Monthly Archives: February 2006

Life on Mars – Final Part

Update: If you’re looking for my comments on the final episode of the second and final series, you need to go here instead.

Oooooookaaaay. I’ve been enjoying Life on Mars enormously over the last couple of months, and I was wondering how the series would end. Would Sam wake up back in his original life in 2006, or would he remain stuck in 1973? Well, given the trouble they’ve gone to in creating the series, and its overwhelmingly positive reception, that was a bit of a silly question, really. A second series is in production, and will be shown next year.

For the final episode, all the stops were pulled out, and the whole question of how real it all is was given a serious going over.

Sam meets his dad, who he remembers leaving home when Sam was about four years old. And finds that Dad’s involved in some very shady dealings indeed. Sam tries to protect his dad from Gene Hunt, who thinks he’s behind some very serious crimes. Can Sam change the past? Or is that the future? Or the present? Is that why he’s there? And what is the significance of the memory Sam’s just retrieving? What happened in the woods?

As with the whole series, this closing episode was played brilliantly. The interplay between John Simm and Philip Glenister, the music[1], and the sounds of Sam’s hospital room in 2006 all come together to make something seriously good and worth watching. And re-watching. According to Amazon, the DVD set isn’t due to be released until January 2007. I hope it’s sooner than that..

[1] Bowie’s Life on Mars makes a return appearance

Some improvement

After yesterday’s really scary weight, today’s figure of 209.4 pounds (14 stone 13.4 pounds, 95.0kg), while still too high, comes as something of a relief.

I did manage to walk to and from work today, for the first time this week. I still need to do more exercise, but I can’t quite get myself sufficiently motivated. Mutter, mumble, etc.

On another note, I’m thinking about trying to get myself to do something different. It’s something I’ve made half-baked attempts at previously, though not for many years. Writing. No, not using a pen, but actually attempting to assemble words into a form that someone might actually want to read. I type quite a few words for Losing it[1], so it’s just a matter of:

  • Deciding what to write
  • Writing it
  • Re-writing it
  • Re-re-writing it :tongue:
  • Getting someone else to read it

Hmmm. I can see I’m going to have to work on that. Focus. Direction. Dare I say it, advice, even. I bought a couple of magazines and a book at lunchtime, which I’ll be using to try to make a start. One option I’m considering is a correspondence course – not hideously expensive, and it would make me expose my work to review. If I do get round to doing anything, I’ll be, err, writing about it here.

Don’t expect any novels in a hurry, though. :lol:


OK. I might have had a glass or two of wine last night, but this is ridickerous! Tuesday’s weight was a seriously bloated 210.0 pounds (15 stone, 95.3kg). That’s passing a psychologicackle hurdle thingy in entirely the wrong direction, dammit. :eek2:

It doesn’t help that I haven’t had the motivation, energy or anything else for getting back into the exercise routine. And I’ve even been letting the weather put me off walking to work. :???:

I’ll probably get it together again sooner or later. Though it might be later unless I can work out what “it” is. Or something. Mutter.

Back to the old routine

Well, after last week’s training course and the detour to London, it was back to normal work today. This morning’s weight was 207.8 pounds (14 stone 11.8 pounds, 94.3kg).

Had things to do this evening[1], so I didn’t get it together to do any exercise. Maybe tomorrow.

[1] Bills to pay, coffee[2] and wine[3] to order, that kind of thing
[2] From those nice Senseo Direct people
[3] Tesco’s made me an offer I couldn’t refuse on Wolf Blass Yellow Label

Back!! Back!!

Yes, I’m back. Five days in Leeds for a training course, then a quick visit to London to meet a friend[1] or two[2].

Now despite five hotel breakfasts and six restaurant meals[3], not to mention quite nice buffet lunches provided by the training company, this morning’s weight was slightly down to 207.6 pounds (14 stone 11.6 pounds, 94.2kg). A lot better than I expected…

[1] Hi Tom!
[2] Hi Martin!
[3] Which may have included the odd glass or two of wine

Going, going, gone

Following my earlier reports on the demolition of the Talk of the Tyne, I thought it was time to show the final result.

Peter F Hamilton – Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained

I briefly mentioned Pandora’s Star when I read it back in March 2004, but now that the Commonwealth Saga is complete, it’s time for a proper review. This is probably going to be a bit long, and may contain spoilers, so if you have a short attention span, or you’d rather not know too much about what goes on in these books, you might want to skip this post.

Continue reading

The IT Crowd

The IT Crowd is a new sitcom on Channel 4. From the same stable as the classic Father Ted, it’s set in the IT Department of a major company.

Moss (Richard Ayoade) and Roy (Chris O’Dowd) are the techies. And they’re not one little bit like any real techies I know. Oh no. Well, maybe a bit. There’s some nice touches like helldesk[1] calls being answered by a tape machine[2], and the general air of geekiness[4].

In the first episode, they’re saddled with a new boss, Jen (Katherine Parkinson), a shoe-obsessed pathological liar appointed by the insane MD played by Chris Morris. Lots of friction, lots of silliness, lots of fun.

There have been three episodes so far, and I’m enjoying it. And not because I feel any degree of similarity with any of the characters. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. So there.

[1] You might call it a helpdesk
[2] “Have you tried turning it off an on again?”, “Are you sure it’s plugged in?”, and so on[3]
[3] Damn, they’re giving away all our secrets!
[4] The RTFM t-shirt was a nice touch :grin:

Doctor Who – The Beginning

Hmmmm. Compare and contrast, and all that. Now the dust has settled on the DVD set of the first “new” Doctor Who series, the BBC have issued this rather nice set of the earliest stories in the “classic” series. First broadcast in 1963[1], and restored to probably better than pristine condition by the technology of the Restoration Team, this set is a Good Thing on several levels.

For a start, it’s a joy to see the first three stories with William Hartnell as the Doctor, Carole Ann Ford as Susan, his Granddaughter, and William Russell and Jacqueline Hill as Ian and Barbara, two teachers who find themselves dragged into the Doctor’s adventures. Then there’s the whole geeky fan thing. Documentaries! Interviews! Stuff! And it’s three DVDs in a nice slipcase!

In the early years of Doctor Who, each episode had its own title, and stories led straight from one to the next, with no overall titles as was the case in later years. The BBC had internal codes for each serial, and informal titles became attached to them over the years. The titles used for this set are the ones that were generally in use when the stories were issued on video some years back. So, let’s get down to the main content.

An Unearthly Child

How it all began. Teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright think there’s something very strange about Susan Foreman. She seems to know far too much about some things (science, for instance), and yet lacks basic knowledge that anyone should have (thinking that Britain was already using decimal currency). They decide to make a home visit. Only the address the school has on file is a junk yard. So they wait in Ian’s car, then follow Susan into the yard, where they find a police telephone box which turns out to be much bigger on the inside than on the outside. Susan’s grandfather tells them that he and Susan are exiles, wanderers in time and space. When Ian and Barbara express disbelief, he takes them on a little trip. They encounter a group of stone age people who are having trouble making fire. Much peril and excitement follows.

For something made over forty years ago, this stands up remarkably well. Yes, the pace is a lot slower than would pass these days, but the characters are all interesting, and the basic principles of Doctor Who are there. But it was the next story that really made it happen.

The Daleks

Yes! The first appearance of the definitive Doctor Who adversary. The Tardis materialises in a dead forest on a strange planet. They’re just about to leave when they see a large city some distance away. Ian and Barbara insist on going home, so the Doctor sabotages the Tardis, claiming that a component has broken and needs to be refilled with mercury, which should be found in the city.

In the city, they learn that they have been subjected to a potentially lethal dose of radiation, and that the occupants are the survivors of a terrible war. In order to survive, the Dalek people live inside machines. Yes, those machines. Lots of excitement follows. The Tardis crew meet survivors of the other side in the war – good looking humanoids called the Thals, who are in search of new sources of food.

Battle is joined, sides are taken, and fun is had by all. At the time it was first shown, it had a huge impact, and set the stage for Doctor Who to be hugely popular for years to come.

The Edge of Destruction

A bit of an oddity, this one. A two-part story created to fill a gap, but which served a useful purpose. There was much scepticism in the BBC when the series began, and its run was extended to 13 episodes after the first story. The trouble was that the stories the producers had wouldn’t fit, so a two-parter was needed.

It’s set entirely on the Tardis, and has no guest performers at all. Something strange is happening. People are behaving oddly (or more oddly in the Doctor’s case), and everyone is becoming suspicious of everyone else. Has some alien influence entered the ship, or is there a simpler explanation? It’s all a bit odd, and the explanation for the oddness is a bit weak, to be honest, but it does let the characters develop a bit, and grow closer together. Certainly worth watching at least once.

Special features

Ooooooh. Lots of them.

For a start, there’s the pilot episode. The first episode that was broadcast was the second attempt. The first version wasn’t quite what the BBC wanted, but was good enough for a second attempt to be authorised. Included here are two versions of that first pilot: the unedited studio recording session, and a nicely edited version to give a feel of how it might have looked.

Then there’s an excellent 55 minute documentary on the origins of the series, featuring an archive interview with creator Sydney Newman and new interviews with Verity Lambert (producer), Waris Hussein and Richard Martin (directors) and others. Fascinating stuff.

And there’s Creation of the Daleks, another documentary on everyone’s favourite legless loonies. And a 30 minute recreation of the long-lost[2] fourth story Marco Polo, using edited portions of the soundtrack and photos taken on set. Not something you’d watch again and again, but interesting.

Add in commentaries, and the usual excellent production subtitles, and you have a quite superb set.

All in glorious black and white, of course!
[1] When I was very young indeed, and most readers probably weren’t even born yet
[2] In those days, nobody considered repeating TV shows, never mind video and DVD releases, and video tape was expensive. So lots of old tapes were wiped and reused. There are many missing episodes from the 60s.