Monthly Archives: June 2010

June 2010 Round-up

Unless I have an unexpected burst of fast typing and finish my post on The Big Bang[1], this will once again be the final post of the month


I’ve managed to continue to remember to weigh myself daily.

June 1: 227 pounds (16 stone 3 pounds, 103 kg)
June 30: 229.2 pounds (16 stone 5.2 pounds, 104 kg)

Difference: A moderately annoying rise of of 2.2 pounds (1kg)


I once again gave in to the lure of the sausage rolls a few weeks back, which probably accounts for the overall rise in my weight this month. On a more positive note, I am three pounds lighter than I was last Thursday, so I may be heading in the right direction, now I’ve restricted myself to single sarnies for lunch, and I’ve even gone back to relatively unfattening cereals for breakfast after a few months of daily croissants.


A couple of walks to work this month, and a few lunchtime walks, topped off by lots of walking in Durham on Sunday. More stuff next month!


Back to what passes for normal around here – including this post, the June total will be a quite respectable 69.


I took a lot more pictures this month than last. But next month there will be even more!

[1] Unlikely. I’ve barely started, and I’m already up to 800 words….

Weight and Stuff Report – 30 June 2010

Up a wee bit more today. Mutter.

Time for another Durham picture, I think. This is the old Fulling Mill on the River Wear, located below the Cathedral. It contains the University Museum of Archaeology, which I visited once a few years ago, and must get round to seeing again on another Durham trip.

Old Fulling Mill, Durham

Old Fulling Mill, Durham

Doctor Who – The Pandorica Opens

Ooooookay. The 2010 Doctor Who series finale was big, complicated and, quite wonderful. Let’s take the two parts in order[1] and follow up with some general thoughts, comments, mutterings, or whatever else my brain can come up with. To avoid melting browsers or the internet, I’ll split this into a few posts, starting with this one on The Pandorica Opens, but you’d probably guessed that from the title.

Well, everything has been leading up to this. Throughout the series so far, quite apart from that nasty crack, assorted nasty types have been telling the Doctor that the Pandorica is going to open and that silence will fall. Quite apart from this being rather ominous, the Doctor is a bit miffed that everyone else seems to know what’s going on and he doesn’t, which is not they way round he’s used to. Then there’s the oddness surrounding Amy, and her lack of memory of the quite prominent Dalek invasions…

But we start back in the nineteenth century. Vincent van Gogh is screaming in the night. And he’s painted something which is apparently worse than his usual. The painting next appears in the Cabinet War Rooms in 1941, when our old robotic friend Professor Bracewell presents it to Winston Churchill. It’s a message which he has to deliver. And in a prison in 5145, a phone rings outside River Song’s cell. She persuades the guard to give her the phone, explains to Churchill that the TARDIS has re-routed the call to her, and that she’ll pass on the message. She then steals the painting from the Royal Collection, pausing only to have a chat with Liz Ten[2].

On the TARDIS, Amy is still looking at the ring she found. The Doctor vaguely explains it away, before deciding to visit an ancient inscription – believed to be the oldest writing in the universe, though it’s never been translated. He’ll do some TARDIS trickery and work it out. But when they get there, translation turns out to be quite unnecessary. There, in plain English are the words Hello Sweetie and some space-time coordinates, which lead the Doctor and Amy to Stonehenge, where they meet some Romans. Amy’s quite clued up on the Romans, as they were her favourite subject at school, apparently. The Romans greet them politely with a quick “Hail Caesar” before taking them to see Cleopatra, who quite naturally turns out to be River Song[3], who’s there to show the Doctor Vincent’s painting, which has lots of Vincent-style swirly (and quite possibly exploding) stars and a quite definitely exploding TARDIS with space-time coordinates marked on the door.

And it’s at that point, that the opening titles came on.

The painting is, of course, called The Pandorica Opens. And that, we gather, is not a Good Thing.

Having realised that Stonehenge is in fact some kind of marker (you know, you’ve put something somewhere, so you need to remember where it is…), and what’s being marked would seem to be beneath the stones. Sure enough, all you have to do is slide one little stone aside to reveal steps leading to the Underhenge. That’s quite cool, actually, as it turns out that far from being quite large stones set in the earth, they’re actually bloody enormous stones reaching deep into the earth, much like Torchwood’s water tower did, before it was slightly dented in Children of Earth. What’s less cool is the disembodied Cyberman head that the Doctor, Amy and River totally fail to notice between the stones on the surface.

Down below, behind a pair of huge barred doors is the quite legendary, but apparently real Pandorica – a cube of stone containing, so we’re told, the “most feared being in all the cosmos”, who apparently got there when “a good wizard tricked it”. While Amy points out the parallel with the story of Pandora’s box (her favourite book as a child, she says), River mentions that the problem with wizards in old legends is that they usually turn out to be the Doctor. Also in the Underhenge, but not noticed by anyone, is another bit of damaged Cyberman – a loose arm…

The Doctor examines the Pandorica, and finds that it contains multiple levels of security, that it’s being opened from the inside and that the stones are broadcasting this fact into space for everyone with a suitable level of technology to detect.

A little bit of communications monitoring shows that there are Daleks in orbit. And Cybermen. And Sontarans. And, well, pretty much everybody the Doctor’s ever annoyed, which is quite a lot of races, come to think of it. There’s even Zygons up there, which must have generated a deafening level of Squeeeeee noises from fans of a certain age.

While the Doctor and Amy play with the Pandorica, River goes back to play with the Romans. Unfortunately, their commander has returned and he doesn’t believe that River is Cleopatra, what with Cleo being in Egypt. But being River, she manages to persuade him to give some assistance to the Doctor. He’s got a volunteer who really wants to help…

Back in the Underhenge, after a quick chat about the ring, and signs that Amy is almost but not quite remembering something, the Doctor tells her something Very Important[4]

If something is remembered, it can come back

But they don’t really get the chance to talk about that in any detail, because those various bits of Cyberman manage to find a body, which wants a new bit of human, and picks on Amy. The poor thing is obviously confused, because instead of offering Amy a free upgrade, it gets all Borgy and tells her she will be assimilated. Fortunately, the barb it shoots into her doesn’t contain anything nastier than a mild anaesthetic, though.

Amy is having a lot of trouble with the Cyberthing, but is rescued by the Roman soldier we saw earlier. Except now we get to see his face, which is oddly familiar. It’s Rory, who last time we saw him was ever so slightly dead. He can’t account for his presence, as all he knows that he woke up in a state of being Roman.

But there’s hardly time for a touching reunion, which is perhaps just as well, as Amy still doesn’t know who he is, what with him never having actually existed, because all those ships in orbit are coming down to have a look at what’s coming out of the Pandorica, which is opening with a tasteful green glow.

While the Doctor does some advanced shouting at the assorted alien spacecraft, and Rory tries to remind Amy of who he is,River tries to move the TARDIS, but runs into a bit of trouble. It makes some odder noises than normal, then arrives on Earth on 26 June 2010, a date which has been seen before, though I may not have mentioned it at the time. By a curious coincidence, it happens to be the date on which the final episode of the series was first shown. Not only is River on Earth in the 21st century with a sickly TARDIS, she’s right outside Amy’s house. Thinking that the TARDIS is trying to tell her something, she has a look around Amy’s oddly empty house. And finds a couple of interesting books. One is about the Romans, and shows drawings of some Roman soldiers who look quite remarkably like the ones hanging around Stonehenge. The other is about Pandora’s Box, and has a pretty picture on the front that looks remarkably like the Pandorica, which is a little unexpected. So, she gets back in the TARDIS, warns the Doctor[5] that he seems to be in some kind of trap, which means that someone wasn’t listening to him recently. The Romans must be some kind of replicas, who quite possibly don’t even know that they’re not really real Romans. But before they can have a nice chat about that, some external force takes over the TARDIS and takes River away.

And it’s around then that all the Romans suddenly slump for a moment, stop being Roman, stand up and do that flapping down hand thing that reveals them to be Autons. And that includes Rory, but he’s being awkward and attempts to resist the changing. And that’s the point at which Amy remembers who he is, which is a bit awkward, as it appears he isn’t who he is. Err, something like that, anyway.

But the Doctor’s too busy underground to deal with all that, as he’s been joined by some shiny new Daleks. And Cybermen, and Sontarans. And Siluri-err, whatever we’re supposed to call them now. And other guys, all of whom have been inconvenienced at some point or another by the Doctor. They’ve worked out that the Doctor is going to be responsible for destroying the Universe, and in a most unlikely alliance, they’ve worked together to create a complicated trap that would appeal to him. They’re going to seal him up in the Pandorica[6] to make sure he can’t do anything of the kind. This does of course answer the question about who the most dangerous being in the Universe is, why he’s in the Pandorica, and why the Doctor didn’t know who was in there. Nicely done, Mr Moffat.

The Doctor realises that the misbehaving TARDIS is what’s going to explode and do the destroying, and that it’s going to happen with River on board. The Sontarans in particular aren’t having any of this, as they’re quite sure than only the Doctor can fly the TARDIS, suggesting that they haven’t been introduced to River Song as yet.

And if you think that’s bad, Rory is overwhelmed by his Auton side and shoots Amy dead.

And the Doctor is sealed into a box even he can’t get out of in time to stop the TARDIS exploding, all the stars in the Universe exploding leaving the Earth alone in space.

And that, my dears, is how to really do a cliffhanger.  No trailer for the next part, no hints, no clues. Just everybody apparently trapped or dead. Or an Auton, which is also pretty bad.

I was seriously impressed by this story. Quite apart from all the threads from the series coming together, there was so enough going on to overwhelm the senses, blast the brain and generally create an atmosphere of confusion, excitement and loads of other cool things.

The big question of how the Doctor gets out of this one will be answered when I manage to write another mega post on the final episode – The Big Bang. And if you thought this one was complicated, that one will warp your fragile little minds…

[1] Taking them in reverse order would be excessively wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey even for a Steven Moffat masterpiece
[2] Completing a nice line-up of friends the Doctor has made this year….
[3] If you think this bit is complicated, you may want to have a lie down before going on much further
[4] This will become clearer later. Much later at the rate this post is going
[5] Fancy phones…
[6] Yes, it’s the James Bond/Batman thing again. Why don’t villains just be villainous and kill their opponents? Hmmm?

Weight and Stuff Report – 29 June 2010

Down another wee bit today, good stuff.

Today’s picture is of the statue of Neptune in Durham’s Market Place. It used to stand on the old pant – that’s a public water pump – before being moved to a park, being struck by lightning, restored and eventually returned to more or less its original position.



Doctor Who – Kamelion Tales

It’s a long wait until Doctor Who Special Day, or “Christmas” as some people apparently still call it, but in the meantime, we’re getting some more DVD releases from the Deep Past, otherwise known as the twentieth century. The latest is one of those themed box sets. This one features two Fifth Doctor (that’s Peter Davison) and a short-lived and not entirely successful companion – the shape changing robot thingy called Kamelion.

The King’s Demons

This was first shown in March 1983, and is that moderately rare thing, a two-part story. Possibly just as well, as it isn’t one of the best. The plot involves one of the Master’s Terrible Plans[1]. In what even the Doctor recognises as “small-scale villainy”, he plans to stop Magna Carta being signed[2], thus preventing the growth of democracy, which suggests only a passing familiarity with Magna Carta itself[3] and history in general, but never mind.

In common with a number of stories of the period, the Master initially appears in disguise, this time with a French accent straight from the Monty Python and the Holy Grail school of acting. His plan involves using a fancy robot that has disguised itself as King John. The robot, Kamelion, was envisaged by the production team as a new companion that could usefully disguise itself as anyone at all, but would also appear in its natural state. Which, due to the limitations of the technology of the time, didn’t work terribly well….

It’s a bit silly and frothy, but amusing enough, and doesn’t outstay its welcome by too much.

Extras are fairly light. In addition to the expected commentary, production subtitles and pictures, you’ll find:

  • Kamelion – Metal Man This is a short documentary on the shape-changing robot thingy, which goes a long way towards explaining why it wasn’t used as much as had been originally intended.
  • Magna Carta A bit of proper history. Not bad.

Planet of Fire

This is a bit more substantial, being a four parter first shown in February and March 1984. It sees the arrival of Peri, the departure of Kamelion (not that he’d done anything since pretending to be King John) and some explanation about Turlough’s mysterious past before he too leaves. All of which sets things up for the Fifth Doctor’s regeneration in the next story…

This one also involves the Master, who, after a minor problem with his tissue compression eliminator[3] wants to use some unique substance to regenerate himself, take revenge on the Doctor, and generally do Bad Things. His vehicle for this is Kamelion, who he takes over again.

Extras are a lot more impressive for this one. For a start, there’s a second DVD containing a newly edited “Special Edition” of the story, presented as a single feature, with some new CGI and sound mix. Then there’s the usual stuff – commentary, production subtitles, PDF files of Radio Times listings, a photo gallery, and:

  • The Flames of Sarn – one of the usual “making of” thingy, with all the usual suspects
  • Return to the Planet of Fire – Looking at the Lanzarote locations
  • Designs on Sarn – Malcolm Thornton talks about his design work on the story
  • Calling the Shots – Director Fiona Cumming talks about her work on the story
  • Remembering Anthony Ainley – A tribute to the man who played the Master in the 1980s

So, overall, not an essential addition to your collection, unless you’re the kind of person[4] who has to have them all, but not too bad, really.

[1] This one isn’t so much terrible in its intention, as well, just terrible
[2] Pedant point: King John sealed it, not signed it…
[3] He apparently forgot which end was which
[4] That would be me

Weight and Stuff Report – 28 June 2010

Down again today. Can this go on? Probably not…

Here’s another picture from yesterday’s Durham trip. This shows the view along the River Wear from the Prebends Bridge. I walked along the riverside from just beyond the bridge you can see in the distance, then back along the other side of the river before having a proper walk around the city. I think of this as my “postcard shot” of the day:

Durham Riverside

Durham Riverside

Best. Headline. Ever.

I’ve been known to mock BBC News from time to time, but I have to give them full marks for this report into an EU thingy about product labelling. Apparently some Eurocrats think all food packaging should show weight or volume, even for things where this makes no sense whatsoever, such as packs of bread rolls, or boxes of eggs.

This would normally be a moderately tedious story, as it’s sure to end in deals being done, agreements being reached and all teacup-sized weather patterns settled quite nicely.

But fortunately, someone at BBC News thought of an eye-catching and quite lovely headline:

BBC News – UK scrambles to keep ‘dozen eggs’ in EU battle

Scrambles? Eggs? Wonderful. And very tasty, too – I make mine with garlic butter, which adds a certain something. Garlic, mostly.

Cathedral and Cross

I’ll get round to doing a gallery type post later, but I thought I’d let this one out on its own first. While I was walking around Durham Cathedral, I took a closer look at what I had assumed was a moderately old Celtic Cross nearby. It actually turned out to be a memorial to members of the Durham Light Infantry who had died in battle.

It took a bit of moving around to get this angle, and a bit of lens correction tweaking in Lightroom to make it look a bit less like things were falling over backwards. I also used the Content Aware Fill thingy to remove the top half of a person from the grass, as they looked a bit odd sticking up there after I’d cropped the image.

Cathedral and Cross

Cathedral and Cross

Durham Cathedral and the Durham Light Infantry Memorial Cross

Weight and Stuff Report – 27 June 2010

Down again today. Though that is an “after a bit of a walk on a warm day” weight, so it may be artificially low. We shall see…

I decided that it was time I got back into getting out and about on Sundays. I started this last year, then sort of let it drop for the usual reasons of tuitness and motivationlessness.[1] I looked at various options – Hartlepool was nearly the target, but the trains are a wee bit naff on Sundays, so that will have to wait for another day. Then I thought of York – I haven’t been for a while, and it would have been a good day to wave my wide angle lens at the Minster. But in the end, I decided that as it was a rather warm day, I’d prefer a shorter train journey. So I settled on Durham, which is always a good choice. I had to wait about half an hour for a train from Newcastle, but had no wait at all coming back, so that wasn’t so bad.

I had a good wander, took loads of pictures, stopped for a cold fruity ice drink thingy and some shortbread in Caffè Nero[2], then wandered some more and took some more pictures before heading to the station, arriving just in time for a train.

I’ll be posting some pictures over the next couple of days, but here’s one to be going on with:



Detail of the Sanctuary Knocker at Durham Cathedral.

This slightly scary looking thing is the sanctuary knocker[3] on the door of Durham Cathedral. In what the descriptive sign vaguely describes as “medieval times”, anyone who had committed a serious crime could claim sanctuary at the Cathedral by knocking on the door. Once admitted, they had thirty seven days[4] to sort out their affairs, then could choose to either stand trial[5] or leave the country by the nearest port. Note: this facility is no longer offered.

[1] If that’s not a proper word, it should be, so there.
[2] Just for once, I didn’t have their excellent espresso: I was that hot!
[3] Pedant point: it’s actually a replica of the original
[4] Why thirty seven? Seems oddly specific
[5] Not a popular option, what with hanging, not to mention drawing and quartering being part of the “tough on crime” principles of the time…