Daily Archives: Sunday, 8th Apr 2007

Doctor Who – DVD releases

Oooooh! Looks like it’s going to be a good year for Doctor Who fans. Quite apart from the new series, which has started very well, there are some interesting DVDs coming up from the classic series.

Coming later this month is Survival, which was the last story in the last year of the original series. Sylvester McCoy is the Doctor, Sophie Aldred is Ace, and Anthony Ainley is the Master.

May’s DVD is Robot, Tom Baker’s first story, with Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith.

And in June, we’ll be getting a Colin Baker story, Timelash, which wasn’t that popular at the time, but I’m prepared to give it another chance. Besides, H G Wells is in it!

I’ll be getting them all, and reviewing them here.

Doctor Who – The Shakespeare Code

Something strange is happening in London in 1599. A young man serenades Lilith[1], a beautiful young woman. When she invites him in, he thinks his luck’s in, but he’s a bit worried when he sees her room, which seems a bit too full of cauldrons, arcane symbols and the like to be a suitable residence for a nice girl. He’s even more perturbed when immediately after kissing Lilith, she transforms into a hideous witch creature. And when she summons her two mothers, even more hideous witch creatures called Doomfinger and Bloodtide, he’s distinctly concerned. But he doesn’t have too much time to worry about it, as the witches immediately kill him.

The Doctor and Martha arrive in London in 1599[3]. On leaving the Tardis, Martha asks if it’s safe to be in her past. What if she steps on a butterfly and changes the future? Doctor advises her

Don’t step on any butterflies! What have butterflies ever done to you?

The Doctor offers to take Martha to the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare’s plays are performed. She’s excited at the thought of meeting Shakespeare.

The Doctor: When you get home you can tell everyone you’ve met Shakespeare

Martha: And then I can get sectioned

Anyway, they see Love’s Labours Lost, after which Shakespeare comes on stage. This is Shakespeare as a young man, played as a rock star. He tells the audience that there will be a sequel, Love’s Labours Won. One of the witch creatures is in the audience, and by means of what looks like a voodoo doll, makes Shakespeare announce that the new play will be performed the very next night. Which is interesting, because Love’s Labours Won is a “lost” Shakespeare play. No manuscript of it exists, but there are records of it having existed at some point.

The Doctor and Martha go to see Shakespeare, and we soon realise that there’s something special about him. For a start, the Doctor’s psychic paper doesn’t work on him – he sees the blank paper instead of what the Doctor wants him to see. And he recognises that the Doctor has hidden depths:

How can a man so young have eyes so old?

And from there on, things get a lot more interesting. The “witches” are Carrionites, creatures from the dawn of time, who were banished by the Eternals[4]. Their technology is based on the use of words rather than mathematics. The right words in the right place can have incredible power, which is why they’re interested in Shakespeare. They influence him to add some apparent nonsense at the end of his new play – words that will release all the other Carrionites who will destroy all life on Earth.

Before the really quite impressive climax, we’re treated to Harry Potter gags, and some quite superb interaction between the Doctor and Shakespeare, not least the running gag where every time the Doctor uses a line from a Shakespeare play, the bard says “I might use that”.

In the end, it takes the combined forces of the Doctor, Shakespeare, Martha and J K Rowling[5] to defeat the Carrionites. All nicely done, and all good fun. But we’re not finished yet!

Shakespeare, who has already said how happy is not to be the most intelligent person around for once, shows his brilliance: he knows that the Doctor is from another world and that Martha is from the future, but that doesn’t stop him writing a sonnet for his “dark lady”[6]. Just then, Queen Elizabeth I arrives at the theatre. Having heard about the play, she wants another performance. However, she recognises the Doctor and shouts:

Doctor – my sworn enemy! Off with his head!

Which is a bit of a surprise for the Doctor, as he hasn’t met her yet! So he’s got something to look forward to. The Doctor and Martha flee and depart in the Tardis.

So there you have it. A nifty historical episode, in which the Doctor gets to meet someone nearly as clever as he is, some alien technology that looks remarkably like magic[7], lots of fun, David Tennant on sparkling form, excellent dialogue and nicely scary witches, who persist in talking in rhyme in the manner of the ones in Macbeth, which Shakespeare hadn’t written yet.

I’ve watched it twice, and I’m still impressed. And that’s only episode two of the series. Next week it’s back to New New York, for a (final?) meeting with the Face of Boe. Woo hoo!

[1] No hints in that name then[2]
[2] And no, I’m not talking about Frasier Crane’s ex-wife :laugh:
[3] The Doctor does have a knack for turning up when something bad is about to happen
[4] And we haven’t heard about them for a while
[5] Well, her words, or at least one of them, anyway
[6] So that’s who it was!
[7] Arthur C Clarke’s Third Law strikes again

More activity needed

Oh dear, oh dear. That’s a very nasty weight increase, which is probably down to my distinct lack of physical activity. And eating. That probably has something to do with it as well, but I don’t think I’ll stop that.

Newcastle City Library: A Gap!

These are the pictures I took of Newcastle City Library on Thursday. As I approached the building from New Bridge Street, it looked like there wouldn’t be much to see. The building looked to be completely covered in white sheeting, and I thought for a moment that the actual demolition work would be going on out of sight, as was the case with Westgate House. But when I reached the corner, I realised I was wrong, and on this occasion, I was very happy to be wrong. A large section of the John Dobson Street elevation has been torn down, and the innards of the building are in plain view. The machine responsible for the work was sitting idle, so I presume the contractors had made an early start on the Easter weekend, so this batch of images are all a bit static. I’ll be going back regularly, and I hope to catch the machine in action at some stage. That should make some more interesting pictures, but these aren’t bad for a start. You can also see some strange activity going on at basement level, visible from Princess Square.

And if you’d like more frequent updates on the project, have a look at the Newcastle City Library webcam, which offers a live view from the dome of the Laing Art Gallery. Also handy if you want to check the weather in Newcastle :smile: .

Did you miss me?

Sorry to anyone who couldn’t get to Losing it[1] over the last few hours. I was a little distressed myself when I tried to go to the site this morning and got one of the error messages than nobody with a website ever wants to see:

Firefox can’t find the server at lcb.me.uk

Now that’s nasty. It doesn’t mean something normal like “the server’s broken”, which isn’t nice, but is bearable. It means “that domain doesn’t seem to exist”, which is a lot more serious. Email will bounce in a very unfriendly manner and visitors will get the idea that the site has been deleted with extreme prejudice.

So I popped over to Dreamhost’s status page, which they quite sensibly keep on a completely separate network, so it should be up even if everything else is down. At the time, they had a “medium level” fault showing with their DNS servers. Along with some other customers, I added a note that “domain not found” is actually a bit more than “medium”…

Anyway, after a little while they tracked it down to a Denial of Service Attack on their nameservers. They’ve now managed to block the attack, and everything now seems to be working.

Good work by the Dreamhost guys, actually. Last time I was with a host that suffered a DoS attack, my sites were down for a whole weekend.

GNER make a comeback

Yes, it’s the latest instalment in the ever-popular East Coast Main Line farce. I mentioned a while ago that GNER were hoping to get involved with one of the approved bidders for the new franchise, and now BBC News reports that GNER have joined up with Virgin[1] and Stagecoach.

Now this could be a good thing. GNER’s staff have an excellent record in delivering a good service to passengers, and Virgin seem to know what they’re doing in business terms, as do Stagecoach.

Of course, they’ll probably end up with Virgin’s customer service and GNER’s management. :laugh:

It reminds me of the probably apocryphal[2] story about the actress who propositioned George Bernard Shaw:

“Imagine a child with my looks and your brains.”

Shaw allegedly replied “Yes, but what if it had my looks and your brains?”

[1] And you know how much I love them
[2] Which we’ll define as meaning “too good to check” in this context[3]
[3] Which reminds me of another one. Some years ago, it is said, a bright young researcher at the BBC came up with the brilliant idea of turning Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy into a, err, radio series. :duh: [4]
[4] Now that’s a good example of digression :laugh: