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TV: OK, so I caved and downloaded 'Dalek'. My need to be part of the consensus fandom experience is too strong. And, well, it was ok. Chris Ecclestone's performance was excellent, the story was tight (if a bit too obviously concerned with addressing all the common jokes about the Daleks: the pepperpot, the plunger, the stairs, etc), and the direction was lightyears more effective than in most of the previous episodes. My problems with the episode basically come down to the fact that I find Daleks inherently ludicrous, no matter how many people they kill; the fact that the setup was pure by-the-numbers; and the fact that the shape of the plot was strongly reminiscent of a particular episode of Angel. I mean, it wasn't quite an alley at the end, and you could argue that the Dalek possibly has a slightly less annoying voice, and it wasn't written by Tim Minear, but other than that ... you know where I'm going with this, right? Still: it was basically a decent piece of television. That sounds like damning with faint praise, but the point is that it shows potential; if they'd come out of the gate with episodes like this, I might have thought the hype had a point.

Film: The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy was not, contrary to certain reports, crap. I quite enjoyed it, to be honest. If you're as over-familiar with the radio series as I am then it definitely takes a while to get used to the new cast, but by and large most of the performances are good, and the film's heart is in the right place. Martin Freeman, Alan Rickman and Bill Nighy in particular are excellent, and the only real weak link is Mos Def who never quite seems right (though I wasn't entirely convinced by Fry as the Guide, either). Narratively it's quite different to previous incarnations--as it would have to be, to work. I didn't mind the insertion of a more conventional emotional arc, though it does some damage to Trillian's characterisation in particular. In general, I do think they edited most of the dialogue a bit more than was necessary. Where I give the film big points is in the visuals. The Vogons are outstanding (and Vogsphere in particular has a very Gilliam-esque feel to it), the improbability drive is perfectly rendered (the knitting!), and the trip to Magrathea's factory floor is jaw-droppingly wonderful. Oh, and Neil Hannon is absolutely the perfect singer for the Dolphin Song.

Book: The Portrait of Mrs Charbuque by Jeffrey Ford, read for an OUSFG discussion this coming Wednesday. A curious book, this: the story of a painter in 1890s New York, commissioned to paint the portrait of a women he may never see. Instead, he has to discern her likeness from conversation alone; from the stories she tells. Ford's deceptively simple prose is used to good effect to tell an atmospheric tale about the relationship between creation and obsession. Much of the book has a surreal, slightly hallucinatory quality to it; echoes of Greek myth haunt this New York, and the fantastic lurks in Mrs Charbuque's speeches. There is a slight feeling of self-indulgence about the whole enterprise, though, and I haven't really decided what I think about the ending yet. Worth reading, however.

Music: I have fallen head over heels for the Eels' latest album, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations. Yes, it's a double album so yes, it's baggy in places, and simply by virtue of its size it takes a long time to get to grips with; but I wouldn't begrudge a minute of it. The album picks up where Daisies of the Galaxy left off. Many of the best moments come from the slight cognitive dissonance induced by the contrast between Mark Everett's gruff vocals and the sparklingly beautiful melodies he crafts, from the delicate lament of 'If You See Natalie' to the shuffle of 'Railroad Man' and the bouncy pop of 'Old Shit/New Shit'. Lyrically the songs are as sharp and observant as ever, although it has to be said that some of the titles--'Theme For A Pretty Girl That Makes You Believe God Exists'--are a bit laboured. The surprise, though, is that in amongst the pessimism there are moments of genuine sincerity and hope; the final track finds Everett concluding that 'I have some regrets, but if I had to do it all again/Well, it's something I'd like to do.' It's almost enough to give you warm fuzzies inside. Try this: One of the tracks that's really got under my skin, 'Blinking Lights (For Me)'.

(Other albums getting a lot of play at the moment include: Ambulance Ltd by Ambulance Ltd (think Doves, but with a bit of New York swagger instead of Northern melancholy); Songs For Silverman by Ben Folds (good, and I'll probably write more about it after the gig at the end of the month); and Natalie Imbruglia's latest offering. Yeah, Counting Down The Days is pure Richard-Curtis-movie-soundtrack music but, be honest, who hasn't wanted to pretend they live in a Richard Curtis movie now and then?)
 
 
 
 
 
 
the fact that the shape of the plot was strongly reminiscent of a particular episode of Angel.

Am I allowed to argue that 'Lullaby' is crap because Kroton, the Cyberman with emotions, predated that by about fifteen years?
OK, sorry, I wasn't clear. I do think 'Lullaby' is better tv than 'Dalek', for various reasons, but my point was that this is definitely my problem, rather than the episode's problem. Having seen 'Lullaby' and been so impressed by it, any other variation on the theme is going to have trouble impressing me.

Also, even I thought the cyberman head was cool.
Is Lullaby one of the ones where Darla dies? I though the point there was that Darla wasn't looking forward to losing "her" soul again, so killed herself to stop being evil /save the kid (I did see it on a bad VCD though.) whereas the Dalek wanted to die because it couldn't be evil any more.
Is Lullaby one of the ones where Darla dies?

Yes. And you're right that their motivations for suicide were dissimilar, but (a) Darla went through the self-hatred stage in an earlier episode, and (b) it was mostly the 'infection'/'what have you done to me?' that felt familiar. An evil-thing having to face changing.
Your show had a running pig.
Pigs run all the time, you know.
'Your show had a bipedal running pig' doesn't have the same ring to it.
True.
That's such a shame for you.
Dude, you forgot the icon!
This is the price I pay for being too cheap to pay an actual price for LJ.
a decent piece of television

You're so right-headed. I've always said so. :-) I know what you mean about the Angel parallel, although I can't say it occurred to me at the time, and I'm certain it's not intentional. Otherwise this was the episode where they dialled the flaws down to minimum and dialled the good bits up to maximum. I'm hopeful that they can keep this kind of thing going, as frankly (for good or ill) its about as good as Doctor Who gets.

The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy was not, contrary to certain reports, crap.

Yes, I very much agree with your review, although I thought Mos Def was okay, and I'm not really sure Trillian ever had much of a character to damage. :-)

Songs For Silverman

I was late ordering the special edition (with the Songs for Goldfish thing) from the States, so mine hasn't arrived yet. Looking forward to it, though.

Natalie Imbruglia

Yes, I'm finding it enjoyable. Not challenging, but a cut above mere poppy fluff, and with the kind of minor-key melodies I'm prone to enjoy. There's one song in the middle that is dullness personified, but otherwise I'm liking it. I still think Torn is easily the best thing she's ever done, though.
I know what you mean about the Angel parallel, although I can't say it occurred to me at the time, and I'm certain it's not intentional.

Oh, so am I. And to be fair, Dan did text me on Saturday to say 'were we the only ones thinking 'DALEK WITH A SOUL?'', so I'd already been set thinking along those lines. But still ... it did seem very familiar at times.

Next week looked promising, although I'm not convinced by the new companion.

Note to self: do not talk about Who and Firefly in the same post. Ever.

I thought Mos Def was okay,

He just seemed bland to me, although that's maybe because most of Ford's showcase moments got cut. I really missed the conversation with the Vogon guard--'potentially bright lad, I thought.' :)

and I'm not really sure Trillian ever had much of a character to damage. :-)

She seemd a lot less her own agent in this version (no line about having a degree in astrophysics and another in mathematics and it was either this or back to the dole queue, for instance). I think Deschanel actually gave a good performance--she was convincing about the loss of the Earth--but it wasn't the same Trillian.

Yes, I'm finding it enjoyable. Not challenging, but a cut above mere poppy fluff, and with the kind of minor-key melodies I'm prone to enjoy.

Yes--'Shiver' isn't a great single, but I keep listening to it because the chord sequence in the chorus just isn't quite what I expect. :) And I really like 'Sanctuary' and 'On The Run'.

'Slow Down' and 'Satisfied' are the lowlights for me.
new companion.

Note to self: do not talk about Who and Firefly in the same post. Ever.


*sniggers*

I don't see this new companion lasting very long, since I hadn't heard that there was going to *be* a new companion. Besides, the Doctor is liable to kill him in a jealous rage.

it wasn't the same Trillian.

No, but her cuteness allowed me to overlook this fact. :-) I did appreciate the fact that she was dressed as Darwin (avec-Beagle), and that her flirting with Arthur was intelligent flirting.
Personally - I liked Mos Def's slightly inscrutable accent ... but would generally concur that Ford's best moments didn't make the film (I'd say the same of Zaphod, on that count, but then there was more to him in later books, iirc).

Trillian - I thought she was fine, and generally agree she wasn't much of a character to begin with. She was at least more interesting when we had the multi-dimensional paradox of Trillian vs. Tricia McMillian, but that's for later films (one hopes!). :-)
Heh, imho this version gave Trillian more in the way of character than she's ever had before... She used to have the throwaway astrophysics line and eventually a bit of impatience. That was it.
Oh, and:

who hasn't wanted to pretend they live in a Richard Curtis movie now and then?

Believe me when I say that it's intensely overrated.
Obviously I'm not mad enough to want to do it for any great length of time. Just now and then, for a little variety. :p
A big hello from me!
sirboodle (Neil) and I had to stay in London for another night due to bloomin' trains and engineering work on the lines, so we went to see the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy last night in West India Quays! I quite like it too! I feel a bit sad that some classic quotes aren't there - Look, I'm a bit upset about that. Also, the end was a bit twee, but I still liked it. Very different.
Hello! Was good to meet the two of you on Saturday. To be honest I think any script would have omitted some of my favourite lines, so I'm just trying to live with that aspect of things. :)
You describe The Portrait of Mrs Charbuque as "A curious book". Have you read The Physiognomy by Ford?
That certainly qualifies as more than "curious"; in my (admittedly not very well read) view, it could easily qualify as a forerunner of The New Weird. The main character is unpleasant and does not get better, the world is strange and dark and Ford portrays virtually everyone in it as little better than the protagonist. It also shares many of the characteristics of Portrait. Well worth a read as long as you don't want happy endings; it's certainly stayed in my head more than most. Now I must get around to reading Portrait...
I have read The Physiognomy, but not the sequels, though I do own them. I liked it a lot, more than Portrait to be honest--it seems a braver book to me.
The Vogons are outstanding (and Vogsphere in particular has a very Gilliam-esque feel to it),

You put your finger on it ... I just couldn't find the words. :-)

the improbability drive is perfectly rendered (the knitting!),

So true! Right up to the yarn-vomit. :-)

and the trip to Magrathea's factory floor is jaw-droppingly wonderful.

You know, after seeing 'Sin City' on a digital projector, I'm really coming around to this new technology. I saw 'HHGttG' on a conventional projector on a very large screen - and this CGI-intensive scene was, frankly, disappointing. Quite blurry and indistinct. One could even make out a dimensional difference between forescreen actors and the CGI backdrop.

Oh, and Neil Hannon is absolutely the perfect singer for the Dolphin Song.

I so need that MP3! :-)
You know, I watched Hitchhikers and knew they were shooting for me: the American who likes SF movies and hasn't read the book. (Shamefull, I know, but I did love the TV show). I thought Mos Def was really good when he was interacting with Sam Rockwell, who was doing the best GW Bush on cocaine imitation ever. I wasn't sold completely on Zooey Dechanel, though she's very cute and always worth having on screen.
I loved the little thrown in references to the TV series and the Guide's theme. That made me smile
Chris