by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Liveblogging”

Live-Blogging Doctor Who: The Voyage of the Damned

Posted 29 June 2008 in by Catriona

Well, I’m not live-blogging it yet; I’m sitting on the back verandah, having a quick cigarette while ABC News runs through endless updates on tennis (seriously: most boring sport ever? Assuming golf doesn’t qualify as a sport?).

But I intend to live-blog all the episodes in this fourth season, barring catastrophe.

Live-blogging is now my favourite pastime; it puts inordinate stresses on the writing process, which I find refreshing.

But I’m not doing it with a bottle of vodka at my side any more.

Right, now I’m back in the living room—of course, I wonder whether there’s much point live-blogging if I can’t be sure that people will be reading at the same time. But, really, if I wrote the blog under those circumstances, I’d never get anything written.

They’re really pushing the Kylie Minogue angle—but I can’t really blame them.

Ooh, my spell checker doesn’t recognise either “Kylie” or “Minogue”—but it did take her a while to break into the U. S. market.

What? The Peter Serofinovich (near enough) Show? I’ve never heard of that. But I love him—thanks to Star Wars (embarrassingly) and Black Books and Shaun of the Dead, so I’ll probably watch that.

Low-level violence? I don’t remember that. But here we go—the Titanic improbably crashes through the TARDIS.

I wish they’d played the Children in Need special first, though—that was delightful.

NICK: New Zealand!
ME: What?
NICK: New Zealand Shipping Co. Ltd.

Right you are, then.

Ooh, the creepy robots; I like them. They remind me of the gorgeous deco robots in “Robots of Death”—they were stunning.

Ah, the revelation that it’s the space Titanic—and then the theme music. It’s new theme music, I think—hang on.

No, Nick says it was re-recorded after this. But then he tells me it is in fact a new mix for this, so I think he’s lying to me to make me look silly.

Geoffrey Palmer! Hey, Geoffrey! I love you! Don’t be evil!

Oh, you silly midshipman—leave the bridge, regardless of regulations. He’s sent everyone off for a reason, and you’ll regret this.

Oh, Palmer’s definitely evil. (Of course, I’ve seen this before—but that’s not the point. I can still tell he’s evil.)

Have we ever seen the Doctor in a tuxedo before?

Nick hates soft-rock carols—and I’m absolutely with him. I love real Christmas carols, but these things . . . no.

I’d never noticed before that the Doctor is imitating the robot’s head movements as it breaks down. Apparently it’s worse when the robots break down in first class—that’s a bit disturbing, given the conditions of the real Titanic’s sinking.

Ooh, Kylie! Hello, Kylie! Gee, she’s tiny.

She’s kind of adorable, though—especially when she grins. “Astrid” is an anagram for “TARDIS”, but I don’t know if that’s intentional. Kylie’s not lost her accent, though, at least not on the vowels. I do like hearing a genuine Australian accent on telly; it doesn’t happen enough, and it seems to be an extraordinarily difficult accent to counterfeit, for some reason.

Ah, the working-class passengers who are being mocked by the people in first class. But the Doctor gets revenge—petty, but amusing.

Uh oh, back to Geoffrey Palmer.

NICK: And in Davies’s scripts, there’s always someone saying “Doctor” as in medical doctor. Interesting. I don’t know what to make of it.

Make of that what you will—I’d be interested to hear opinions.

Ooh, Clive Swift. Apparently, there’s an excruciating interview with him in Doctor Who Magazine—according to Nick, from whom I got this information, Clive Swift made the whole thing very difficult for the interviewer. That’s a shame, because I’ve always found him amusing.

DOCTOR: The pyramids are beautiful. And New Zealand.
NICK: Yay!

Hey! It’s (spoiler!) Donna’s grandfather! I love you, you adorable old man.

Ah, the Queen’s staying in London. A lesson learned from her mother: “The King won’t leave the people, and I won’t leave the King.”

(Should those nouns be capitalised? I can’t tell at this stage, and I can’t be bothered looking it up. But I’m talking about specific monarchs, so I’ll leave them as is.)

Uh oh, Geoffrey Palmer again. This can’t be good. And do those meteors have engines? How are they turning on that sharp angle, otherwise?

Ha! The Doctor’s put his glasses on. That’s usually the sign for me to get whacked by an excitable friend when we watch these in groups, but Nick’s not susceptible to David Tennant’s charms. That I know of.

Oh, you poor midshipman. Geoffrey shows his true colours. He was a villain in the last Doctor Who story he was in, wasn’t he? Or at least a stooge? I’ll ask Nick in a moment.

Uh oh! Tiny asteroid.

NICK: Ha! It’s a gigantic Ferrero Rocher!

Oh, Geoffrey! I know you’re dying, but this is evil. You know that, don’t you? Although I’ll admit that that lugubrious face works well with this kind of character. I love you, Geoffrey! I’m sorry you’re dead. Or almost. No, actually dead now.

The screaming and the death gives me a good opportunity to ask Nick my question: apparently, Geoffrey wasn’t evil or a stooge in the last story, just a misguided beaurocrat. Also, Geoffrey—I’m sorry I’m calling you by your first name when we haven’t been formally introduced—I blame the exigencies of live-blogging. Oddly, “Geoffrey” is easier to type then “Mr Palmer.”

Man, this episode has a high body count—we’re up the steward being sucked out of the ship, if I haven’t been making the narrative absolutely clear, which I suspect I haven’t. But I don’t think I’ve seen this bloody an episode since “Horror of Fang Rock”—and that had a fairly small cast of characters from which to work. But this reminds me of classic episodes such as “Warriors of the Deep” and “Robots of Death,” naturally.

Slight pause while I figure out why the page just went really strange and then realise that I hit the “html” button accidentally. But that’s fine—we’re all here again.

The Heavenly Host have gone evil, by the way. Ah, evil robots. Have any Doctor Who episodes involving robots ever been bad?

The Doctor’s claiming to be 903 years old—is he lying about his age, again?

No! Don’t bring that robot back to life! You’re really going to regret that.

NICK: Hang on, Rich Chappy knew the Host said “You’re all going to die.” So he should know mending it is a bad idea. Bit of a plot hole, there. Mind, it’s the first time I’ve noticed it, in four times of watching.

Ah, “allons-y”—or something along those lines. (I think I can confidently say ‘Excuse my French’—it really is non-existent.) The Doctor’s habit of saying that is going to pay off in a really disturbing fashion in a devastating episode later in the season. (Spoiler!) Kind of.

The anti-cyborg attitude behind this episode is one of the more interesting aspects of the world-building: it’s a shame there isn’t more room to develop it further.

Ah, the disappearing life signs—that reminds me of something. Is it another Doctor Who episode? I can’t remember now.

Killer robots! Why oh why do people trust robots? It’s never a good idea. At least not in Doctor Who.

NICK: You’re supposed to be a helper robot! Why aren’t you helping?

Never mind, he’s been squished under a giant block.

NICK: In death, they’re extraordinarily unrealistic.

Nick thinks the last instance of the disappearing life signs was “Earthshock,” when the Cybermen’s android was slaughtering troopers. He could be right—I’ve blocked a lot of “Earthshock” out of my head, because it was a bit silly.

This whole episode is so The Poseidon Adventure—although now we appear to be crossing the bridge of Kazak Dhum (don’t check my spelling).

Nick was very unimpressed that the Afro-Caribbean man was the first to die. He’s just said so again—about the fifteenth time he’s said that. But he feels it is pandering too much to the conventions of the disaster movie.

(I agree, but I still laughed and laughed when Samuel L. Jackson was eaten by that giant shark in Deep Blue Sea—a movie so cliched that my father, who’s seen about fifteen movies since the late 1960s, was able to spot the plot developments before they happened, including the bit where the shark turned an oven on with its nose.)

Nick’s right—this scene is is beautifully lit. See, killer robots who can also fly is just cheating. What are you supposed to do about that? And it’s all very well to hit their haloes away with lead pipes, but what if you’re like me? I’m far more likely to whack myself on the back of the head and just make the whole thing easier for them.

Oops, second man down—little, spiky, red dude. I have no chance on Earth of spelling his name correctly, so we’ll just leave it at that.

Ah, about to be third man down.

But first, a Douglas Adams joke. I wish Douglas Adams were still writing for the programme. Of course, I wish Douglas Adams were still alive, and writing anything.

Now that’s the third man down. That’s a shame; I rather warmed to her.

Now the Doctor’s angry—this Doctor spends most of his time angry, it seems. Who was the last genuinely angry Doctor? The sixth regeneration was pretty cranky most of the time, but it wasn’t this kind of white-hot anger. Ah, but Sylvester McCoy was capable of this—remember “The Happiness Patrol”? That is the one I’m thinking of, right?

Ah, the point where the Doctor kisses the latest girl. Call me old fashioned, but I do think there’s too much kissing in this new incarnation. I preferred the original series in that respect. (And other respects, although I do love this new version.)

I think there’s a logical flaw in the “survivors must equal passengers or staff” argument that the Doctor sets up. Surely, survivors simply equal anyone who survives the crash, by definition. But, he might be talking about an assumption that the Host have been specifically programmed with a list of people who have survived and need to be hunted down. But surely that’s nonsensical—wouldn’t they just kill anyone human, regardless of their standing?

Oh, never mind.

In the interim, the Doctor is working up to a confrontation with the big boss, and Astrid is following him.

I’m not sure I want to be a disembodied head on some kind of hydraulic cart—that really doesn’t seem as though it would be a satisfactory life. Still, at least they seeded the necessary backstory for this with little, red, spiky man—I would like to know more about why Stow (is that right? We’ll leave it as is) despises cyborgs.

The head/cart thing is really creepy, though. And I do like a good revenge plan. I don’t care how fond the “ladies” are “of metal”—what can they do when you’re just a head on a cart?

Actually, seriously, don’t answer that. I have a feeling I could work out the answer with a bit of quick Googling—but I don’t think I want to.

Let’s just forget that bit ever happened, shall we?

Oh, dear, Astrid is making her move. Nick’s not sure why the robots don’t just kill the Doctor, anyway, but let’s be glad they don’t.

Whoops, slow motion—never a good sign.

Oh, that’s a shame. She would have driven me mad as a companion—but what about this nice young midshipman? We haven’t had a proper male companion in ages?—but I rather liked her.

Ah, a hero-shot of the Doctor, framed against fire. And about to play with all those Messianic overtones that this new series has been overtly seeding into the show. (I spelt that “dhow,” which would have been an entirely different point.)

This hero-shot reminds me of the scene at the end of “The Runaway Bride”—I assume it’s deliberate—where he’s killing the Rachnos (seriously, it’s close enough, spelling-wise) babies.

(By the way, the Titanic is falling on Buckingham Palace, and we’re about to have queen-related hi-jinks.)

With the scene in “The Runaway Bride,” I felt that this Doctor was cruising for a bruising, so to speak. He was so implacable, and in a way that was entirely foreign to an old-school fan of the series.

(Ah, queen-related hi-jinks. Is there any surer form of humour?)

Anyway, back to the main point—I could deal with implacable Doctor—but I felt he needed to get his comeuppance at some point. He needed to be brought to a sense of how extreme his behaviour was. And I’m not sure that’s ever happened to him, yet. I sort of hope it does.

Poor Astrid. I’m not sure I want to spend my life floating around the galaxy as atoms. And “the ghost of consciousness”? Does that mean she’s still sentient? What if the atoms are scattered at some point?

Man, she’s tiny.

There’s a fine line between falling and flying—at least as long as the ground is a reasonable distance away.

Nick thinks there are shades of this in the Steven Moffat two-parter—still to come in our Doctor Who season 4 live-blogging extravaganza—but we’ll come to that when we come to those episodes.

Why does the jerk always survive in these episodes? Why?

I wonder if it would have been possible for me to make fewer references to the actual narrative? I’ll see how I do next week.

This really does have an enormously high body count. How many people were on that ship? And only four survived? Well, technically two, since Mr Copper went AWOL and the Doctor was a stowaway.

Oh, the Doctor is so English. I wonder if I could make something out of that about nationalism and consciousness of the foreign on the part of immigrants—but I can’t really be bothered.

(Spoiler coming up. Seriously, a spoiler. A minor spoiler, but still a spoiler. Is that enough warning? Have you skipped down to the next paragraph? Good. This Mr Copper character is going to pay off in an interesting if minor way later in the season. Keep an eye out.)

And there goes that TARDIS.

Oh, Verity Lambert. Vale, Verity Lambert.

And that’s “The Voyage of the Damned.” Next week: creepy little aliens and Catherine Tate. I wasn’t sure about her, but I’ve warmed to her.

And a preview for the first half of the season. Some good episodes coming up. Any season that includes Agatha Christie is a good season.

Blogging a Tuesday Night's Musical Odyssey

Posted 17 June 2008 in by Catriona

It’s not really live-blogging, per se. But, sometimes, when we don’t have anything we want to watch on television, Nick and I will just run through the CD collection—and that’s what we’re doing tonight.

(Just for the record, it was Nick who suggested it might make interesting blogging. I wasn’t so sure.)

So far, we’ve just finished listening to Elmore James’s “The Sky is Crying”—and before that his version of “Dust My Broom,” but, really, who hasn’t done a version of “Dust My Broom”?—and I’m about to insist on some Billy Bragg.

We’re not drunk, by the way. It just seems as though we are.

Ah, Nick has just brought me coffee at the same time as I’ve started Billy Bragg’s version of “The Red Flag”—I’ve been feeling unusually bolshie after the events of this week. This version has the original music—much more inspiring and martial than the dirge-like version that’s sung these days.

It has whistles and something called a “bodhran”—I’m not sure what that is.

Ah: it’s an Irish frame drum. Apparently. Makes a good sound, whatever it is.

NICK: I don’t think I’ve ever heard the more typical version.
ME: The dirge.
NICK: Yeah.
ME: You’ve watched a Labour party conference?
NICK: Ah . . . no. Of course, the Australian Labour Party’s anthem is “Fuck the Communists,” as far as I can tell.

(I was going to spell that with an asterisk, but my Mam doesn’t read my blog, anyway.)

(Is this the height of solipsism? Maybe—but it’s a fun writing exercise.)

Billy Bragg’s the only artist apart from The Cure that I’ve ever seen twice: he’s brilliant live. That’s why I’m breaking the rules, to play more than one song from this EP.

Ah, he’s just been singing about the “dark satanic mills” in “Jerusalem”—my Dad hates that line, on the basis of the digs in the ribs he used to get when he was a choir boy in the Midlands.

Now Nick’s complaining that I’ve put Duran Duran on. I intend to challenge him as to why he hates Duran Duran, but he’s pre-empted me.

NICK: The only good Duran Duran song is “View to a Kill”—and you can quote me on that.

(Apparently, my spell-checker doesn’t recognise “th” as misspelt—that’s odd. I’ve caught two instances of my leaving the last letter off already: I“ll have to keep an eye on that.)

Whoops, I think Nick’s slipped into a coma—I might have to change the CD.

I wonder if he’d let me play something from Essential Soul: Volume One—note: contains no actual soul songs—if I promise not to play Patches. I love that song: makes me laugh every time. It’s the soul equivalent of the death of Little Nell.

It shouldn’t make me laugh, of course, but there’s a fine line between pathos and bathos.

Nope—couldn’t stop myself from listening to “Patches.” Brilliant.

It’s actually not a bad song, and I am an evil, evil person to laugh at it. It’s got a lovely rhythm, really.

On the other hand, I was raised by a woman who asked me and my sister to write poems for her obituary a few years ago, on the grounds that she wanted to edit them before she actually died. (She wasn’t actually ill, or anything—she’d read a newspaper article about a man whose son had written a poem for the newspaper obituary, and it enflamed her ambition.)

My sister wrote a limerick.

This live version of the Local Hero theme goes on forever, but I’m with Douglas Adams on the subject of Mark Knopfler’s guitar playing.

(I just skipped on to the Admin pages—while listening to “The Ship Song”—and found that someone had found the blog by Googling “Romeo+Juliet+blurbs.” I’m not even sure what that means, but I hope they enjoyed the blog.)

Nick’s just shown me a picture without telling me that it would completely spoil the last two episodes of Doctor Who for this season. If you don’t want to be spoiled, do not click on this link.

For those of you who did click—cool, huh?

We’re up to The Smiths, by that way—just to add a cheery note to the whole evening. Has anyone spotted that I usually get to pick the music on these evenings?

But I have just dragged my best of Bon Jovi album out, just in case we do fancy something a little more up-beat.

Musical tastes is one area where Nick and I do not have a lot of overlap—it’s odd, really, given how similar we are in terms of our tastes in television and movies. (Well, except for the ongoing debate about whether I should be able to watch Battlestar Galactica without bursting into tears.) But we really have next to no overlap on music—except for The Cure. But Nick is the more magnanimous here, because he will listen to some of my stuff, whereas I can’t stand most of his favourite artists.

Oh, I am so not listening to “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”—that’s grim even for The Smiths.

I’m not intending to make this the world’s longest post, by the way. But there is a different challenge to writing down mundane events (almost) as they happen and (hopefully) making them interesting. That’s what I like about the blog: well, one of two things. It makes me stretch my writing and it’s overcoming my distaste about showing my writing to people.

(I have no problem showing thesis drafts to my supervisors—but I’m reluctant to display any other form of writing. Or I was, until I started writing the blog.)

Of course, you can’t trust me—I’ve used the word “solipsistic” more times since I started writing this blog than . . . well, I was going to say “than I have in the 31 years preceding” but a more accurate closing clause would be “since I wrote that tutorial paper on Satre in my second year.”

Nick hasn’t given me many amusing comments so far—I’ll see if Bon Jovi will flush him out.

NICK: Ah, this song [“Living on a Prayer”] would be much better without the talk box. That “whah whah whah”—really annoying.


Plus, we’ve just had a little chat about how “torque” and “talk” are homophones, so Bon Jovi is educational as well as fun.

Of course, now he’s singing along at the top of his voice, and I’m deeply, deeply regretting my choice.

Key change! It’s like Eurovision all over again.

Nick’s just told me that the American Red Cross has spent its entire disaster-relief budget. That’s . . . damn. I don’t even know what to say about that.

I’ve moved on to 1960s’ music, by the way, which has suddenly filled me with a overwhelming desire to listen to “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Hey—it’s not just Liverpool FC’s song (as though it needs to be anything else!) It also has geek credibility: it’s the song that Eddie the shipboard computer sang when the Polaris missiles were heading towards the Heart of Gold in Hitchhiker’s Guide.

Of course, I have it on an album called “Rock and Roll Heartbreakers”—which it really isn’t, even if you don’t associate it with tens of thousands of fans singing it after yet another FA Cup victory.

Is it just me, or is “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” the strangest song to find on the soundtrack of a Western? Even a Western like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

On the other hand, it has led to a spirited debate between Nick and me about whether “outro” is a real word. Nick thinks it is, on the grounds that “intro” is now a word in its own right and not merely a truncation of “introduction.” I think that’s rubbish.

The argument was a stalemate, because Nick brought out “well, in a musical context,” which gave me no grounds for riposte, since I know nothing about music.

But I do know that these are some of the greatest lines in musical history: “Eleanor, I really think you’re groovy. Let’s go out to a movie” and “You’re my pride and joy, et cetera”.

Actually, I think that last line reappeared in one of the Eurovision entries this year.

And on that note—Nick is singing along to “It’s My Party,” which has to be seen (and heard) to be believed—I should stop writing this before it either gets so long that people just skip over it or I’m tempted to use the word “solipsistic” again.



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