by Catriona Mills

Grading Assessment: A Survival Guide

Posted 4325 days ago in by Catriona

First step: become a Time Lord.

Time Lords may not read instructions, but they have control over space and, more importantly, time. Even though you can’t travel back on your own timeline, I’m sure (given that, apparently, there’s a great big “except to impress girls” loophole in that particular rule) that they wouldn’t mind if we popped back into our own lives to eke out a bit more time for marking.

Of course, Time Lords don’t seem to spend much time marking assessment, except maybe at the Academy, and that doesn’t exist any more. So perhaps they wouldn’t be as sympathetic as you’d think.

So if that fails, move on to the second step: become a vampire.

Sure, they spend dawn to dusk dead in a box somewhere (unless they were fortunate enough to be written by Stephenie Meyer), but what’s to stop them spending the night marking?

(These two photos were taken twelve hours apart. Note that neither I nor my assessment had moved much in that time.)

Strange Conversations: Part Three Hundred and Sixty-Two

Posted 4326 days ago in by Catriona

NICK: Who’s coming at two?
ME: I have a markers’ meeting today.
NICK: You did not tell me this. I don’t mind, but you didn’t tell me.
ME: I did, babe. I told you repeatedly.
NICK: I don’t recall that.
ME: That’s different from me not telling you.
NICK: Well, maybe.

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "The Rebel Flesh"

Posted 4326 days ago in by Catriona

So here we are, for a new Matthew Graham episode. I admit, this episode fills me with trepidation, given that I loathed loathed loathed “Fear Her”. But Matthew Graham is a good writer, so let’s hope he hasn’t mis-judged the audience again for this one.

Also, our peanut gallery is back! Well, one half of the peanut gallery is here.

Of course, the peanut gallery is currently distracted by a tennis player’s biceps, but I’m sure she’ll be paying attention again in a minute.

In other exciting news, I have been marking forever (and a day), so I can’t promise that this will be either funny or, indeed, coherent.

Ooh, Alcatraz! Or something. It’s oddly creepy, even for Alcatraz, and it’s full of people in boiler suits.

HEATHER (whispering to Nick): Is it a parking garage?

They head into a room with a giant vat of something. Something smoking. Something that requires hazmat suits. As they take readings on the “acid”, one of them, Buzz, climbs up onto the vat, and is accidentally pushed in by his co-worker.

WOMAN: I shouldn’t have nudged him. Sorry, Buzz, my bad.

But he’s actually melting, as his co-workers leave him behind, complaining about the cost of the hamzat suits.

But there he is outside!

He says he could get worker’s compensation, but apparently he’s not dead but is melting at the same time. And he’s not worth as much as a hazmat suit.


In the TARDIS, there’s Muse playing. Why? Oh god, why? Amy and Rory are playing darts, and Rory is either losing or being cheated by his missus. The Doctor runs another pregnancy test.

NICK: Doctor, stop pregnancy testing Amy. It’s creepy.

The Doctor tries to drop Amy and Rory off for fish and chips, but Amy resists, and then they’re hit by a solar tsunami.

Chaos ensues.

They land.

DOCTOR: A cockerel. Love a cockerel.

Rory says they’re not in the thirteenth century, because he can hear Dusty Springfield.

HEATHER: Well, she’s pretty old, isn’t she?

They head in, to satisfy the Doctor’s “rabid curiosity.” Rory burns himself with acid, but luckily it’s old acid, or he would have lost a finger.

Then they trigger an intruder alert, but luckily, as Nick points out, the security is pretty rubbish. That’s because most of the people are locked into some sort of harnesses.

Well, except that they’re also simultaneously running in, holding a variety of weapons.

The Doctor pretends to be a meteorological expert, blaming the solar storm for his presence. But they scan them for bugs—since this is a military base and they’re contractors—and when they come up clean, the Doctor talks them into letting him see their “critical systems”.

WOMAN: Which one?
DOCTOR: Oh, you know which one.
NICK: Total bluff.

Well, it’s a giant vat of fake flesh. Or, as Heather would have it, cream of chicken soup.

NICK: Cream of human soup.

They’re a long description here about the “flesh” and the “gangers” (doppelgangers), but it’s too complicated to translate here, especially since the Doctor just stuck his hand in the flesh.

Why, Doctor? Why?

NICK: Doctor, you know by now, if there’s something interesting around, you shouldn’t stick your hand in it.
HEATHER: Even if it’s papier mache paste.

Luckily, another solar storm is about to hit.

Jennifer (the cutely accented girl who knocked her co-worker into the acid) climbs into her harness, as they form a ganger for her out of the flesh, in front of Amy, Rory, and the Doctor.

It’s a creepy process, all right. Especially before the face is fully formed. But when it’s done, the ganger looks exactly like Jennifer.

The group prepare to continue pumping acid until the mainland tells them to stop. Especially since they get their power from a solar rotator. The Doctor’s quite enthusiastic about their need to prepare for the storm, but the woman in charge says, well, she’s in charge.

The Doctor heads out to find a monitoring station. But he barely gets there before the solar storm starts shaking the building. The connection to the solar power is the problem.

DOCTOR: I’ve got to get to that cockerel before all hell breaks loose. I never thought I’d have to say that again.

The storm roaring overhead is absolutely gorgeous. Wouldn’t want to be in one, though.

The acid pipes start breaking and the TARDIS starts sinking.

The gangers watch their counterparts, who are helpless in their harnesses. And the Doctor barely reaches the cockerel before the storm hits it and he’s thrown loose. Bit of an echo of “Vampires of Venice” there, but at least this is the beginning, not the end.

The Doctor, coming back to consciousness, finds the manager, and asks her why she isn’t in her harness.

Why does he assume she isn’t the ganger? We have a brief spirited debate on that topic, and I miss some stuff. As I pay attention again, they’re letting everyone out of their harnesses, and the manager explains that once the link is broken, the gangers return to flesh.

But the Doctor didn’t know that, so my question still stands.

Plus, someone is playing Dusty Springfield, so the question still (still) stands.

The Doctor says that the storm has animated the gangers, and the people whose gangers they are freak out completely at this idea.

MANAGER: Stolen lives.
DOCTOR: Bequeathed. You gave them your lives.

The staff still seem uncertain that the gangers can work when they’re not plugged into the harnesses. But Jennifer’s feeling unwell, and she heads off to the toilets. Rory runs after her, saying that the Doctor’s first rule is “don’t wander off”.

HEATHER: ‘I’ve had too many marshmallows”.
ME: What do you mean?
HEATHER: You’ll see.

Then Jennifer throws up a dollop of “flesh”.


I’ll never eat another marshmallow.

Jennifer, fleeing into a cubicle, sticks out a snake head and tells Rory they just need to live.

It’s not the most convincing effect.

Then the Doctor proves that the manager (Cleaves) is a ganger, as well, by handing her a red-hot plate from the microwave. Then her face goes all funny, she shrieks, “We are living!”, and runs out of the room.

Amy wants to know where Rory is, but, of course, he’s chasing after Jennifer, because she’s distressed and Rory is soft. (And I mean that as a compliment.)

Much running around the castle ensues, as the ganger Jennifer goes looking for Rory. The others manage to follow Rory into the toilets, realising that Jennifer is a ganger, too.

The Doctor clearly knows something about the flesh (as another man points out, he called it “early technology”), but he won’t tell them what it is. He just says that he can fix it. They agree that he’ll head back to the TARDIS and the others will wait in the dining hall.

Amy, though, heads off to find Rory, apparently walking straight through acid to do so.

I only know about three character names at this point, and we’re more than halfway through the episode.

Rory, elsewhere, comes across ganger Jennifer, talking about a time when she wandered away from a picnic and got lost on the moors. At the time, she imagined another Jennifer, a strong Jennifer, a tough Jennifer, who could lead her home. She’s looking at a picture of her child-self as she talks about this, and at her own, partly formed face in a hand mirror. She’s trying to reconcile the fact that she is Jennifer and a factory part at the same time.

Rory doesn’t help, asking where the real Jennifer is.

Ganger Jennifer says that she is Jennifer. “I’m me … me … me,” she says, beating herself on the chest. Every time she strikes her breast, she flips into warm human, and then back to greyish flesh. Lovely, lovely effect.

“Help me, Rory!” she says.

NICK: Help me, Rory. Help help me, Rory.
HEATHER: Stop it, Nick. It’s a very sentimental scene. We don’t need your Beach Boys references.

The TARDIS has sunk into the ground, the flesh in the tank is talking, one of the human crewmen keeps sneezing (relevant?), and the gangers have the acid suits. That means they can strike at will, and they will.

Ganger Jennifer gets excited when Rory says the Doctor wants to help Jennifer. “You used my name!” she coos, and she kisses him on the cheek.

HEATHER: Yeah, well, I wasn’t actually talking about you.

Amy opens a mysterious door, and see the eyepatch woman looking out of what seems to be a blank wall. As she slams the door shut again, Rory and the ganger Jennifer are on the other side. Rory offers ganger Jennifer protection, even though Amy says dismissively, “It’s a ganger.”

Elsewhere, the Doctor find the other gangers, and offers them assistance. He tells them that if they can hold their fully human forms, the others will be less scared. Not if they can see how you can turn your heads 180 degrees, they won’t be.

Ganger Jennifer, in the dining hall, is trying to convince the others that she is Jennifer Lucas, but they’re resistant. They’re even more resistant when the Doctor marches in with a bunch of gangers behind him.

Cleaves, elsewhere, isn’t thrilled about this, mumbling to herself, “Make a football team, why don’t you?”

Well, you can’t make a football team with nine people, for a start.

The Doctor offers to take everyone off the planet, humans and gangers alike. But when one of the gangers starts talking about his son, there’s a strange tension between the groups. The man who knows he’s the father is deeply uncomfortable with this.

Then Cleaves comes back in with a circuit probe, which carries about 40,000 volts (and, which the Doctor points out, Cleaves calls “she”).

GANGER CLEAVES: Oh, that is so typically me.

Ganger Buzz charges Cleaves, and she kills him.

CLEAVES: We call it decommissioned.

The gangers, not surprisingly are not the slightest bit happy about this. They flee, but Cleaves is immune to the Doctor’s reproaches. “If it’s war, it’s war,” she says. “It’s us and them now.”

Elsewhere, ganger Jennifer is saying exactly the same thing. It’s interesting that she’s in charge, and not ganger Cleaves.

Ganger Jennifer says that she’ll take care of the spare running around, and we see Jennifer for the first time since she put herself in harness, limping badly, and being scared by something groping around in the darkness.

The Doctor wants the most defensible room in the castle (the chapel), warning that the gangers are coming back in a big way.

They certainly are, in the acid suits.

Rory refuses to enter, saying that he can’t leave Jennifer alone. And he dashes off down a side corridor as the gangers, in their suits, appear.

The others barricade themselves into the chapel, but something else is already there.

DOCTOR: Show yourself! Right now.

Amy says that this is a horrific mess, and the Doctor agrees. But he’s not the Doctor.

GANGER DOCTOR: Trust me. I’m the Doctor.
HEATHER: I’m a pillow!

I think she means the ganger Doctor, rather than herself.

Next week: more gangers!

Strange Conversations: Part Three Hundred and Sixty-One

Posted 4330 days ago in by Catriona

While watching the Fifth Doctor story “Kinda”:

ME: Our reactions to this story rather sum up our different approaches to the genre.
NICK: Why?
ME: You said, “It’s anthropological science-fiction in the vein of Ursula Le Guin!”
NICK: And you said?
ME: I said, “Those aliens look a bit Welsh.”

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "The Doctor's Wife"

Posted 4333 days ago in by Catriona

Right, things got a bit fraught there for a minute, but now I’m all set to live-blog the Neil Gaiman episode of Doctor Who.

All set, but a bit nervous. Understandable, under the circumstances. I’m anxious to make a good thing out of this, but also anxious that I’ll get completely flustered and the whole thing will become one long fangirl squeal.

Ooops, spoilers.

We open on a creepy, green-tinged planet. A woman who looks like Helena Bonham-Carter says, “Will it be me, Uncle?” And Uncle says, yes: it’s Idris’s turn, and it’s going to be really painful, as Nephew (an Ood) drains her mind and soul from her body, leaving her body empty for a new soul.

“There’s a Time Lord coming,” says a woman.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor tells an unsavoury anecdote about a robot king who wasn’t a robot king, and then someone knocks at the door.

The scrumptious little beauty knocking at the door is a Time Lord emergency message system (a little box) from a Time Lord called the Corsair.

DOCTOR: Didn’t feel like himself unless he had that tattoo somewhere. Or herself, a couple of times. Ooh, she was a bad girl.

Well, that’s Time Lord gender change made canonical, then.

Time Lords are all but extinct in our galaxy, but this is coming from outside our universe, and the Doctor is burning up some spare rooms (including the swimming pool, the scullery, and squash court 7) to get through the Rift and out to a small, greenish planet.

But once they land there, the TARDIS starts to power down. Everything’s draining, says the Doctor, though this is impossible. The soul of the TARDIS has vanished. “Where would it go?” asks the Doctor.

And then Idris comes gasping back to life, but her gasp is the TARDIS dematerialisation sound.



The Doctor steps out of the TARDIS, into a planet that looks like a junkyard.

RORY: What is this place? The scrapyard at the end of the universe?
DOCTOR: Outside the universe, not the end of it.

The Doctor explains it as being not anything like a soap bubble with a tiny bubble clinging to the end of it. Then he shifts to the universe being a plug hole.

Then Idris turns up and kisses him, calling him her thief.

UNCLE: Strangers. Welcome. Sorry about the mad woman.

He introduces himself, the motherly woman introduces herself as Auntie, Nephew keeps in the background, and Idris is casually restrained.

UNCLE: Keep back from this one. She bites.

And she bites the Doctor.

IDRIS: Biting is excellent. It’s like kissing, only there’s a winner.

Idris is clearly not entirely comfortable with language, and keeps trying to snog the Doctor. She tells him that the little boxes will make him angry and that his chin is hilarious. She defines “petrichor” for Rory, telling him that he will need to know what it means at some point, and then faints.

The Doctor spots Nephew, and manages to fix his communication device, which then broadcasts dozens and dozens of messages from Time Lords.

The Doctor’s noticeably staggered by this, though Auntie says that there’s only the four of them, and House.

The Doctor wants to know what House is, and they say it’s the world. They offer to introduce the Doctor to House, and he accepts because he’s fascinated by the fact that somewhere nearby, there are lots and lots of Time Lords.

In a cage elsewhere, Idris is struggling to think of a word, a big word and a sad word.

But the Doctor is realising that the asteroid is sentient—sentient and creepy. I wish I could manage, in the time I had, to express how creepy it is when Auntie and Uncle shut down.

House says that there have been many TARDISes on his back in days gone by, and the Doctor points out that he’s the last one. No more TARDISes here. The Doctor asks whether he can look around, and they say, yes, he can look around all he likes.

Idris calls for her thief.

The Doctor wants to save his friends, though Amy objects.

AMY: You want to be forgiven.
DOCTOR: Well, don’t we all.

The Doctor sends Amy back to the TARDIS for his screwdriver, and then sends Rory off to look after Amy, much to Amy’s annoyance.

RORY: He’ll be fine. He’s a Time Lord.
AMY: It’s just what they’re called. Doesn’t mean he actually knows what he’s doing.

Of course, the Doctor has his screwdriver, so it’s not a good sign when the TARDIS door automatically locks behind them.

The Doctor traces the voices to a little cupboard. He says, “They can’t all be in here”—but they are, because they’re just the cubes. Auntie and Uncle appear behind him.

DOCTOR: Just admiring your Time Lord distress-call collection.

He challenges Auntie and Uncle, realising that they’re cobbled together from bits and pieces from other people. Auntie, for example, has the Corsair’s arm.

AUNTIE: He was a strapping big bloke, wasn’t he, Uncle? I got the arm, and Uncle, he got the spine and the kidneys.
DOCTOR: You gave me hope and then you took it away. That’s enough to make anyone dangerous. God knows what it’ll do to me.

He tells them to run, but Uncle says it’s too late: House is too clever.

Amy rings, and the Doctor reveals that he locked the doors behind them. But the Doctor has remembered that Idris knew that the boxes would make him angry. He goes to find Idris, while the TARDIS is surrounded by a mysterious green light.

The Doctor doesn’t know who Idris is, until she makes the dematerialisation noise.

DOCTOR: No, you’re not. You’re a bitey mad lady.

Idris says that the Doctor stole her, and she stole him.

DOCTOR: I borrowed you.
IDRIS: Borrowed implies an intention to give back. What makes you think that I’d ever give you back?

She talks the Doctor into letting her out of the cage.

IDRIS: Are all humans like this?
DOCTOR: Like what?
IDRIS: So much bigger on the inside.

Through a complicated conversation that I can’t repeat, they realise that House removes the TARDIS matrix so that he can feed off the remaining Rift energy without being destroyed. And as the Doctor runs to try and save Amy and Rory, the Cloister Bell starts ringing.

Not the Cloister Bell!

Amy and Rory hold hands, and the TARDIS dematerialises.

Rory says that they’re safe because they’re in the TARDIS, but House says they’re half right—they’re in the TARDIS—and asks why he shouldn’t kill them straight away.

The Doctor runs off to find Auntie and Uncle, but it’s time for them to die, which they do promptly after explaining that House is off to our Universe, to find more TARDISes.

Idris, whose body is failing under the stress, tells him to be calm.

DOCTOR: How? I’m a madman with a box, without the box!

But then he realises that it’s a junkyard of dead TARDISes, which gives him some hope.

DOCTOR: Do you have a name?
IDRIS: 700 years, finally he asks. I think you call me … Sexy.
DOCTOR: Only when we’re alone!

In the TARDIS, House is thrilled by his new corridors, but still wants to know why he shouldn’t just kill them. Rory’s best idea is that killing them quickly wouldn’t be much fun. Which is a fair point, but a bit silly.

House tells them to run.

The Doctor and Idris find the valley of half-eaten TARDISes.

DOCTOR: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
IDRIS: I’m thinking all my sisters are dead; they’ve been devoured, and we’re looking at their corpses.
DOCTOR: No, sorry. I wasn’t thinking that at all.

No, the Doctor is thinking that he can build a new TARDIS, even though it’s impossible. Idris accuses the Doctor of being like a nine-year-old rebuilding a motorcycle in his bedroom and never reading the instructions.

IDRIS: There’s a sign on my door. You’ve been walking past it for 700 years. What does it say?
DOCTOR: That’s not instructions!
IDRIS: There’s an instruction at the bottom. What does it say?
DOCTOR: ‘Pull to open’.
IDRIS: And what do you do?
DOCTOR: I push.

He says that Idris wasn’t reliable, because she didn’t always take him where he wanted to go. No, she says: she always took him where he needed to go.

She did! says the Doctor. And he thinks it would be brilliant if they could always talk like this. But the TARDIS isn’t built that way. And at this point, they need to keep working, because Idris’s body is failing and the universe they’re in is also failing.

Elsewhere, Amy and Rory keep being separated by the doors in the TARDIS corridors, as House plays with them.

The Doctor has half a console room built, but it doesn’t work.

IDRIS: Did you ever wonder why I chose you, all those years ago?
DOCTOR: I chose you. You were unlocked.
IDRIS: Of course I was! I wanted to see the Universe, so I stole a Time Lord and I ran away. And you were the only one brave enough.

House continues to terrorise Amy and Rory, showing Amy an ancient, tortured, brutal Rory.

The Doctor can’t power his console room up, to his frustration. But he still has the TARDIS, in Idris, and she has the power to get them started.

They dematerialise.

On the TARDIS, Amy stumbles across Rory’s corpse and his anti-Amy graffiti. But as she’s weeping over him, the real Rory comes around the corner, and the corpse and the graffiti all vanish.

They run again.

The Doctor and Idris are locked onto the TARDIS. But the TARDIS needs to lower the shields, and the Doctor asks her to get a telepathic message to Amy.

IDRIS: Which one’s Amy? The pretty one?

Of course, she messages Rory, but she gets the message through, sending him to her collection of archived control rooms. She has about thirty, though the Doctor has only “changed the desktop” about a dozen times.

House keeps messing with them; Amy can’t see and Rory seems to have banged his head. But Amy moves towards his voice, past his unconscious body … towards Nephew. She realises who he is when she grasps the tentacles, and she and Rory run.

The Doctor and Idris tear through the Rift.

DOCTOR: You’re doing it, you sexy thing!
IDRIS: See, you do call me that! Is it my name?
DOCTOR: You bet it’s your name!

Rory and Amy reach the old control room, and Amy realises that the key is telepathic, hence the need to know the meaning of petrichor.

They arrive in an old control room: it’s the Ninth Doctor’s control room, though I’d have liked an older one. They lower the shields, but Nephew works his way into the control room, and, on House’s orders, moves to kill them.

Then the Doctor and Idris rematerialise.

DOCTOR: Amy, this is … well, she’s my TARDIS. Except she’s a woman. She’s a woman, and she’s my TARDIS.
AMY: She’s the TARDIS?
DOCTOR: And she’s a woman! She’s a woman, and she’s my TARDIS.
AMY: Did you wish really hard?

Nephew is dead, and Idris isn’t in good condition, either. But House can still kill them, if he wants.

Rory looks after Idris, while the Doctor tells House that if he deletes 30% of the TARDIS rooms, he can achieve enough thrust to make it through into their own universe.

House says he’ll start by deleting the room they’re in, thus ridding himself of vermin.

And he does.

But the TARDIS has a failsafe. And they rematerialise in the main control room.

HOUSE: Fear me. I’ve killed hundreds of Time Lords.
DOCTOR: Fear me. I’ve killed them all.

And, as the Doctor points out, though Idris is dead, the TARDIS matrix, whom he ripped from her home and forced into Idris’s body, is back in the control room now. And she’s free.

The TARDIS matrix drives House out of the TARDIS, as the Doctor watches and encourages her.

And then Idris calls to the Doctor. She’s glowing with golden light. She tells the Doctor that she’s been searching for a word, a big complicated word, but so sad. And she’s found it.

DOCTOR: What word?
IDRIS: Alive.
DOCTOR: Alive isn’t sad.
IDRIS: It is when it’s over. I’ll always be here. But this is when we talked. And there’s something I wanted to say to you.
DOCTOR: Goodbye.
IDRIS: No. Hello. Hello, Doctor. It’s so very, very nice to meet you.
DOCTOR: Please. I don’t want you to.

But she has to. She’s back in the TARDIS now, but she’s gone, too. She can’t talk again.

Rory says that at the end, she kept repeating, “The only water in the forest is the river.” She said they’d need to know that at some point.

Rory’s bothered by Idris’s death, despite having seen death many times.

DOCTOR: Letting it get to you. You know what that’s called? Being alive.

He asks the TARDIS where they should go this time.

DOCTOR: What do you think, dear? Where should we take the kids this time?
AMY: Look at you. It’s always you two, long after the rest have gone.

The Doctor tells them that he’ll make them a new bedroom, and Amy and Rory ask if they can have something other than bunkbeds this time, despite the Doctor pointing out that they’re beds with a ladder.

They head off to bed, and the Doctor’s left, as always, with his TARDIS.

Next week: a Matthew Graham episode, but it looks much, much better than “Fear Her”.

Strange Conversations: Part Three Hundred and Sixty

Posted 4334 days ago in by Catriona

ME: So there’s a rumour that River Song is Bernice Summerfield? Surely that makes no sense?
NICK: None whatsoever, even though Moffat’s a huge Cornell fan. And of course River Song bears some resemblance to Benny.
ME: Yes, in that she’s an archaeologist. But Bernice is in the Doctor’s past. She was a companion of the 7th and 8th Doctors.
NICK: Yeah. It’s more of an archetype thing there. It would be the kind of revelation that makes no sense to 99% of the audience.
ME: Oh, you mean like when the Master killed Rassilon with laser bolts from his hands and everyone said, “Who?”
NICK: Mmm, ok, make that 99.9999%.
ME: RTD was not afraid to bewilder 99% of the audience and drive the other 1% psychotic with fury.

Strange Conversations: Part Three Hundred and Fifty-Nine

Posted 4336 days ago in by Catriona

While watching the Fifth Doctor adventure “Terminus”:

ME: This makes no sense.
NICK: I know! Giant space-ship with the power of time-travel?
ME: The Time Lords would have been all over that.
NICK: So much.

Then he explained how it was ret-conned in the novelisation.

Envy our lifestyle at your peril!

Live-blogging Doctor Who Season Six: "The Curse of the Black Spot"

Posted 4340 days ago in by Catriona

Here I am, in a little side dimension in which Doctor Who doesn’t clash with the second semi-final of Eurovision. You can’t say I’m not a dedicated live-blogger.

In this side dimension, it’s a bit cold and my back really, really hurts. I don’t dare take muscle relaxants, lest the live-blogging degenerate into unfocused gibberish. (I do aim for focused gibberish.) But I’m here, and the episode is here, and my back pain is here, so let’s see if they can all play nicely together, shall we?

I’ll be honest: I’m inclined to dislike this one just on the basis of its title. It seems as though it’s intended to be funny without actually being, you know, very funny.

We open on a misty ocean, with swarthy pirate types rowing towards a ship. They’re not thrilled, and Kenny from Press Gang asks what’s wrong. A man’s wounded, apparently.

They wake Captain Hugh Bonneville.

The captain checks the sailor’s hand, seeing a slight scratch.

He tells the sailor he’s a dead man, just like all the others. And we hear a woman’s voice singing ethereally. The sailor says he can escape, but instead he just disappears into a scream and some off-cuts from the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack.

The sailors whine about being shark bait, before the Doctor leaps out of a hatch.

DOCTOR: Yo ho ho! Or does nobody actually say that?


The TARDIS is below decks: the Doctor claims that his sensors picked up a ship in distress.

Kenny thinks they’re spirits, and the captain doesn’t seem convinced by the Doctor’s modern gibberish. He thinks they’re stowaways, since the ship’s been becalmed for eight days.

KENNY: What do we do with them?
CAPTAIN: Oh, I think they deserve our hospitality.

That means walking the plank.

The sailors all roar with laughter.

DOCTOR: I think doing that laugh must be in the job description. Can you do the laugh? Great! Grab yourself a parrot. Welcome aboard!

They take the doxy (that would be Amy) below decks, over Rory’s faint protests that “She’s not a doxy, all right?” And the Doctor’s ready to walk the plank, after asking the sailors to do the laugh again.

Amy, below decks, find some cutlasses and a truly awesome coat.

She shows back up deck just as the Doctor is rambling about the small number of crew members.

The captain says a sword could kill them all, and they do seem quite terrified of it. Mind, Amy’s surprisingly good with it.

She manages to slice one of the pirates in passing.

PIRATE: You have killed me.
AMY: No way. It’s just a cut!

That’s good, because Rory’s got a cut as well. And now he has a black spot on his palm, too.

Apparently, the ocean-borne demon can smell the blood, and now she’ll rise from the depths and take Rory and the other pirate.

But the song has an unusual effect, and Rory’s gone all soggy and sentimental, telling Amy that she should dress as a pirate more often.

RORY: Everything is totally brilliant, isn’t it? Look at these brilliant pirates. Look at their brilliant beards!

And then there’s a strange glowing patch on the waters, and the siren rises from the depths, singing (or maybe bringing the music with her).

NICK: I’m sure you could see her knickers at one point there.

Amy holds Rory back, but they just let the pirate walk forwards, touch the siren’s hand, and burst into a puff of dust.

Amy tells the siren that Rory’s spoken for; the siren turns red and fierce, and throws Amy across the deck. And they all flee below deck.

The Doctor raves about Freud and his comfy sofa for a bit before someone is fortuitously bitten by a leech, which distracts everyone. The Doctor says they’re safe from the siren here, before she appears in front of them.

They retreat even further, behind another door. The Doctor says that she’s using the water as a portal, so the captain says that they should retreat to the magazine: since the powder’s kept there, the place is bone dry.

The key to the magazine has gone, but the door is open. Someone else is hiding there.

The door’s barricaded behind them, just in time for them to hear a suspicious coughing from an empty barrel. It’s a small boy, who turns out to be the captain’s son.

The captain says that the boy’s mother will be searching for him, but it’s all right: she’s dead.

This bit I find confusing. The captain recognises this boy as his son, but the boy is talking as though he’s never seen his father, as though he doesn’t know anything but what his mother’s told him. So, if he hasn’t seen his father since he was a toddler (the boy was a toddler, not the father: stupid pronouns), would the father immediately recognise him? And if that’s a stupid question, how would the boy know where to find his father, since this man is clearly not—as the boy’s mother claimed—an honourable man and a navy officer?

Never mind all that. Let’s get back to the killing.

The boy keeps coughing. I’m sure that’s not important to the narrative.

The captain says it’s too dangerous for the boy to stay, but he’s already been marked by the black spot, so that’s all right. The boy hasn’t bled, but he does have a fever. She’s coming for all the sick and injured.

The Doctor says that they can all leave in the TARDIS, just before the boy opens a barrel of water and the siren sticks her hand out.

Leaving the boy and others behind, the captain and the Doctor head out to find the TARDIS, to get them all away.

DOCTOR: We’ve all got to go sometimes. There are worse ways than having your face gnawed off by a dodgy mermaid.

The captain copes quite well with the weirdness of the TARDIS, before Amy nags Rory a bit.

Kenny and the other pirate decide to leave the magazine, while elsewhere the Doctor explains the TARDIS’s workings.

TOBY: He told you to wait, you dog. He’s your captain.

Kenny tells Toby that his father is a pirate, which is maybe a bit mean, but then Toby did call him a dog. He also tells Toby that his father has gunned down a thousand innocent men.

The TARDIS is becalmed.

DOCTOR: You had to gloat, didn’t you?

Toby stops Kenny from leaving by slicing his hand open with a cutlass.

Oh my god: you killed Kenny! You bastard!

(I had to. You understand, right?)

Seriously, that’s pretty cold for a ten-year-old boy. Even a seventeenth-century ten-year-old boy. He really takes this chain of command thing seriously, does Toby.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor can’t get a lock on the plane. And then the TARDIS throws a complete fit.

Elsewhere, Kenny is furious, but recognises that he can’t really shoot them, not with all the powder around, and he can’t leave. But Mulligan, the last pirate, can and does leave.

The Doctor can’t bring the TARDIS under control. She’s about to dematerialise, so the Doctor gives the order to abandon ship. The TARDIS disappears in a familiar green haze with a sick wheeze.

They dash back to the magazine, meeting Mulligan on the way. He has the supplies, but the captain is more worried about his treasure and gives chase. Hiding, Mulligan burns his hand on a lamp. Up pops the siren: bang goes Mulligan. But there’s no water in that room. So how did she get in?

DOCTOR: I was wrong. Please ignore all my theories up to this point.

Apparently, she’s coming in through reflections. So this seems a good time for Toby to polish the medal his father left him.

The Doctor and the captain rush back to the magazine, to warn Amy, Rory, and Toby.

Wait. Where’s Kenny? Did an entire pirate just disappear?

The Doctor smashes everything reflective that he can find, and tries to throw the captain’s treasure overboard. Luckily, the captain seems to listen to reason, and heads off to grab the crown.

A breeze comes up, rippling the surface of the ocean.

Seriously, Kenny’s completely disappeared. How did they lose an entire pirate? Did the siren grab him off-camera? Wouldn’t someone mention that to the captain?

Now Toby says that there’s been no word from his father for three years—presumably, that’s when he turned pirate. But that doesn’t mean that’s the last time he was home. That bothers me.

Amy, dreaming (or not), sees the woman with the eye-patch again, who tells her that she’s doing fine, and to stay calm.

On deck, the Doctor and the captain talk about their experiences as captains. The Doctor’s a bit nosy about how the captain turned pirate, but the captain’s a reticent man.

Where’s Kenny? Does anyone care?

A storm comes up, with what seems like surprising suddenness to me—and I live in a sub-tropical city. The captain demands everyone climb up into the rigging so they can cut loose the sail. Or furl it. Or something nautical. I remember reading somewhere that you cut sails loose in a storm so the ship doesn’t capsize. But then aren’t you short a sail? Maybe you only cut them loose in an emergency?

Note to all: don’t get stuck with me on a sailing ship in a storm. You’ll all die.

CAPTAIN: Heave ho, you bilge rats.
RORY: “Rats” is all I heard.

Toby grabs the captain’s coat … and out rolls the crown. That’s not ideal.

And sure enough, the siren pops out of the crown and draws Toby towards her. He touches her hand and explodes into dust. Amy holds Rory, to keep him from the siren.

The Doctor lambasts the captain for his greed, but Rory’s knocked overboard when the sails (or mast or something nautical) swings round.

Amy wants to leap in, but the Doctor says that Rory can only be saved by the siren, and releases her from the barrel.

DOCTOR: That thing isn’t just a ravenous hunter. It’s intelligent. We can reason with it. And maybe, just maybe, they’re still alive somewhere.

But why would you think that? There’s been no reason to think that, given her past behaviour.

So they all prick their fingers.

Now that’s an insane leap of faith, right there.

Also? Where’s Kenny? How do you lose a pirate?

Seemingly, they’re in an alternative dimension, which overlaps with the captain’s ship. But didn’t the captain say that the siren had been preying on other ships? Were they all becalmed in the same spot, then? Or was that just myth and this is reality?

This episode confuses me. And are we doing the corner-of-the-eye/world-in-the-mirror schtick again?

This alternative ship is the one that was sending the distress call. And there’s some humour about mucus that I’m not transcribing.

In a mysterious room full of floating beds, they find all their loved ones.

AMY: Rory!

The pirates are there, too. And there’s Kenny! Hey, we found Kenny!

That’s one giant flaw in the editing, right there.

Hiding and looking at the siren as she wanders among the beds, the Doctor decides that her song is an anaesthetic, by which she puts the patients into stasis.

And at this point, Nick guesses what’s going on.

Yes, she’s an emergency medical hologram, just like in Voyager. She won’t let them take the patients out of the sick bay, but apparently her programming is intelligent enough that she can recognise Amy’s prior claim on Rory. Do they have marriage on her planet? How would she understand marriage just from watching a bunch of seventeenth-century pirates? Were they marrying one another to pass the time?

Actually, how did she model herself on an attractive human woman when all she’s come across are pirates? (There’s no one else in the sickbay but the pirates, apparently.)

Never mind that.

They can’t move Rory, because he’s at the point of death, what with the drowning and all. So he has to stay, or Amy has to learn how to do CPR well enough to save her sort-of-drowning-on-dry-land husband once they unlock him.

The Doctor, meanwhile, wants to send the ship back into space, to stop the siren getting to dry land and forcibly healing everyone. (Shades of “The Empty Child”/“The Doctor Dances” now.)

The captain decides to stay with his son, whom the Doctor quickly diagnoses with typhoid fever. And the Doctor and Amy drag Rory into the TARDIS, where they perform CPR on him for roughly twenty years before giving up. But that’s all right: maybe because he used to be an Auton, Rory can be saved by the power of love alone. Remember how that worked in the Winston Churchill episode?

Now, why is this episode reminding me of the Winston Churchill episode, I wonder?

Anyway, he’s alive.

The captain and Toby sail the ship through space, supported by a pirate crew, including Kenny the Amazing Disappearing Pirate.

NICK: Yes, let’s give a bunch of pirates a spaceship.

Amy and Rory head off to bed, while the Doctor checks a scan of Amy’s appearing/disappearing pregnancy and wonders what she’s got herself into this time.

Next time: Neil Gaiman! Neil Gaiman! Neil Gaiman!

Live-blogging Eurovision: Semi-Final 2, 2011

Posted 4340 days ago in by Catriona

Reminder: the Doctor Who live-blog for “Curse of the Black Spot” will be posted immediately after I finish live-blogging this semi-final, not after Doctor Who finishes airing.

This live-blogging brought to you by my abject failure to meet today’s marking quota.

Also brandy and lemonade.

Once again, Nick will be moderating the comments while I sit over here and bitch about the performers.

I like Julia’s dress! It’s tres funky.

I hope someone punches that male co-host properly this time.

I love the way they recognise the patriotism and the voting blocs. Just vote now! You don’t need to wait for the end or even until your country has performed! Vote! Vote like the wind!

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: “Love in Rewind”, Merlin
Now, why are we mocking this man’s age when we could be mocking his yodelling?
Nick’s loving the guitar, but I’m actually a bit attracted this this song. It’s boppy and Euro-flavoured without being cloying. Just the way I like my Eurovision.
Also, I’d like to see more of the backdrop, because what I can see is intriguing.
I actually don’t hate this.
I know: I’m as surprised as you are.
We liked that. We’re voting for that, only not really.

AUSTRIA: “The Secret is Love”, Nadine Beiler
I’m automatically biased against anyone who just has themselves on stage.
Purely on the grounds that they’re less likely to have women rise out of grand pianos, or maybe ice skaters.
Disney lite, this.
But excellent legs, as always.
And “Disney lite” is a pretty damning inditement, given how light Disney itself always is.
NICK: I’m a bit worried about her eye shadow. From that angle, she looks like a Silent. So if we look away, we won’t remember what she’s singing.
ME: Let’s look away!
Key change!
Oooh, did she hit that?

Oh, whoa.
That hair should have a public health warning attached to it.
NICK: It’s times like this I’m pleased I’m bald.
I’m having terrible flashbacks to early high school. I swear I heard this exact song in 1989.
But I did my maths homework! The dog ate it!
I’m simultaneously bored and traumatised.

BELGIUM: “With Love Baby”, Witloof Bay
Wow, I’m bopping along to a song for the second time tonight!
NICK: He’s doing a bass line too! Crazy bastard!
The worst thing I can say about this is that the suits are truly, truly terrible. So is the hair, actually.
But the beatboxing is brilliant.
Two beatboxers! Okay, I’m loving these guys. I won’t remember the song in five minutes, but I’m loving them right now.
NICK: Bravo! I think the problem is that the presentation is hideous.

SLOVAKIA: “I’m Still Alive”, Twiins
So, they’re twins, right?
Hideous dresses, excellent legs.
Legs are to this year’s Eurovision what hair was to last year’s Eurovision.
NICK: They’ve got capes. Capes and boobs.
This seems a bit nasal to me, but then I know nothing about music.
Also? I really hate the modern fashion for Madonna partings and slicked-down hair.
NICK: I said capes and cleavage! Not capes and boobs! You’ll have to correct that!
We’re totally underwhelmed by this song. Even the fireworks aren’t winning us over.

You know what’s great? Brandy. Brandy and lemonade. I need more brandy!

Also? I’m been marking since 9 am. Hooray!

I want to go to tilt-shift Germany!

UKRAINE: “Angel”, Mika Newton
Ooh, sand painting!
I’ll be honest: I’m more interested in the sand painting her than in the song. The song is dull. The sand painting is incredible.
Nick’s digging the Cruella de Ville look on the sand painter.
I hope they get through so that I can watch the sand painting properly without having to type at the same time.
Seriously, how does she bring those subtleties of light and shade with just sand?
I paid no attention to the song at all.

MOLDOVA: “So Lucky”, Zdob si Zdub
I have no attention if I got that name right.
Wow, what’s with the wizard hats?
Is this actually happening, or is it a brandy hallucination?
There’s a unicycle.
This is definitely a brandy hallucination.
NICK: That girl on the unicycle looks a bit like Lucy Lawless. So I approve.
I would like this go through. We need psychotic gnomes in Eurovision.
That was insane.

SWEDEN: “Popular”, Eric Saade
We need that Viking to sing.
I would never have guessed he used to be in a boy band.
NICK: He’s got one glove! Oh my god: Dr Claw!
Well, it’s energetic.
NICK: This is well-aged Euro-cheese.
As Nick points out, it is good choreography, but the white sneakers are distracting.
Is that one dancer wearing braces but no shirt?
Now that would have been the perfect place for a key change.
NICK: I’m holding out for a key change!
Wait, was that a key change? Or even two key changes?

CYPRUS: “No chance I was going to catch that”, Christos Mylordos
Nick’s still singing the Swedish entry.
We’re pre-disposed in this entry’s favour, because they’re Cypriot Goths.
I ca’t even repeat what Nick just said about the set dressing.
Are they on wires? Or are they on foot wires?
NICK: It must be those foot braces. Like Michael Jackson used to use.
ME: No, he did not!
Wow. Ball-and-chain swinging.
This is a bit lacking in energy, but I really want them to go through anyway.

BULGARIA: “Na Inat”, Poli Genova
ME: Heidelberg!
NICK: Yeah.
ME: That’s where Hamlet was studying! That’s how old that university is!
I mean, I love my campus, but Hamlet never studied there.
Why don’t I remember Poland? Have they performed?
What? Bulgaria? Well, it’s not Great Uncle Bulgaria, that’s for sure.
NICK: Watching this making me realise how good Pink is at what she does. And I don’t even necessarily mean that sarcastically.
Nope, flames can’t save this. It’ll probably get through, though.

FYR MACEDONIA: “Russinka”, I’m sorry: I missed that
Ack! Underwater elephant!
NICK: Who’s he trying to gun down with that Telecaster?
ME: Capital T for Telecaster?
NICK: T-e-l-e-c-a-s-t-e-r.
ME: I know how to spell it. I just don’t know if it’s a proper noun.
This is not winning me over.
NICK: This is better than the last seven James Bond themes. Which it’s channeling.
Bored out of my skull.
Nope. Even an accordion can’t win me over.
NICK: Accordion and megaphone! Two most annoying things in the universe! In one song!

ISRAEL: “Ding Dong”, Dana International
Ding Dong?
Ding Dong?
That dress is incredible. I mean, it’s ugly. But incredible.
Her biceps are fantastic. Aren’t they?
Key change!
NICK: It’s a musical education. Before Eurovision, I wouldn’t have been so confident identifying a key change.

SLOVENIA: “No One”, Maja Keuc
Another power ballad? Oh no!
How can she even move in that dress?
Of course, she’s not moving much.
I read somewhere today that women over 35 shouldn’t wear knee-high boots. Screw that. But thigh-high boots are another issue.
This song is so boring I think it gave me cancer.

ROMANIA: “Change”, Hotel FM
NICK: You’re as cooold as ice!
NICK: Back-up singers are crying out for a costume change.
I think I once heard this in a hotel elevator. In 1986.
Then we decided we didn’t hate it.
NICK: I like the Han Solo vest.
ME: It’s tartan!
NICK: Really?
ME: On the back!
NICK: Well, Han Solo never had that.
I am bopping to this. But I am tipsy.
Aw, it’s just so cute. I can’t hate this.
Am I out of booze already?

ME: I know I come across as a drunken slapper in these.
NICK: No, you don’t.
ME: I try my best.

I will really cranky when SBS went commercial. Now I’m just deeply grateful for the toilet breaks.

I always figured that Jedward was what Bella Swan would name her child if she’d had a son.

Wow, lips on her chest. Subtle. Subtle.

ESTONIA: “Rockefeller Street, Getter Jaani
I may have mis-spelt the singer’s name there.
Again with the same hair! The centre part and the slicked-down hair! What is with this?
Did she just sing 1-2-7-3? She did!
I’m assuming that’s an address? Or a bus number?
Why am I over-interpreting this?
NICK: I once played a game of Sim City that was a bit like this. But I think I was on cold medication.
I can’t type without snorting on my keyboard.
Still, good to see she’s keeping Europe’s hair-extension makers in business.

BELARUS: “I Love Belarus”, Anastasia Vinnikova
Well, it starts well.
NICK: They start like they mean to go on. In fire.
Once again, truly exceptional legs.
I like the way the bak-up singers’ mic stands act as modesty panels.
NICK: Belarus. Only slightly hellish.
This does nothing for me, but, then, I’ve never been to Belarus.
ME: I don’t even know where Belarus is.
NICK: All I can think of is Donald Belasarius, creator of Magnum PI.

LATVIA: “Angel in Disguise”, Musiqq
He does look like Elvis Costello!
NICK: He’s playing guitar like Oliver’s Army is chasing him.
The music to this is quite interesting, but the lyrics are killing me slowly.
Now he’s rapping? Rapping Elvis Costello? That is not right.
I actually have no opinion on this. Someone could ask, “Should we kill the Latvian entry to Eurovision?” and I’d be all, “Who?”

DENMARK: “New Tomorrow”, A Friend in London
Okay, I went to a boarding school. Semi-boarding. You know which band came out of that boarding school? Human Nature. Let that be a lesson to you.
NICK: Some Dragon Ball Z haircuts in this.
What is with these hand gestures?
You remember I mentioned a song that was so boring it gave me cancer?
(I’m glad you remember. I don’t remember which song it was now.)
This is even more boring.
The hair is truly awful in this.
NICK: I’m not hating this. Maybe I should be, but I’m not.

IRELAND: “Lipstick”, Jedward
NICK: I think I might need to start following them on Twitter.
I am making no comments about sexual orientation, whatever the Internet says.
When did Ireland decide to stop trying to lose?
Seriously, though, there is no justification for that hair.
NICK: They’re wearing Judge Dredd shoulder pads!
Secretly, they’re kind of awesome, aren’t they?
Also, those legs are way too gorgeous to be on stage with teenage boys.
Oooh, acrobatics!
Okay, I declare myself pro-Jedward.

Oooh, break!

Back soon, I promise, for the results.

Remember: only fifteen minutes remain for woting.

Seriously, what is with these green rooms? Who makes them? What building on Earth has room for them?

I think I might regret all this brandy and lemonade we drank tonight, come tomorrow.

ACK! Underwater elephant again!

I still love Bosnia & Herzegovina. And I’m a lot less sober than I was the first time we watched them perform.

NICK: The Ukrainian singer is also pleasingly diaphanous.
ME: You’re a pervert!
NICK: Yes.

I hate this male co-host with the fiery fury of a billion suns.

NICK: The fiery fury of a billion suns? Shout out!

MALE CO-HOST: Two things that do not go together? England and penalty shoot-outs.

Oh, I hate him even more now.

But seriously? Classical music and break-dancing? Oh, you wacky Germans!

The acts in the breaks are way, way better than the actual Eurovision acts this year.

Okay, I’m a bit over the classical break-dancing now.

United Kingdom, please don’t get nil points. Everyone laughs at me at the Eurovision party, and it’s kinda hard to pretend I’m not embarrassed.

Oooh, results!

1. ESTONIA. Oh, really? Wow. I mean … wow.
2. ROMANIA. We liked him! Hooray!
3. MOLDOVA. Ooh, the gnomes!
4. IRELAND. No surprise there.
6. DENMARK. Oh, we had no opinion about them.
7. AUSTRIA. No, really?
8. UKRAINE. Sand painting!
9. SLOVENIA. Did we like them? I can’t remember. Oh, yes! Hooray!
10. SWEDEN. No surprises there.

Oh, I’ll be able to watch the sand-painting tomorrow night, without having to type. I am glad about that.

And that’s it for the live-blogging for Eurovision 2011. No live-blogging for the final. But I’m sure we’ll all be hoping that the male host gets repeatedly kicked in the shins tomorrow night.

See you here next year for Eurovision 2012!

Strange Conversations: Part Three Hundred and Fifty-Eight

Posted 4341 days ago in by Catriona

We only ever have these conversations during marking times.

ME: Could you put a pot of coffee on?
NICK: Now?
ME: I’m sorry that my demands are so intensely unreasonable.
NICK: I’m just building a bitching guitar solo.
ME: Really? I’m just building a bitching headache.
NICK: I’ll make some coffee.

Live-blogging Eurovision: Semi-Final 1, 2011

Posted 4341 days ago in by Catriona

And here we are for the first of the Eurovision semi-finals! Well, here I am. I don’t actually know where you are. But I’m just going to assume you’re here; otherwise, I’d just be talking to myself.

In the interests of full disclosure, I’ve forgotten to write out the song titles in advance. Again. For the third year running. So there are bound to be a few songs called “Damn, I can’t type that fast.”

(Nick will be moderating comments while I’m typing, as per usual.)

I rather regret not watching this entire Eurovision doco now. The bits I’m seeing here are actually quite interesting—and disturbing, given the bit about the Russian police attacking that gay rights march.

Encouraging Nick to go and get a beer. He can’t abide watching Eurovision sober.

Ooh, I think we’re actually starting! Yep, this looks German all right.

I know this is probably unAustralian, but I miss Terry Wogan. Come back, Terry! All is forgiven!

As usual, Eurovision is being hosted by a staggeringly tall woman and a man with what looks like a handlebar moustache. Actually, that last one might be a bit new. I do like the swirly stage.

Ooh, look! The traditional Eurovision misogyny!

NICK: The banter is even more forced than usual.

I was really, really hoping someone would punch that host; I only hope someone punches him properly in a minute.

This misogyny schtick is wearing thin for me already. Punch him! Punch him!

(Wendy, Nick was trying not to make a German comedy joke. Thank you for taking the responsibility out of his hands!)

Punch him!

Punch him now!

Reverse sexism doesn’t make the misogyny funny!

Oooh, it’s all tilt-shifty! How lovely!

POLAND: “Jeslem”, Magadelena Tul.
Quoth Nick, “I’ve got to say; the new TARDIS control room is looking good.”
Oh, I see Poland just decided not to bother with pants. I suppose it saves them from the costume change.
Oh, wait: two are wearing pants.
NICK: Okay. Those two in the back better be taking their gear off.
This song is deeply, deeply boring, but the legs are exceptional.
Are we even getting a key change here?
And no, I don’t count those weird puffs of steam as proper fireworks.

NORWAY: “Haba Haba”, Stella Mwangi.
The Norwegians are singing in Swahili? Is that a Eurovision first?
The stage, despite those nice swirly bits, is really quite dull, don’t you think?
The song’s not grabbing me so far, but that dress is a bit wacky.
Oh my god: it’s not a dress. It’s formal shorts with a bustle.
Who said Eurovision wasn’t wacky this year?
Still, at least the front row can’t see up her skirt.
But it’s like her bottom is wearing a cape. It’s distracting, and not in the way a bottom is supposed to be distracting.

ALBANIA: “Feel the Passion”, Aurela Gace
Isn’t it strange how much Germany looks like Brighton?
Well, Albania seem to be doing something a bit more interesting with the staging than the last two acts tried to do.
Flamethrowers! That’s more like it.
NICK: Dry ice and flame? I mean, seriously. It’s got everything.
We don’t care so much about the actual music. You might have noticed that.
This sounds a bit like an’ 80s European metal band decided to do an album of covers of ’50s pop songs. But I like it more than the last two.

ARMENIA: “Boom Boom”, Emmy
I need a chair that looks like a boxing glove.
NICK: Lady Santa in a giant glove. I can think of at least three fetishes right now.
This is staggeringly awful.
I hope it gets through!
Believe it or not, the male back-up dancers are showing even more cleavage than the singer.
Nick hasn’t been commenting because he can’t stop laughing.
Where did that boxing ring come from? I only looked away for a second!
Oh, she didn’t hit that note. Not by a long shot.

Wow, the commentators are trying really, really hard not to be bitchy about that one.

I’m loving the tilt shift.

TURKEY: “Live it Up”, Yuksek Sadakat
I don’t mind the back drop and I love his gold fringy shirt and their whole-hearted commitment to flamethrowers.
Nick thinks it sounds like the opening to the Beverley Hills 90210 theme song.
They have a female contortionist in a sphere. That’s definitely something new.
This is not staggeringly awful, but to be honest, it’s a bit dull.
More than a bit dull.
And that contortionist in a sphere is worrying me a bit. What’s the purpose of that, do you suppose?
No, the wings don’t actually answer my question.

Oh, I cannot wait for Portugal!

They really didn’t get that Les Murray joke.

SERBIA: “Caraban”, Nina
Well, they’ve already won me over with the funky pink background and the funky dresses.
The orange back-up singer’s dress is a bit short, isn’t it?
NICK: That orange singer’s trying to hypnotise the audience! It’s … working.
I wouldn’t listen to this voluntarily, and the white tights are as wrong now as they were in the ’60s (and again in the ’80s). But the song’s cute. We haven’t had much cute yet.
This is definitely the liveliest thing we’ve seen all night.
Nick and I both liked that one. We want Serbia to go through.

RUSSIA: “Get You”, Alexej Vorobjov”
Okay, if I had to visualise a Russian stunt man, this is what I would have visualised.
NICK: Back to The Outsiders, Pony Boy.
Nick is fascinated by this one.
NICK: He has two George Michael impersonators and a Zac Efron impersonator!
That line “I lost my mind somewhere between your …” is a bit too risque for Eurovision, isn’t it?
I don’t know what’s happening here, but I wouldn’t mind watching it again on Sunday night.
There was a back flip? I missed the back flip!

SWITZERLAND: “In Love For A While”, Anna Rossinelli
Oh, dear: I hate this already.
In fact, I might hate the entirety of Switzerland for somehow managing to make a ukelele horribly twee.
This is like the musical version of blank verse: nothing seems to scan or fit the rhythm.
The back drop is gorgeous, though. I’m warming to this staging, after the boring first couple.
Don’t these songs go for about three minutes? They couldn’t stretch to writing the full complement of verses?
NICK: We’re getting short-changed on lyrics here!
I know, I know: I sound bitter. I just have a really low tolerance for things that are hatefully twee.

GEORGIA: “One More Day”, Eldrine
I really don’t want to think of Offspring and rappers at the same time, thanks.
They’ve got an interesting stage, too.
Nick’s fascinated by the dress.
NICK: Is she holding out for a hero?
We’re more impressed by the guitarist’s awesome jacket than we are by the song, which we’ve decided is like an Evanescence tribute band.
Okay, I’m rooting for them to go through.
The singer is single-handedly filling Eurovision’s hair quotient.

FINLAND: “Da Da Dam”, Paradise Oskar.
Moomins! Moomins!
Nick thinks the lead singer looks like Michael Cera.
I’m going to change my name to Paradise Catriona.

No, I’m not. Not now I see it in print.
Can’t type. Laughing too hard.
Oh, he’s so sincere, and he’s got such a cute accent, and it’s so bad.
I wish it were in Finnish. That would be better.
I hope he gets through. He’s so sincere and the back-drop is pretty.

MALTA: “One Life”, Glen Vella
I would like Malta to win. But only because they’ve never won before. This song itself is not grabbing me.
Why are the back-up singers wearing fetish gear and the singer’s wearing jeans?
NICK: More traditional national costumes should be in rubber.
I had no idea that the ’80s were back so … so … unironically.
Key change!
I’m a bit besotted with those two male back-up dancers. No, not for that reason. They’re just so cheerful!
They do look like Cate Blanchett in Indiana Jones!

SAN MARINO: “Stand By”, Senit
More dry ice. They’re really loving the dry ice this year.
Well, I hope there’s not a zombie attack. She’ll never be able to flee for her life in that dress and retain her dignity.
As Nick pointed out, there’s not much energy in this. Which is why I’m visualising zombie attack instead of blogging.
Also, fraught love ballads should never include the lyrics “if you don’t mind”.
Except for Canadian ballads, natch.
Oh my: that was dull.

CROATIA: “Celebrate”, Daria
NICK: Oh, they’ve got a prat in a hat!
ME: Nick, you have a hat just like that.
NICK: No, I want a hat just like that. There’s a difference.
The quality of legs in this year’s Eurovision is excellent.
The DJ looks like he’s from The Mighty Boosh. He also approves the legs.
Magic costume change!
The DJ is also a magician!
NICK: But the dress is longer! It doesn’t work that way round!
The song has made no impression on me at all, but they have a DJ-magician. I want them to go through.
And another magic costume change!
I vote for Croatia.

ICELAND: “Coming Home”, Sjonni’s Friends
I probably shouldn’t be bitchy about this one, should I?
I do wish it wasn’t in English, though.
I like the steampunky background.
This is cute and boppy. I could say some acerbic things about it, but then I’d feel bad.
I do like the way they slow it down at the end. Is there a word for that?

At last, a little breather for the fingers.

A very little breather for the fingers.

Oh, this Russian chap is fairly confident in himself, isn’t he?

Oh, no! Not more Finnish song! Please!

HUNGARY: “What About My Dreams?”, Kati Wolf
What does she have on her hand?
NICK: It’s a hand fascinator.
I had a Barbie with that exact dress, except in pink. You could unwrap the sleeve bit and wind it round her knees to make a fetching evening dress. I hope that happens here.
I’ll give it this much: it’s lively.
Also, she seems to have a ninja.
I’m not convinced she’s hitting all the notes, though.
I don’t like that asymmetrical skirt. It looks like her dress is tucked in her knickers.
She’ll probably go through, though.

PORTUGAL: I missed all of that, because I was trying to work out the accent over the “e”
I have to admire them for their whole-heartedness.
But I’m having horrible sympathetic acid flashbacks to a year before I was even born.
I’m sure I saw Sarah-Jane Smith in that outfit with the red beret.
I have a feeling I might engage with this song better if I had the faintest idea about Portuguese history (or Portuguese, for that matter).
It seems so chirpy for a song with so many placards and fist salutes.

LITHUANIA: “C’est Ma Vie”, Evelina Sasenko
NICK: It’s always “my life”. It’s always “It’s my life” or “what about my life?” or “oh, I left my life over there”.
Full disclosure: I’m automatically going to hate anything described as an “operatic ballad”. This is no exception.
NICK: She’s definitely got the chest of an opera singer. There’s no need to put that on the blog.
The sign language has won us over a bit, but apparently it was only relevant for that one verse.
NICK: They’ll be like “where’s the chorus? You just boned us out of a chorus!”
I hope someone bursts out of that piano. That would be the only thing that would reclaim this.
Too late.

AZERBAIJAN: “Running Scared” Ell/Nikki
Sam is being really unpleasantly bitchy about the women in this competition. He might be bitching out the men as well, but I’m really noticing it with the women.
Oh, there goes the hair quotient, up again.
With those skirts, they want to be a bit careful with the wind machine.
Does this one sound like an inexpensive Kate Bush tribute band to anyone else?
Oh, good: flaming rain.
She better watch her hair extensions.
They’re the favourites? Wow, I’m out of touch on Eurovision trends.

GREECE: “Watch My Dance”, Lukas Yiorkas feat. Stereo Mike
Yes, but can you sing?
A rapper and breakdancing?
I am partial to breakdancing, it’s true.
Wait, why are they all just standing over in the corner during the serious ballady bit of the song?
I have to say, this isn’t really working well as a single unified song.
I’ve warmed very much to the set design, though. I thought the sets were boring, but really it was just the first couple of acts who were boring.
Nope, even the fireworks aren’t winning me over with this one.
And wow: it just ended. I mean, just … ended. With no warning.
Oh, I didn’t think the genres came together well at all.

Back soon for the results!

The automatic entries:

FRANCE: Nick thought it was Benedict Cumberbatch for a minute there.
SPAIN: Oh god! Clowns! Or something!
ITALY: I’ve forgotten it already.
UNITED KINGDOM: Awful. But did you expect anything else?
GERMANY: Is that Lena again? Or just a Lena clone?

Is there a company somewhere that specialises in just making these Eurovision green rooms? They all look the same.

And why does everyone only have one sleeve?


1. SERBIA. We liked them: they were boppy and adorable.
2. LITHUANIA. Oh, the opera singer … and her chest.
3. GREECE. Really? I didn’t care for that at all. Anthemic? Really?
4. AZERBAIJAN. No surprises, but I wasn’t a big fan. Kirsty’s right: it’s a bit Twilight.
5. GEORGIA. We liked them. Hooray!
6. SWITZERLAND. Oh, the horrifyingly twee one.
7. HUNGARY. With the hand fascinator. It’s is a perfectly Eurovision song.
8. FINLAND. Paradise Oskar. Oh, well there’ll be more laughs on Sunday night.
9. RUSSIA. Nice to see the ’80s are still popular.
10. ICELAND. I bet it was Iceland, and (for once in my life) I was right.

I’m sorry not to see the giant boxing glove back, but, let’s face it, it was terrible.

Well, that’s all for tonight. I’ll be back here tomorrow night for the second semi-final. Pop in if you’re passing!

Eurovision and the Doctor

Posted 4342 days ago in by Catriona

Once again, the Eurovision Song Contest is upon us.

And once again, I’m going to be live-blogging the semi-finals: not the final, but most definitely the semi-finals.

But, I hear you say (or maybe it was me), what about Doctor Who? Now that’s on a Saturday night, how ever will you manage to live-blog both it and Eurovision?

Since I wouldn’t miss live-blogging a Doctor Who episode about pirates for the world, I will simultaneously occupy two positions in space and time on Saturday night, in order to cover both. The Doctor Who live-blogging won’t be posted until after the Eurovision semi-final is finished, to avoid confusion on the front page, but the minute the last spangle has been swept from the stage, the TARDIS will appear.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to mark 60 first-year assignments.

But, if you have a mind to cheesy pop songs, join me back here this evening. You have to bring your own drinks, but it’s still a pretty good party.

Strange Conversations: Part Three Hundred and Fifty-Seven

Posted 4344 days ago in by Catriona

ME: I mean, Lexx is existentialist German science-fiction. I had to warn them.
NICK: Existentialist German science-porn.
ME: It can’t be more pornographic than that Charlie Stross book.
(Enormous crashing sound, as of fifty baking trays falling to the floor.)
NICK: The what?
ME: The one where she’s a pleasure bot, but there aren’t any humans left?
NICK: Oh, the Charlie Stross book.
ME: Yes, that’s what I said.
NICK: There was this huge crashing sound, did you notice?
ME: Oh, was there?
NICK: It was a pretty obscure crashing sound. You probably haven’t heard of it.

Strange Conversations: Part Three Hundred and Fifty-Six

Posted 4345 days ago in by Catriona

ME: Don’t panic. It’s just a guy being attacked by a moose. Wait, that’s not a moose. An elk?
NICK: That’s not a moose. This is a moose.
ME: You haven’t got a moose.
NICK: Oh, the disappointment!
ME: Well, you should have got a moose, shouldn’t you?

Strange Conversations: Part Three Hundred and Fifty-Five

Posted 4346 days ago in by Catriona

NICK: If you would allow me to massage your shoulders, you wouldn’t get so many headaches.
ME: You know how I feel about massages. It’s basically asking strangers to touch you for money, and I don’t really do that.
NICK: Except this would be me.
ME: True, and you’re not a stranger, and you wouldn’t be doing it for money.
NICK: Oh, no. I’d still need to be paid.



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