen with the worst pick-up lines in history—that Gwen agrees to pay. The clerk is also a jerk: he and Owen should get together. (He suggests that Eugene might have killed himself, because Eugene “has loser written through him like Brighton through a stick of rock.”)

Now Gwen is at Eugene’s job, where they’re passing a card around—some colleague has written “Good luck in your new job,” and when Eugene’s colleague Gary points out that Eugene is dead, the colleague says, “No! Who’s it for, then?”

I don’t think that Eugene’s mum will be pleased with that card.

NICK: You know what’s interesting about this episode? It shows that Gwen is actually a pretty good cop, and is probably wasted on Torchwood.

And then Owen talks to Gwen on the phone, and tells her to just hurry up with the investigation, will you?

NICK, HEATHER, AND ME: F—- off, Owen!

Meanwhile, Linda is telling Gwen that Eugene offered to buy her a ticket to Australia, where she wanted to move, by selling his alien artifact—his eye, the one his science teacher gave him—on eBay.

And he does.

And the item just sits there, until the bids start climbing and climbing one day, until they reach fifteen-thousand pounds.

At this point, though, Eugene’s mother rings Gwen, and she leaves Linda alone in the pub where she’s been telling this story. (And I’ve just realised at this point that Eugene messed up a maths competition, not a science competition.)

At Eugene’s house, the brother tells Gwen that Eugene found out about a fortnight before that their father, rather than moving to the U.S. because of his very important job—as the mother has always told them—was working as a garage attendant just down the road.

Gwen drives there, with Eugene still in the car, but he stops Gwen getting out of the car. He says he wants nothing to do with his father: he says, “Sorry” and Gwen, not seemingly realising that she’s addressing him, replies, “It’s okay.” She doesn’t look at Eugene, but it’s a creepy moment.

Back at Torchwood, Gwen talks about Eugene’s alien eye and Jack explains what it is: I’ve forgotten the name of the alien already, I’m afraid. But the eye lets you “see behind you, see where you’ve been,” Jack says. That’s why they’re in demand.

But Gwen, tracking down the buyer of the eye, finds Gary, Eugene’s colleague, who is the one who originally inflated the bid for the eye on eBay.

Gary says he first did it to cheer Eugene up, because he was so depressed. But then Eugene came to him with his argument that it was the alien, the original owner of the eye, who was bidding so much money for the eye.

But then Eugene made an arrangement to meet someone in a transport cafe, but Gary, sputtering slightly, says he doesn’t know who he was meeting.

Gwen shows Gary photographs of feet on Eugene’s phone, but Gary says they’re just “random shoes,” he supposes.

ME: Hmm, I should probably not have written that as “random hoes,” I think.
NICK: Great band.
HEATHER: Best album ever.

Gwen, in a hotel in Aberstwyth (oh, I’ll check the spelling later! I’m not Welsh!), ponders what could have happened to Eugene—Eugene babbles about happiness and doors and what happened the day he died, until he blurts out to Gwen, “I love you.”

She stands up, and they’re almost lip to lip, but Gwen can’t see him—she’s just looking out the window, or perhaps at her own reflection in the window.

The next morning, Gwen heads out to where Eugene ended up meeting the buyer of the eye—which turns out to be his friends, Gary and the prat from the video store. They bid as a joke, though there was a real buyer who bid up to the fifteen thousand—the friends are the ones who then upped it to fifteen thousand, five pounds, and fifty pence.

They now want to buy the eye from Eugene for thirty-four pounds, and then sell it to the collector who bid fifteen thousand—he collects alien ephemera, Nazi memorabilia, and Beanie babies.

Then the friends start attacking Eugene, who swallows the eye.

The waitress who is telling Gwen this story, says “Well, that’s not acceptable behaviour, not in a Happy Cook.” But, of course, she has quite the heavy Welsh accent.

HEATHER: I’m sorry—a happy what?

It’s best to leave that there.

At that point, Eugene’s friends turn up: the guy from the video store (Josh) acts as a total prat, but Gary trips him as he tries to flee from the store—he shouts at Josh that he misses Eugene.

Ack! I just pasted instead of cutting! But it’s fine. It’s fine, really. (Stupid Internet connection.)

Now Eugene remembers everything that happened to him, and it’s one of the more nihilistic moments in the show: Eugene remembers running across the field, feeling the sheer joy in life, just before he is hit by the car.

And Gwen rings Eugene’s father, and we skip to Eugene’s funeral, where the father stands, talks about Eugene’s life, and then sings “Danny Boy.”

(Gwen, meanwhile, has bribed the funeral home to take the alien eye out of Eugene’s body. We all say “Eww” in unison.)

And, while family flood in to the wake, Gwen starts talking to Eugene, but not as though she can actually tell where he is—she’s looking in the wrong direction. Then Torchwood tear up in their enormous black 4WD—they tell Gwen they need to go, but Gwen is distracted by the reunion of Eugene’s parents.

And then Eugene knocks her out of the path of an oncoming car—and she can see him.

Everyone can see him.

All the family and friends standing at the wake can see Eugene, as Gwen gives him a quick kiss (since he did just save her life).

And then he hands the eye—which had fallen out of the bag Gwen had it in—to Gwen, and he disappears.

He has a monologue, but it’s mostly about random shoes and loft insulation.

Wow, but that was a depressing episode.

(In other news, they’re at least playing “The Runaway Bride” next Monday, and I’ll be live-blogging that: I don’t know if they’re going on to season three, but I’ll live-blogging that.)

HEATHER: Now, I think, First Spaceship to Venus!
ME: What?
NICK: Is that like Last Exit to Brooklyn?

And I think we’ll leave the night there, shall we?

The Varied Career Of Sally Baxter, Girl Reporter

Posted 13 August 2009 in by Catriona

I’ve mentioned Sally Baxter, Girl Reporter in a previous post, in which I included the cover to this book:

And I stand by my statement then: any reporter worth her salt should be probably be able to sense when a mysterious cowboy is about to shoot her in the back.

But what both frustrates and fascinates me about my small collection of volumes charting Sally’s career as a “girl reporter” is that none of them have blurbs. There’s no way of telling what Sally will be doing in this next volume, short of actually reading the book.

Well, you could interpret the title, but that won’t help much in most cases. Sure: “On Location” should tell you that this is a film set and not the actual gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but what about this one?

Apart from the fact that Sally certainly better not be undercover, not if she insists on carrying that notebook around with her like that, I have no idea what might happen in this book.

Okay, so there’s a cruise ship. And a helicopter. But do those two objects intersect at any point? And how are Sally and her fetching padded pink coat involved?

I have no idea!

But I can formulate a convincing story about this next one:

Oh, sure: it’s called The Runaway Princess, but then it’s also called Sally Baxter, Girl Reporter, where Sally actually looks about forty in this picture.

So I don’t think this one has much to do with a runaway princess. I think it’s more likely that, in this book, Sally shows us how to fake our own deaths and start an entirely new life (as a barber) by stealing the identity of someone who didn’t keep a close enough eye on their luggage at Venice Airport.

Plausible, yes?

In fact, I’m rather sorry now that the dust covers for my copies of Sally Baxter, Girl Reporter, in African Alibi and Sally Baxter, Girl Reporter, in Underwater Adventure are missing: I can only imagine what depths of crime she sinks to in those!

The Strangest Girl-Detective Stories On My Shelves

Posted 12 August 2009 in by Catriona

And these are only the pick of the bunch! Basically, any Nancy Drew story and most of the late Trixie Beldens qualify as “strange girl-detective stories,” but these are even weirder.

I may have mentioned this one on the blog before now, but the only reason it’s on my shelf is that it is hands down the strangest girl-detective story I’ve ever come across. Apparently, there are at least three Jenny Dean mysteries, but I’ve never seen another one.

Jenny is “a sixteen-year-old sleuth with a passion for solving some of the most extraordinary science fiction mysteries ever recorded.”

But only some of them. I guess she has to complete her homework sometimes.

In this one, Jenny and her friend Mike are troubled by the strange behaviour of their classmates: “What was causing those strange screams? Those disappearing acts? Those pale and shining complexions?”

I would suggest vampires, but that’s the wrong genre.

Still, “Jenny and Mike encountered danger at every turn—at the famous Mordern Institute, at an abandoned power plant, and at a scientist’s laboratory.”

Here’s my advice for teenage sleuths: nothing good ever came of an abandoned power plant. Ever.

Not that that bothers the young Nancy Drew, as she finds out who is “the champion of cheaters”:

I’m guessing it’s not Champion, the Wonder Horse, which is a shame. (He was a horse who solved crimes in his spare time. More or less.)

This is a version of Nancy Drew rejigged for younger readers, as you can tell from the blurb:

It’s so unfair! The Champions on Ice show is coming to River Heights, Olympic stars and all, and Nancy signed up early to be one of the skating flower girls. But she may be sitting on the sidelines instead.

Someone erased her name from the list, and she could just cry. Better yet, she’s going to find out exactly who did it. Nancy has just one clue, and it’s her only chance to learn the truth—and be a flower girl after all!

Someone erased her name from the list? Oh, the horror!

But what annoys me about this series is that it constructs Nancy as a natural sleuth, a girl who is just using her given talents to solve crimes. And that’s all well and good, but the professional female sleuth doesn’t have that long a pedigree: she only goes back to C. L. Pirkis’s Loveday Brooke, and we can’t really afford to have another professional slip away and be replaced with an amateur.

Still, anything is better than this next option:

Like the Nancy Drew notebooks, this one was designed to cash in on the popularity of Trixie Belden: neither this nor Julie Gordon: Exchange Student actually featured Trixie, but she endorsed them, in as far as a fictional character can endorse anything.

I don’t know who decided to engage Edvard Munch as the cover artist, but I think it was a mis-step.

I love the cover on this one, though:

All three characters seem to belong to a completely different storyline. I like to imagine they’re thinking the following thoughts:

JOE HARDY (BLONDE): Man, who hit me on the head? That, like, really . . . something. Hurt! That really . . . something.
FRANK HARDY (BRUNETTE): I wonder if Nancy hit Joe on the head? She’s certainly looking shifty.
NANCY: I think this brown lipstick was a mistake. I wonder if I can subtly change it before Frank gets around to asking me why I coshed Joe?

There really isn’t any justification for the next one:

“Awful” is, I think, the only possible descriptive term for this one. Apparently,
“Cassie B. Jones becomes detective Cassandra Best when her wealthy friend, Alexandra Bennett, sends her a ticket to mystery and adventure . . . at the Kentucky Derby.”

Gasp! Not the Kentucky Derby!

But, on a more serious note, why are rich girls always called something like Alexandra? If your father has millions, I suppose you need the extra syllables.

I also wonder why the blurb doesn’t mention anything about them finding a horse in their living room. You’d think that’s the sort of thing people would want to talk about, wouldn’t you?

Finally, there’s this one:

I don’t know if there were more “three Matildas” mysteries: I’ve never seen another. But I do like the way the author’s hook is to have three girls with the same name.

And, yet, she’s not satisfied with that alone, as the inside blurb shows:

If . . .

you can write your age upside down and backward and still have it come out the same, you’re off to a good start. [Query: a good start for what? That’s not the most useful skill, and it’s fairly fleeting.] There’s at least one girl called Matilda in this book who can do just that.

If you can go places wearing a dog around your neck and make people think that he’s only a fur scarf, you’re pretty lucky. [Query: Why? That doesn’t sound like luck by any definition I’ve ever heard, and I fail to see any real advantage to the process, either.] But there’s another Matilda in this book who’s been getting away with it for a long time!

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to have a food faddist for a mother, an artist for a father, and a genius for a brother, there’s still one more Matilda in this book whom you should know about.

That’s right—three Matildas. But that’s not all.

Please, save us from the girl-detective book blurb that reads like an infomercial!

The Wine Bottle: A Play, In One Act (With Illustrations by George Cruikshank)

Posted 11 August 2009 in by Catriona

SCENE: The kitchen, in a quiet Brisbane suburb

ME: Nicholas!
NICK: Yes?
ME: Could you come here, now?
NICK: Oh, god. What have I done now?
ME: Could you explain why this is in the fridge?
NICK: Um . . .
ME: It’s a completely empty wine bottle.
ME: Otherwise known as the crushing of my girlish hopes and dreams.
NICK: Well, I thought it was a full bottle of wine.
ME: Why would you think that? There’s nothing in it!
ME: ACK! Why are you touching me with a freezing cold wine bottle?
NICK: I was feeling in a mischievous mood.
ME: You’ll be feeling a wine bottle in a minute.


(And, yes: I lied about the George Cruikshank illustrations. But you can see his illustrations for “The Bottle”—a series of illustrations that were turned into a highly successful East End play—right here.)

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Season Two: "Doomsday"

Posted 10 August 2009 in by Catriona

So here we are for the tear-jerking season-two finale. Does “tear-jerking” count as a spoiler?

Nah, surely not! After all, it’s been three years. Or two, maybe. The years pass so quickly these days.

Today—continuing my tradition of boring you with the minutiae of my life prior to actually getting on with the live-blogging—has been strangely variable. My beautiful, beautiful chain-mail necklaces arrived in the mail, but then Telstra took all day to fix the line fault (reported last week) that had deprived me, first, of my landline and, secondly, of regular Internet access.

Then I ended up having a debate with my mother about feminism—and I knew it was going badly when I found myself using the line “Well, you certainly weren’t a First Wave feminist, Mrs Pankhurst,” and yet I still didn’t end the conversation five minutes earlier. Why? Why will I never learn?

So I’m in exactly the right frame of mind to recap this—not the most cheerful of episodes, but one with strangely humorous and optimistic moments.

Oh, man, is that girl who annoyed me on Australian Idol several years ago releasing an album now? This version of Dire Straits “Romeo and Juliet” that I’m being forced to listen to makes her sound as though she can only remember half the words and none of the tune.

And just time for “Ode to Joy” before the show starts.

But this is Rose’s monologue again: the story of Torchwood, the last story that Rose will ever tell.

And here are the Cybermen and the Daleks, and the story of how Rose died.

We start the episode proper with the Daleks, bleating “Exterminate!” But Rose stops them dead by shouting “DALEK!” at them: she bribes them with her knowledge of the Dalek species and of the Time War, and they promise to keep her alive.

But they say that the Genesis Ark must be protected at all costs.

Jackie, meanwhile, is freaking out, knowing that Rose was in the room with the sphere. But the Doctor gives her his word that he will get them both out alive. And then he puts his 3D glasses on again, which is oddly whimsical.

The Cybermen are promising, over all broadcast channels, to make everyone identical: to remove sex and race and class.

This goes about as well as can be expected: humanity refuses to surrender, so from Canary Wharf, the bewildered Cyberman can see the city of London burning while he wonders why people are fighting back.

The Daleks have their own agenda: they wonder who is the least important of the three people in the sphere room. They want intelligence about Earth and they “extract brainwaves” from the Torchwood scientist, by crushing his head between their plungers.

No, seriously.

ROSE: You didn’t need to kill him.
DALEK: Neither did we need him alive.

The Cybermen and the Daleks meet and speak.

DALEK: Identify yourself.
CYBERMAN: You will identify first.

This goes on for a while.

MICKEY: It’s like Steven Hawking meets the speaking clock.

The Doctor meanwhile tries to ring Rose, who answers her phone.

CYBERMAN: Our species are similar, though your design is inelegant.
DALEK: Daleks have no need for elegance.

The Cyberman proposes an alliance, but the Daleks refuse their offer and exterminate the Cybermen.

CYBERMAN: Daleks, be warned. You have declared war upon the Cybermen.
DALEK: This is not war. This is pest control.
CYBERMAN: We have five million Cyberman. How many Daleks have you?
DALEK: Four.
CYBERMAN: You would destroy the Cybermen with four Daleks?
DALEK: We would destroy the Cybermen with one Dalek.

So, so awesome.

Now the Daleks have noticed the Doctor, and they note that “the female human’s heart rate has increased.” (Adds Mickey: “Tell me about it.”) But when they demand to know who the Doctor is, Rose tells them: “That’s the Doctor” and they noticeably quail.

The Torchwood personnel are being led off to be upgraded, with Yvonne (head of Torchwood) barely in control of herself. She shrugs off the Cyberman clutching her arm and walks, albeit unsteadily, into the conversion chamber herself, intoning, “I did my duty—oh God. I did my duty, for Queen and country.”

Jackie is right behind her in the queue.

But the Doctor, in the main Torchwood room, sees Jake (the Brummie one) from the Cybermen two-parter flip through from their own universe, destroy the Cybermen, and head off to liberate Torchwood.

Jackie legs it down the stairs.

Jake flips the Doctor back to his own universe, where he is confronted by Pete.

And there’s a slight hiatus in the live-blogging there, as my Internet connection goes down temporarily and I’m too frightened to add any more content before I can get what exists already up online.

(The important bit there was Rose’s recap of the first time she met a Dalek and the Daleks’ revelation that the Genesis Ark is Time Lord technology.)

Back on the parallel universe, Pete denies that Rose is his daughter (and, seriously? She’s not. It’s like saying that she’s his daughter if she was fathered by his twin brother. Except more parallel) and chats to the Doctor about what effect the breach is having on their world—like global warming, in short, but more so.

And a little bit of sweet-talking is all it takes for the Doctor to agree to defeat the Cybermen and the Daleks and save the world. He quickly finds out that Jackie is still alive, and then surrenders to the Cybermen (with a flag made of a sheet of A4 paper).

Back in the sphere chamber, the Daleks tell Rose that they need her handprint to open the Genesis Ark. Then she goes a little far, and taunts the Dalek, telling them that she met the Emperor “and I took the Time Vortex and I poured it into him and turned him into dust.”

The Daleks, unsurprisingly, are furious and plan to exterminate her.

But, naturally, the Doctor turns up at that point. And the Daleks ask him how he survived the Time War.

DOCTOR: By fighting. On the front line. I was there at the fall of Arcadia. Some day, I may even come to terms with that.

I love that line. Such an unusually restrained line delivery for David Tennant.

There’s quite a bit of bantering between the Doctor and the Daleks here that reveals that the Daleks are the Cult of Skaro. Perhaps the fact that they’re unusual Daleks explains the fact that they’re oddly hysterical? Well, oddly hysterical for Daleks.

Or perhaps that’s down to the fact that Cybermen have just burst into the room and started shooting them to death.

During the battle, Mickey falls and touches the Genesis Ark. It had to be poor put-upon Mickey, didn’t it? I mean, it couldn’t be the Doctor, for once?

Jackie, confronted by a Cyberman, is saved by Pete, with Rose (clasping her hands together, she’s so desperate for this to work out), the Doctor, and Mickey behind him.

The Doctor starts explaining parallel universes, but Jackie says, “Oh, you can shut up.”

Pete asks whether she ever re-married, and Jackie says, “There was never anyone else.” Mickey and the Doctor roll their eyes, but I’ve never seen why that can’t be true. After all, she never re-married, did she? Not in twenty years?

And Jackie and Pete embrace, while down on the main floor of Torchwood there’s a running battle between Daleks, Cybermen, and Torchwood troops. (The Daleks are trying to move the Genesis Ark outside, because it needs a large space in which to operate effectively.)

The Cybermen call for all their troops to converge on Torchwood Tower (Canary Wharf). Does that include all the ones we saw materialising near the Taj Mahal?

Meanwhile, the Daleks are sending the Genesis Ark outside, after the Doctor steals one of the devices we were shown last week, the one that allows you to lift massive loads.

And, outside, the Genesis Ark opens, releasing hundreds and hundreds of Daleks—millions of Daleks, the Doctor says.

DOCTOR: It’s a prison ship.

Well, we knew it wasn’t anything good.

And now the Daleks are calling for a wholesale extermination of all lifeforms below. Pete says that’s it: the world is going to crash and burn, and there’s nothing they can do. They’re going home, and Pete’s taking Jackie with him, back to his universe.

And now a particular theme is starting up, quietly. That’s not a good sign.

He finally explains the 3D glasses, explaining that he can see “void stuff” with them.

The Doctor’s idea is that he can open up the void, and anyone who had travelled through the void will be sucked into the void. Rose points out that they’ve all travelled through the void: they’re all contaminated.

The Doctor says that’s why she has to go through to the other world. He’s only opening the void on this side, not on the other side: the void will close itself off, sealing the two worlds apart.

Rose won’t go, she says. The Doctor doesn’t seem to be arguing with her.

Jackie, on the other hand, refuses to go without Rose, despite Pete’s arguing. But Rose says no. The Doctor is alone, but not any more: now he has her.

But the Doctor pops the void-travelling device over Rose’s head and triggers it, so she’s sucked through to the parallel world. Rose isn’t a moron, though, and she flips herself back.

Jackie is hysterical, and I don’t blame her.

But Rose tells the Doctor that she made her decision a long time ago and she’ll never leave him, even if it involves never seeing her mother again.

Cybermen converge on Rose and the Doctor’s position, but are stopped by Cyber-Yvonne, still chanting, “I did my duty for Queen and country.”

And the Doctor and Rose open the breach, sucking everything through the void.

Now, I have to ask: this is so powerful a force that it can suck Cybermen in from as far away as India, but Rose and the Doctor can just hang onto something and they’ll be fine?

Well, never mind about that, because Rose’s lever goes offline, and in order to bring it back online, she has to let go of her grip on the wall: she hangs on to the lever, but it’s not enough—her fingers slip, and as she flies back to towards the void, Pete flips through, grabs her, and flips back to the parallel universe.

And now the theme starts up in earnest.

The void closes.

Rose is beating on the wall on her own side, begging to go back. But Pete says the device has stopped working: the Doctor closed the breach.

The Doctor lays his head and his hand against the wall on his side, and, as though she can sense him there, Rose’s weeping calms a little, and she lays her own head and hand against his, though separated by a wall and an entire universe.

It’s obvious that I feel for Rose here, but I also feel for Mickey and Jackie, having to watch this hearbreak.

But Rose is strong, and she doesn’t kick against the pricks when there’s no point. She walks away—still broken, of course, and still weeping, but she walks back to her family.

But then she comes awake with a start, hearing the Doctor whisper, “Rose! Rose!”

NICK: Oh, Doctor. That’s just creepy.

She tells her family about the dream, and they all pack themselves in Pete’s Jeep and follow the voice for hundreds and hundreds of miles.

And we catch up with her at the point of the opening narration, telling the story of how she died.

The Doctor is exploiting a small hole in the universe: he’s in the TARDIS, in orbit around a supernova: “I’m burning up a sun, just to say goodbye.” He looks corporeal, but he isn’t. Rose wants him to come through properly, but he says he can’t, that it would destroy two universes if he did.

I don’t think he would, anyway. He loves his own universe. Remember how hard he tried to get out of E-Space?

Rose tries to fool the Doctor into thinking she’s pregnant. I’ve often wondered why she does that. It seems odd. But Jackie is pregnant.

Rose tells the Doctor that she’s working for Torchwood now. And the Doctor tells her that she has officially been listed as dead back home. (I found that such a cheat at the time.)

Rose weeps as she asks if she’s ever going to see the Doctor again. He says no.

Rose tells the Doctor that she loves him.

DOCTOR: And, I suppose . . . It’s my last chance to say it. Rose Tyler—

And he winks out of existence.

We come to a close-up of his face, tear-streaked, in the green light of the TARDIS console room.

Rose, back in her parallel universe, runs weeping to Jackie.

And the Doctor wipes his face, and wanders around the console, before looking up to see a strident bride standing in the middle of the console room.

And that’s season two to an end. I’ll give you all a chance to wipe your eyes before I expect any comments, shall I?

Three True Things: A Follow-Up

Posted 7 August 2009 in by Catriona

I hadn’t realised, when I followed up the Three True Things meme this morning how young a meme it was and how closely I was connected (through the Internet’s network of sociability) with its birth.

I’ve never been so close to the birth of a meme before.

So, since my post is running the risk of being buried under an exceptionally long live-blogging of a Torchwood episode, I thought I should take this rare opportunity to link to the places where the meme was born, before it found its way here.

First, Galaxy, where the meme was born.

Then Reeling and Writhing and Mark Lawrence, the blogs tagged by Kirsty at Galaxy.

Then Smithology and Nannygoat Hill, the two blogs tagged by Mark Lawrence.

All wonderful: all varied.

(What I’m liking, too, are the comment threads, and the way they’re dipping into ideas about genre fiction and where that sits in its always uneasy relationship to what the bookstores and publishers call “literary fiction.” But, then, I’m a woman for whom vampire boarding-school stories exert a strong fascination.)

So far, the meme is resting there, as far as I can see. But I don’t think this is a meme that should stop now. Surely there are more truths to fiction out there?

Live-blogging Torchwood Season One: "They Keep Killing Suzie"

Posted 7 August 2009 in by Catriona

I’ve lost my jumper.

I know: it doesn’t sound like a tragedy. Yet it frustrates me, because it’s become rather cold in the last half hour.

Also, how do you lose a knee-length cardigan?

Anyway, here’s Torchwood, so I’ll stop whinging about my jumper now.

We get some back story on Suzie, from the opening episode: Suzie talking about her desire to control the glove and resurrect the dead, Suzie talking about how much she loves working for Torchwood.

And here is Torchwood, walking in slow-motion towards a murder scene. Jack tries to charm the high-ranking police officer in charge, but she’s not having any of it.

POLICE OFFICER: Are you always this dressy for a murder investigation?
CAPTAIN JACK: Why, would you prefer me naked?
POLICE OFFICER: God help me. The stories are true.

The murder is a young couple hacked to death in their beds, with “Torchwood” written above their bodies in their blood.

Jack orders the police officers out of the room, and, as she leaves, the police officer tells Jack that as far as she’s concerned, he’s responsible for this crime: “Torchwood walks all over this city as if it owns it. And now these people are paying the price.”

But Tosh does get the results on the killer’s hair—and the police officer manages to show them that the killer has “ret-conn” in his blood: the drug that Torchwood gives people to make them forget all about Torchwood.

Wait, did they have the killer’s blood? Because, if not, how did they manage to get that information out of the killer’s hair?

Apparently, Torchwood have given amnesia pills to 2008 people. Wow: that’s a lot of people.

And now Gwen brings up the glove, but Jack and Owen say no: the glove killed Suzie and it stays in the vault.

But Gwen is persuasive.

NICK: Listen to Jack, Gwen. He’s being unusually sensible.

But, no: Torchwood want to talk about the glove needing a “cool name.” Tosh reminds them that they called it “The Resurrection Gauntlet,” but Owen—the bastard—just repeats “A cool name.”

Ianto suggests “The Risen Mitten,” but the less said about that, the better.

Meanwhile, Jack is trying to resurrect the first victim. But he says he’s not very good with the glove: apparently, it only responded to Suzie. Gwen points out that she never had a go, though, and Jack hands the glove over.

Sure enough, Gwen manages to bring the first victim back to life. Of course, the poor bastard is screaming for help and begging for his mother, and is in no fit state to help anyone. This glove is a monstrous, monstrous object.

And it only works once.

OWEN (to Ianto): Give the man a stopwatch and he’s happy.
IANTO: It’s the button on the top.

Remember that later, because that’s a double entendre right there.

They have more success with the latest victim, who says the murderer was the man who came to “Pilgrim” and that his name was “Max”: they want a description from him, and the poor dying man says “Suzie” knew him better—she was always talking to him.

Jack says they’ve been talking to the wrong corpse.

Tosh says “Pilgrim” is a religious support group, like a debating society, run by Mark Bristow’s wife Sarah—Mark and Sarah were the most recent victims. The group is so tiny it doesn’t even have an Internet presence.

And we find that no-one knew anything about Suzie at all. She didn’t really have any friends at Torchwood, so Gwen suggests that a group of complete strangers would be exactly where Suzie would go to talk.

Luckily for Torchwood, they own all Suzie’s stuff—it’s Torchwood regulations. So all Suzie’s possessions are in a storage locker somewhere, and Torchwood are rummaging through them. Gwen finds a photograph of Suzie with her father: Jack finds a volume of Emily Dickinson’s poems.

And Tosh finds a Pilgrim leaflet.

So Jack says it’s time Suzie came back.

So they drag her out of the refrigerator and into the autopsy room.

Gwen is slightly freaked out by the fact that Torchwood employees’ bodies are frozen forever. We’ll just see about that shall we, Torchwood?

Gwen says she can’t resurrect Suzie: she’s too far gone, she says. All Gwen can get is memories of the time Suzie tries to kill her.

But Owen suggests using the knife with which Suzie killed people, saying it will be like closing a circuit. But to make it work, they have to kill Suzie with it—Jack tries just slicing her arm, but it doesn’t work. So he drives the knife down into her heart.

And she comes back to life. And she’s furious that Gwen can use the glove.

From this angle, as Suzie talks, we can see the entry wound from the self-inflicted gunshot that killed her, under her chin. That’s strangely creepy.

But Suzie “dies” again and Gwen collapses—but, no, says Ianto. Suzie is just unconscious. She’s breathing, not dead.

Looks like Suzie is back for good, even when Jack pulls the knife out of her heart again.

And as we see Suzie in a wheelchair in an interrogation room, the camera pains around her and we can see the exit wound in the top of her skull. Now, that’s more disturbing than the entry wound.

Even as a reanimated corpse—and a reanimated corpse who is thoroughly pissed off that she’s been brought back to life and who looks as though she needs a good night’s sleep—Indira Varma is just so damn gorgeous.

Owen and Tosh aren’t willing to be in the same room as Suzie, and she mildly taunts them about this. But she eventually admits that she gave Max an amnesia pill once a week, every week—for two years. No wonder the poor bugger over-dosed and went mad.

Suzie says she just wanted someone to talk to—every week, as soon as she’d finished talking to him, she’d give him the pill.

Jack convinces Suzie to help, and she scans through the photos: she says there’s a girl missing, a Lucy McKenzie who worked in a club. But her strength wanes pretty easily, and Jack has to resort to shouting.

Cut to Jack, still in his World War II overcoat, strolling casually across the dance floor at what seems to be a heavy-metal club. They’re looking for Max before he can find and kill Lucy, the last remaining member of Pilgrim.

Suzie, meanwhile, is back at headquarters with Tosh, looking paler and more drawn than ever. And Torchwood think they’ve isolated Max, but they’ve grabbed the wrong man: Max Tressilian comes up behind Gwen, and Suzie shouts a warning so that Jack can stun him.

Oddly, Max is perfectly calm—until you say “Torchwood,” when he goes completely berserk, but only for ten seconds. That seems an oddly specific type of psychosis—and deliberately saying “Torchwood” as you leave is just mean, Jack. Why taunt the poor man your employee brain-damaged?

Suzie, meanwhile, is working on Gwen’s sympathies: I’d failed to mention earlier that the glove works most effectively for an empathetic individual. And now Suzie is playing on that, by constantly mentioning how dead she (Suzie) is, and begging to see her father—apparently, Suzie’s father is dying of cancer, and Suzie doesn’t even know whether he’s still alive.

Ooh, she’s good, Suzie. When Gwen insists that she has her own function at Torchwood and isn’t just a replacement for Suzie, Suzie brings out, “Have you slept with Owen yet?” And at the look on Gwen’s face, she looks down and says, “See? Replaced me completely.”

So Gwen goes barging into Jack’s office, and we get this monologue:

JACK: I had a boyfriend who used to enter rooms like that. The Grand Entrance. Got boring quickly. But he was one of twins, so I put up with it. Twin acrobats. Man, I have got to write that book. Maybe even illustrate it.

While I’m typing out that monologue, I miss a long conversation about whether Suzie will ever die.

But Owen calls Jack down to the conference room to point out that Suzie is still draining the life out of Gwen, while Gwen (simultaneously) suggests a road trip, to find Suzie’s dying father.

Because Gwen is both empathetic and stupid, apparently.

So to stop Suzie from draining the life out of Gwen, Jack says they have to kill Suzie again. Owen asks who’ll do it, and Jack draws his gun, saying, “As you say, I’m the boss.”

The rest of Torchwood see Gwen loading Suzie into her car—just as Torchwood goes into full lockdown. Gwen thinks that Jack will catch them, but Suzie says you never know: they might get lucky.

So how did Suzie initiate the lockdown? She’s using Max: he’s the Trojan horse, reciting an Emily Dickinson poem over and over again, as a verbal trigger to the lockdown process.

Suzie has planned this for a long time. She gives Max a complex series of verbal commands and, when he doesn’t see her for three months, they kick in. He starts killing people and writing “Torchwood” on the walls. Torchwood are called in and find the ret-conn in his bloodstream. They bring Max in and resurrect Suzie.

Now that’s a convoluted plan.

It’s rather brilliant.

But I suspect it relies a little too much on luck.

Suzie, in the car with Gwen, is looking much healthier, while Gwen herself is starting to look a little drawn.

Meanwhile, Ianto has used the water tower as a relay to enable mobile phone coverage. But who to call?

Well, Detective Inspector Swanson, from the early murder investigation.

JACK: We’re locked in.
SWANSON: You’re locked in?
JACK: Just a bit.
JACK: In our own base.
SWANSON: You’re locked in your own base?
JACK: It’s not funny.
SWANSON: And how am I supposed to help you?
JACK: We need a book of poetry.

Suzie, in the car with Gwen, is remembering songs her mother used to sing and crying.

But, meanwhile, Swanson has called her entire staff around the phone, and put Jack on Speaker phone:

SWANSON: Okay, Captain Jack: just say that one more time, nice and clear.
JACK: We’re locked in our base and we can’t get out.

Ah, but now Gwen is looking very tired. And she wants to know what there is after death. Suzie asks if Gwen is religious, and then taunts her: “Your faith never left primary school.”

She says there’s nothing out there: “Just this. Driving through the night. We’re just animals, howling in the dark.”

This is the most nihilistic show on television.

So, asks Gwen, you just die? There’s nothing else? But Suzie says no: she never said that: there’s something out there and it’s moving. Why, she asks, does Gwen think that Suzie was so keen to come back?

And Tosh manages, with Swanson’s help, to open up the Hub again, through what is, to be honest, technobabble at its most ridiculous and improbable.

Still, the main thing is that Jack is out and on Suzie’s trail, just as Gwen’s strength begins to fail terminally in Suzie’s father’s hospital room—and she’s bleeding from the head. Suzie, whipping off the scarf that she’s been hiding her ruined head with, shows that she’s almost healed, while Gwen is slowly, very slowly taking on Suzie’s fatal head wound.

And Suzie stands up, greets her father—and tears out his breathing tube. “Just what the bastard deserves,” she says.

But now they’re on the move again. Now Suzie is driving, while Gwen is barely conscious.

Suzie and Jack talk over the phone, and Jack promises that if Gwen dies, he will kill Suzie. But Suzie says she’ll do anything to stay: there’s nothing else, she says, nothing but life, and she’ll do anything to stay alive. She’s weeping, and I must admit I’m crying a little with her.

I don’t think it’s the character: I think it’s Indira Varma. She’s one of those actors who makes me want to cry when she cries.

Suzie is making for a ferry out to the islands. But she has to take Gwen with her. She’s formed this odd bond with Gwen, where she’s talking about the two of them running—that Jack won’t hurt them, and they’ll keep on running, the two of them.

And when Gwen collapses, Suzie doesn’t keep running, but stays leaning over Gwen’s body, asking if she’s gone.

And Jack asks Suzie, if he kills her, will Gwen come back. But Suzie says he can’t: can’t he see that she’s the last thing left of Gwen Cooper?

And Jack says “Not one bit”—and shoots Suzie in the back.

But she can’t die.

So he shoots her again. And again. And again.

But she’s still alive, lying in a pool of her own blood on the pier. “Captain, my captain,” she says to Jack. “Shall I tell you a secret? There’s something moving, something moving in the dark. And it’s coming for you.”

And then Tosh, acting on Jack’s orders, destroys the glove.

Suzie spasms and dies.

And Gwen spasms back to life.

But Suzie—poor Suzie is heading back into the vault. All that effort, all that planning, all that running—and she’s back in the vault. She’s dead again, back in the hands of Torchwood, back in that limbo of existence where no one even knows you’re dead.

And here’s the twist many of us have ben waiting for:

IANTO: If you’re interested, I’ve still got that stopwatch.
IANTO: Well, if you think about it, there’s lots of things you can do with a stopwatch.
JACK: Oh, yeah: I can think of a few.

But Ianto has ten minutes before he has to meet Jack in the office, and he offers to put a lock on the door in case Suzie goes wandering again. Jack says no: “The resurrection days are over.”

But Ianto says that’s the thing about gloves: they come in pairs.

And so they do.

Next week: “Random Shoes,” another heart-breaker.

Strange Conversations: Part One Hundred and Eighty-Five

Posted 7 August 2009 in by Catriona

Me bewailing the fact that the medical centre doesn’t include “Doctor” on its list of possible titles for patients:

ME: And, I mean, it is my title. I worked damn hard for it.
NICK: Just as I did for “Colonel.”
ME: Exactly.
ME: What?

Three True Things

Posted 7 August 2009 in by Catriona

Having been tagged for this meme by Smithology (and being, besides, someone who talks about books at the drop of a hat, even to complete strangers in shops—though the tragedy is that my weakness for books has not corrected my weakness for cliches such as “drop of a hat”), I don’t see how I can pass this up.

I’d not come across the meme before, but apparently it requires me to post three true things that I’ve read recently that come from fiction.

So let’s start with a man who is, to my mind, one of the greatest novelists in English not just of the twentieth century, but of my reading experience:

May I say, too, that much of what I put in this book was inspired by the grotesque prices paid for works of art during the past century. Tremendous concentrations of paper wealth have made it possible for a few persons or institutions to endow certain sorts of human playfulness with inappropriate and hence distressing seriousness. I think not only of the mudpies of art, but of children’s games as well—running, jumping, catching, throwing.

Or dancing.

Or singing songs.

(Kurt Vonnegut. Bluebeard. 1987.)

Vonnegut is an easy enough choice, but my next choice requires me to roughly sketch in some background. Bear in mind: what follows is the melancholy tale of an unanticipated moment of overwhelming pretentiousness.

Two nights ago, Nick and I were watching an episode from season three of Northern Exposure: an episode in which Chris in the Morning is offered the chance to buy into Holling’s bar and goes slightly mad with bar-tending power.

At one point, he offers cheap beer to anyone who can recite the opening lines of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

And I said to Nick, “I used to be able to recite those!”

T. S. Eliot was one of the poets I studied for my H. S. C. back in the mid-1990s, and because the exams were not open book, much of my final year of high school was devoted to memorising Eliot, Robert Browning, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and various broadly applicable quotations from Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and Arthur Miller.

Not the most effective way to learn to love literature.

So two nights ago, the juxtaposition of this mind-numbingly dull learning experience and a Northern Exposure episode led to Nick and I sitting on the back verandah in the dark and the cold, with me clutching a glass of wine and reading T. S. Eliot out loud.

We’d made it through “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “Portrait of a Lady,” and “Rhapsody on a Windy Night” before I came to my senses and said to Nick, “You know, this is the most pretentious thing I have ever done—and it developed so organically!”

That doesn’t change my response to this passage:

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

(T. S. Eliot. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Prufrock and Other Observations. 1917.)

If the meme demands true statements from books I’ve read recently, the next quotation should be from something with a vampire in it, since that has made up the majority of my reading material for the past month. Much as I enjoyed them, though, I can’t think of a statement that struck me as essentially true.

(Though it is true that I came to an important realisation while reading—and thoroughly enjoying—Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy. It may not have been the intended moral of the story, but what I took from it was this: No matter how doughty a demon killer your brother is, snogging him still shows a paucity of imagination.)

So, instead, I’m going to fall back on a quotation from one of my all-time favourites, which I first read in 1993 and only recently read through and adored once again.

It is, fittingly, a quotation about truth in fiction:

What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true? Haroun couldn’t get the terrible question out of his head. However, there were people who thought Rashid’s stories were useful. In those days it was almost election time, and the Grand Panjandrums of various political parties all came to Rashid, smiling their fat-cat smiles, to beg him to tell his stories at their rallies and nobody else’s. It was well known that if you could get Rashid’s magic tongue on your side then your troubles were over. Nobody ever believed anything a politico said, even though they pretended as hard as they could that they were telling the truth. (In fact, this was how everyone knew they were lying.) But everyone had complete faith in Rashid, because he always admitted that everything he told them was completely untrue and made up out of his own head.

(Salman Rushdie. Haroun and the Sea of Stories. 1991.)

There’s more truth in fiction than can possible be covered here. So, since one good tagging deserves another, I’ll see what truth Wondering Willow and A Billion Suns find on their bookshelves.

Strange Conversations: Part One Hundred and Eighty-Four

Posted 6 August 2009 in by Catriona

Via instant messaging:

NICK: You just need to relax, like the MST3K [that’s Mystery Science Theater 3000, our most recent obsession] theme song says.
ME: But if I remember that it’s just a show, then the existential horror overwhelms me again.
NICK: Oh god.
ME: What if I’m cancelled? Mid-season?
NICK: You’ll live on in repeats, DVD sales, youtube skits, fan-dubs, and the memories of faithful viewers forever.
ME: I can be a cult favourite!
NICK: Exactly!
ME: People will mourn the tragedy of my thirteen-episode run for ever! And send peanuts to the networks!
NICK: Very true. So it’s all good really.
ME: Well, except I’ll be dead. Metaphorically.
NICK: But only metaphorically.
ME: It’s still pretty bad! And if I’m a TV show, isn’t metaphor actualised?
NICK: You know, I’ve lost track of where this one is going.
ME: Me, too. That’s probably why I was cancelled. Too obscure for prime time.
NICK: Oh man.
ME: Sorry.

At Boarding School, No One Can Hear You Scream . . .

Posted 5 August 2009 in by Catriona

At least, so says the tagline of the first of the Bard Academy novels, the brilliantly named Wuthering High.

And, yes, I’m as bewildered as you are by the adaption of the tagline from a horror movie for a teen novel based on a famous nineteenth-century novel. But it made such an excellent title for a blog post.

The taglines for the other two novels in the series are “Being unpopular at private school? There’s nothing scarier”—which is (firstly) almost certainly not true (Clowns? Sharks? Giant spiders? Being buried alive?) and (secondly) banal—and “Bad things happen when fact and fiction collide,” which is just vague.

But once again I have let my snideness and my talent for long, rambling non-sequiturs run away with me, because I’m actually thoroughly enjoying these novels. And when I’m enjoying something, I think the least I can do is not be snide about it on my blog.

I first mentioned the Bard Academy in this post over a year ago, but I’ve only just now managed to get my hands on them this last weekend. (The same weekend, incidentally, on which I bought this book, which I came across even longer ago. And also got my copy of this. So, an excellent weekend in terms of working through the back catalogue of my own blog.)

And I’m enjoying the books even more than I thought I would.

I could go into more detail about why I’m enjoying them, but it’s the first week of teaching (since I’m not lecturing this semester) and I’m tired. So I’m going to settle for quoting this section from early in the book, where the heroine is mistaken for someone else by a mysterious man on the school bus (which is being driven by a suicidally reckless bus driver whose name tag reads “H. S. Thompson”):

“Miranda Tate,” I say, extending my hand. “And you are?”
He looks at my hand, and then at me. “Heathcliff,” he says cautiously, taking my hand. His hand is rough and calloused. Either he’s a guitarist, or he’s done some hard work on a farm.
“So who’s Cathy?”
I watch as a storm cloud settles over his features, then his face settles into a scowl again. He says nothing. I guess it’s a sore subject. (27-28)

Admit it: you laughed.

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Season Two: "Army of Ghosts"

Posted 3 August 2009 in by Catriona

So here we are with the second-last episode of season two of Doctor Who, a moment so auspicious that it can only be introduced with a long series of prepositional clauses.


Well, to be honest, I’m currently watching Media Watch being very arch on the subject of Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O. It’s an unpleasant subject, of course, but the archness bothers me somewhat.

Okay: it bothered me before we got to the section about the estranged family members being “reunited” on the programme: now I’m too disgusted by the whole issue to even be bothered by the archness. Frankly, this is even more distressing than the lie-detector tape.

I’m so pleased that I don’t listen to Today FM.

Okay, but I’m ready for Doctor Who now. Enough of John Laws, please. I don’t want to hear about John Laws ever again.

Or Kyle Sandilands.

Or Jackie O. They’re as bad as each other, and the only thing that bothers me is why she doesn’t get as much flak as Kyle does.

Okay, so now I realise that Nick has in fact had it on a different channel all this time. Or something. Anyway, this doesn’t count as live-blogging any more, because I’m now fifteen minutes behind the programme.

Also, Nick would be sleeping in the spare room, if my parents weren’t in there already.

I’ve missed all the opening monologue by this point, too. So now Rose is talking about the army of ghosts, about Torchwood and the war, and saying that this is the story of how she died.

After the credits, the TARDIS materialises in a children’s playground. (This was eight minutes ago in proper Earth time.) Rose has come to visit Jackie—this is just like back-packing for her, isn’t it? Only less expensive. And she still gets her mother to do her laundry for her.

But Jackie’s not excited about the present Rose bought her, because she says that Grandad Prentice is coming to visit them in ten minutes. But Rose says that Grandad Prentice has been dead for years.

Rose thinks that Jackie has gone mad, but a ghost walks through the wall about that time. Well, it looks like a ghost, in that it’s an indeterminate humanoid shape.

They’re everywhere outside.

But Jackie says midday shift only lasts a couple of minutes, and then the ghosts fade. As the Doctor points out, no-one is freaking out or screaming—but as the ghosts fade, we see Torchwood and a man manipulating a giant steampunk lever.

Hey, Trisha Goddard! I remember when she was on Playschool. Trish’s appearance is the beginning of a running through of all the programmes dealing with ghosts: advertising, talk shows, “ghost watches,” and the ghostly reappearance of Dirty Den on Eastenders.

Jackie says when everyone first saw the ghosts, some months ago, everyone was freaking out, but they’ve all become accustomed to them.

The Doctor says they’re not ghosts, that people are investing them with ghostly significance.

Hey, it’s Freema! Freema but not Martha. So we’re back at Torchwood, who are running a series of experiments: the ghost ones are successful, but the ones in the basement—on a mysterious, unmeasurable sphere—are not coming up with any results.

In fact, you can’t even touch the sphere with your hand, as it turns out. That would be annoying.

Freema is sending flirty IMs to her cute co-worker across the aisle. I suspect “fancy a coffee?” is actually a euphemism, as the two of them come up with highly convincing excuses to run off together.

They sneak into an “out of bounds” area marked off by plastic—well, Gareth sneaks in there, but Freema is interrupted before she can follow him. By the time she follows him in, he’s completely silent. She pushes past sheets of plastic, only to be confronted by a Cyberman.

Back in the TARDIS, there’s a fairly embarrassing Ghostbusters impersonation from Rose and the Doctor (well, embarrassing and kind of adorably geeky) as the Doctor sets himself up to measure the ghosts.

Jackie wonders why the Doctor always has to reduce everything to science: “Why can’t it be real?” she asks.

But the Doctor says people’s deceased loved ones coming back is horrific. (And, also, he can’t help himself.)

Now Gareth and Freema are back at their desks at Torchwood in time for the next ghost shift, but they look suspiciously blank and their earbuds (remember the two parter?) are flashing in a disturbing fashion.

Jackie’s wondering what will happen to Rose when she’s gone—she doesn’t like the way Rose is changing, becoming more like the Doctor. She thinks Rose is losing her humanity, but Rose says she can’t settle down because the Doctor never will.

Ghost shift begins at Torchwood, and Freema doesn’t even blink in the bright light. But the Doctor has managed to capture himself one of the ghosts.

And Torchwood are seeing the disturbance in the ghost field. The head of Torchwood orders them to close down the ghost shift, while they pinpoint the disturbance in the ghost field. They patch into the CCTV network in the area in which the disturbance appeared, and they see the TARDIS.

Oh my god, they say: it’s him.

But the Doctor has isolated the source of the ghosts, and he activates the TARDIS.

Oh, the head of Torchwood is pleased about this. (In passing, the Doctor is ranting about how much he likes saying allons-y, and how much he would like to meet someone called Alonzo, so he can say, “Allons-y, Alonzo.” Remember that in about, ooh, two years ago.)

Meanwhile, Jackie is still on board the TARDIS.

The TARDIS lands in Torchwood, and is surrounded by armed men, though the Doctor’s disembarkation is met by a massive round of applause. And then another one. And another one.

The Doctor’s rather pleased by this, though he’s also slightly freaked out.

The head of Torchwood demands to meet the Doctor’s companion, and he drags Jackie out, introducing her as Rose and explaining that she looked into the heart of the time vortex last week and aged fifty-seven years.

Torchwood, it seems, is in the business of shooting down, stripping down, and using alien technology “for the good of the British Empire.”

JACKIE: There isn’t a British Empire.

The Doctor seems mostly worried that Torchwood is advancing human technology unnaturally fast. Yvonne (the head) is demonstrating all their lucky finds—and, incidentally, nicking the TARDIS, on the grounds that Torchwood’s motto is “If it’s alien, it’s ours.”

The Doctor says she’ll never get inside it, but, of course, Rose is still inside.

Meanwhile, Freema is seducing another cute co-worker away from his desk, by telling him he can come and see something interesting.

Back with the Doctor, Yvonne is explaining how Torchwood was established by Queen Victoria after her unfortunate run-in with a werewolf. She explains airily at this point that the Doctor is a prisoner, but they’ll make him perfectly comfortable. In the meantime, they take him to look at the sphere—which he looks at through his 3D glasses. Can anyone remember the significance of the 3D glasses? I’ve forgotten.

The Doctor explains that the sphere is a void ship, designed to travel through the void between universes and survive outside time and space. It’s supposed to be impossible—a mere theoretical exercise.

They want to know what’s inside it, but the Doctor says no: it needs to be sent back into the void. Yvonne explains that the sphere started it all: it came through and the ghosts followed. The Doctor demands to be shown, and marches forcefully out of the room, an effect slightly undercut by the fact that he chooses the wrong direction.

Cute co-worker #2 has fallen victim to the plastic-shrouded Cybermen.

And Rose is working her way out of the TARDIS, swathed in a stolen lab coat.

Yvonne explains that they built Torchwood Tower—Canary Wharf—to reach the spatial disturbance they’ve been measuring, through which the sphere came.

The Doctor wonders, out loud, why they’ve been trying to make the hole in reality bigger. Yvonne rants about how the Doctor tries to enforce alien superiority over the rights of man, and he demonstrates how he’s right by smashing one of her glass doors.

There’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s what it boils down to.

Yvonne won’t stop, so the Doctor sits back with Jackie to watch the fireworks—but, oddly enough, his grinning face puts Yvonne off, and she cancels ghost shift, and sets someone to clear up the broken glass.

Freema and her robotic co-workers, though, have other plans, and they start tapping away at their keyboards.

Rose, running full-pelt through the bowels of the building, which is a bit suspicious in and of itself, finds herself in a deserted corridor: opening a door, she’s in the sphere room with one other lab-coated worker.

And she’s staring at the sphere as the head of the research unit asks what she’s doing. Nice and subtle, Rose. But, unfortunately for her, everyone at Torchwood has some degree of psychic training, and he knows her “credentials” are blank.

He tells Samuel to check the locks, but Samuel is actually Mickey, and he rests one finger on his lips to tell Rose to be quiet.

At this point, Yvonne is made aware that ghost shift is still underway—she orders everyone to stop, but, of course, they’re not listening. We’re going into ghost shift.

And the sphere is active.

In Yvonne’s room, the Doctor deactivates Freema’s earbud, and she and her two co-workers die screaming. (Though the worst bit is when Yvonne pulls the earbud and the attached gooey cord straight out of Freema’s brain.)

Mickey, down in the sphere room, says it’s okay: “We’ve beaten them before and we’ll beat them again. That’s why I’m here.”

Rose asks what they beat, and Mickey says, “What do you think?”

The Doctor has found the building renovations, looking for the nearby remote control that was behind the earbuds—and, like the others before him, they find Cybermen. They have soldiers with them, who open fire.

In the sphere room, Mickey says no one knows what’s in the sphere, though they suspect it’s Cyber.

The Cybermen are killing everyone and ordering an increase in ghost shift: the ghosts appear everywhere, but now we can hear them clanking. Harmless increase, eh? I think not, nice policeman on the telly.

But, more worrying, the sphere is opening. And what’s coming out of this? We won’t find out just yet.

The ghosts are, of course, Cybermen: millions of them appearing across the world and becoming corporeal.

Now people start screaming. Quite sensible, really.

The Doctor says it’s not an invasion: it’s too late for that. It’s a victory.

And in the sphere? Mickey has an enormous gun hidden under his desk. (How? How did he get that past security? Honestly, Torchwood are so amateur.)

But the sphere is not Cyberman in origin, the Cybermen tell the Doctor.

Oh, no. No, it’s not.

It’s the Daleks.

And that’s one hell of a cliffhanger.

Strange Conversations: Part One Hundred and Eighty-Three

Posted 1 August 2009 in by Catriona

MY MOTHER: You know, you could play that new shoe rack of yours as a glockenspiel, if you wanted.
ME: Pardon?
MY MOTHER: Well, if you wanted a little music, you could play it like a glockenspiel.
ME: You do tend to think outside the box, don’t you, Mam?
MY MOTHER: Well, you have to. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be any new inventions.
ME: Yes. Of course, I think the glockenspiel has already been invented, so you’re a little behind the curve there.
MY MOTHER: Yes, but this is a free-standing glockenspiel that hangs on the back of a door.
ME: And doubles as a shoe rack.
MY MOTHER: No one’s invented one of those before.

I kept silent on the fact that there was probably a reason for that.



Recent comments

Monthly Archive