Monthly Archives: July 2011

July 2011 Round-up

What? Another month gone already? These things need to slow down a bit! But the last day of the month means it’s time for the monthly report thingy, which saves you the trouble of reading all the daily nonsense. Of course, you could save yourself even more trouble by not reading this either, but what would be the fun in that? Anyway, on with the show.


Hmm. Having been alarmed at the start of the month, when my weight peaked at 237.8 pounds (16 stone 13.8 pounds, 107.9 kg), which is nearly three pounds higher than the alarming weight that got me started on trying to lose weight back in 2003, I’ve been working on this a bit, with these results:

July 1: 236.2 pounds (16 stone 12.2 pounds, 107.1 kg)
July 31: 228.2 pounds (16 stone 4.2 pounds, 103.5 kg)

Difference: a frankly quite impressive drop of 8 pounds (3.6kg). That’s near enough two pounds a week, and over half a stone in total, which is pretty good for one month. I doubt I’ll keep up that rapid rate, but it’s a good start. Another thirty or so pounds should do it…


Well, I’ve been a good boy, for the most part. No sausage rolls, less eating overall.


Well, there was a wee bit of walking when I was in Wales, and for the remaining ten working days this month, I walked in five times and walked home twice, which is quite a lot by recent standards. I’ve also done no less than eleven sessions on my exercise bike, which isn’t bad considering I didn’t start until halfway through the month.


What with being away for nearly two weeks, I didn’t get quite so much posting done this month, so the total is 57 including this report. Unless I get the mad urge to post some more stuff later, that is.


Took lots of pictures in Wales, now I just need to get myself organised and sort them out and show them off.

Weight and Stuff Report – 31 July 2011

Down again today, which is pretty good for a weekend. Having decided not to go to the air show, I went out and did a few things I’ve been meaning to for a while. I took the bus to Newcastle, then went to the Discovery Museum to see the exhibition of paintings by John Coatsworth. I’ve been an admirer of John’s distinctive wobbly views of the north east for years, and it was good to see a load of his pictures at full size. I may be getting some prints before long, and I’ll definitely be getting the book of his work which is out soon. The exhibition is on until January, so you’ve got plenty of time for that one.

From there, I went to the Pharaoh: King of Egypt exhibition at the Hancock. That was good, too – it offers a good selection of items from the British Museum, with some moderately good explanatory text. Worth a look, it’s on until 25 September.

Not satisfied with that, I then went and bought a small stand for the bedroom TV, which I took home and assembled.

I didn’t think to turn on Runkeeper for today’s walkies, but I plotted my route on Gmap Pedometer and apparently I did over three miles, which is more than I’ve done on a Sunday for a while.

And here’s your picture of the day – a slightly different angle on the Tyne:



Slight change of plan…

I mentioned last month that the Sunderland Air Show was on this weekend, and I was intending to make my usual trip with camera and folding chair[1]. I even prepared last night – got the bag packed ready and sorted out what I was going to wear. But then this morning, I had a think and decided that I didn’t really want to go after all. I think I’m having one of my periodic crowd avoidance moods.

So, I’m going to have a quiet day in, with maybe a little walk a bit later.

Maybe next year…

[1] Can’t do the standing all afternoon thing, the old knees won’t have it..

Doctor Who – Earth Story

In my Mannequin Mania post, I mentioned that some Doctor Who box sets make more sense than others. The one with the two Auton stories made perfect sense – a clear theme, and both were “new beginning” stories of a kind. This one is a different thing altogether, where the only theme is that both stories are set on Earth[1], which is something that could be said for many more of the Doctor’s adventures. But perhaps the common factor is that both would be difficult to sell as single full-priced releases, for reasons I’ll go into as I babble about each one in turn.

The Gunfighters

This was first shown in April and May 1966, with William Hartnell as the Doctor, Peter Purves as Steven and Jackie Lane as Dodo. It’s basically a moderately twisted retelling of the gunfight at the OK Corral. With a song. And pretty much played for laughs most of the way. There’s the traditional bit of the Doctor being mistaken for Doc Holliday, Steven in a comedy singing cowboy outfit, and not a lot more, really. Worth watching at least once, if only for the Doctor addressing Wyatt Earp as “Mr Werp” every time, but not what I’d call one of the most significant stories.

Though with a bit of retrospective wossnameness, you could point at it as being an early indication of the TARDIS having a very real mind of its own in its apparently random landings. The Doctor needs a dentist, so the TARDIS drops him off where he can meet Doc Holliday, with all the fun that you might expect to follow from that.

Extras are also pretty light this time. In addition to the usual bits and bobs, there are a couple of items:

  • The End of the Line At this point, the series was in trouble. No longer as popular as it had been, with William Hartnell’s health getting worse, could the end be in sight? People involved at the time discuss what was happening, and how the concept of replacing the lead actor came about…
  • Tomorrow’s Times: The First Doctor Mary (Romana I) Tamm introduces newspaper reports, some of which sound remarkably familiar…

So, this DVD, while being an enjoyable enough thing, isn’t really something you’d want to pay anything approaching the full price for. Which probably accounts for it being in a box with…

The Awakening

Moving right along to January 1984, where the Doctor (Peter Davison), Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Turlough (Mark Strickson) arrive in a sleepy English village, intending to visit Tegan’s uncle. Naturally, they arrive at just the right time to get involved in some sinister time-bending evil, in which an alien known as the Malus is influencing the locals to take a bit of Civil War re-enactment a little too seriously. This was originally intended as a four part story, but as that wasn’t working out too well, it was squeezed into two parts, which I’m afraid doesn’t really work too well either. There are some good bits, and overall the story is good enough, but somehow it doesn’t all fit together as well as it might have done. Perhaps one more episode would have given it enough room to breathe…

But there are some good extras, in addition to the usual, etc, etc, we have:

  • Return to Little Hodcombe Not quite the usual style of documentary this time. Janet Fielding, guest actor Keith Jayne, script editor Eric Saward and director Michael Owen Morris return to the three villages used in the making of the story and do the usual reminiscence thing, with some contributions from villagers.
  • Making the Malus Small, but fun piece involving the creators of the Malus prop, which is now owned by a collector who has it on his wall…
  • Now and Then Given the format of the first documentary, there’s a bit of overlap here, with this look at what’s changed in the locations
  • From the Cutting Room Floor Extended scenes, deleted scenes, including a bit with the often forgotten Kamelion leaning against a TARDIS corridor
  • The Golden Egg Awards During the recording, there was a slight problem caused by a horse deciding to follow the actors through a lych gate leading to the church. As it was tied to a cart at the time, this did lead to the gate getting a bit broken, what with it being a prop rather than a real one. This little oopsie earned the show a “Golden Egg Award”, presented to Peter Davison on Noel Edmonds’ Late Late Breakfast Show[2]

So there you have it – a curious collection, really, but enjoyable enough to get the box, which was cheaper than two single releases…

[1] Though Gary Gillat, writing in Doctor Who Magazine, helpfully points out that both involve lots of people on horses, so perhaps that would have been a better theme…
[2] An odd thing shown on Saturday evenings, hence the name

Doctor Who – Mannequin Mania

Moving right along with the classic Doctor Who DVDs – I need to get a move on as there’s only about a month to go before we get new episodes. Yes, only about a month to go  :tigger: !

What we have here is one of the little boxed sets that 2 entertain like to put out several times a year. This might be considered as a way of speeding up the releases, or if you’re slightly more cynical, you might think that it’s a way of selling some less marketable DVDs by sticking them in a box with something likely to be more popular. More of that in a future review, assuming I remember to return to this bit of muttering at the time.

Anyway, in this box you’ll find  Spearhead from Space, previously released in 2000, but now improved and with more extras, and Terror of the Autons, previously unreleased. In the usual way, I’ll look at each in turn.

Spearhead from Space

The last time we saw the Doctor he was in black and white, played by Patrick Troughton and in trouble with his own people, who we’d just learned were called the Time Lords. At the end of The War Games he’d been sentenced to exile on Earth in the twentieth century and obliged to regenerate, even though they didn’t call it that at the time.

Just as a disoriented Doctor (John Pertwee) is arriving on Earth, UNIT, under the command of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney, but you knew that, right?), who previously encountered the Doctor during a couple of alien invasion attempts, is investigating some mysterious objects that have fallen to the planet’s surface. Having recruited Cambridge scientist Liz Shaw (Caroline John) as an adviser, he’s interrupted by a report of a strange man having been found unconscious near an apparently abandoned Police telephone box. He rushes to investigate, only to find that it’s not the person he was expecting…

And so the fun begins, with the first appearance of the Autons causing the usual mayhem, misery and murder. The Doctor has several problems to contend with – establishing his identity, dealing with the Nestene intelligence that wants to take over the Earth, and finding the right clothes. Everything gets sorted out, and he’s taken on by UNIT as a special adviser, which does bring into question what Liz Shaw is going to be doing…

While the original release was a mid light on features, as was normal at the time, this one does a pretty good job:

  • Down to Earth Not just a “making of”, but a look at how the show was in imminent danger of being cancelled. The 1970 series was, it seems, pretty much a last chance to get a bigger audience. It’s interesting to see how much things changed from the previous year, and then point and laugh at critics in the 21st century who complain that today’s Doctor Who isn’t the same as it was at whatever arbitrary (and quite possibly imaginary) time they personally prefer.
  • Regenerations: From Black and White to Colour Interesting documentary on the transition from black and white to colour TV, which involved more technical challenges than you migt expect. At the time, colour was still fairly new in British TV, hardly anyone had colour “sets”[1], but the plan was to make things in colour anyway. This did result in things not always looking too good in black and white – the simple greyscale conversion wasn’t ideal. This did set me thinking[2] about the current gradual introduction of 3D. Personally, I’m not that interested in how it’s being done so far, but some variety of 3D TV will probably become as standard as colour is today.
  • UNIT Recruitment Film A lovely bit of silliness made in 1993, which was one of the few extras on the original release. Join UNIT, get zapped by aliens, that kind of thing…

And of course, the usual commentaries (two, this time – one of which is new to this reissue), production subtitles and stuff.

Terror of the Autons

If my fragile little memory is correct, I don’t think I saw the 1970 series when it was first shown[3], but I definitely saw this one. After the relative success of Jon Pertwee’s first year, a few changes were made to the format. Out went Liz Shaw (back to Cambridge, no on-screen farewell on the grounds that she was too intelligent to be the Doctor’s assistant), out went the “futuristic” UNIT uniforms[4] in favour of something that looked more conventional, and in came, well, lots of things:

  • Jo Grant (Katy Manning, but you knew that, etc, etc), the perfect companion for the Doctor[5]
  • Captain Mike Yates (Richard Franklin), filling the gap between the Brigadier and Sergeant Benton (John Levene)
  • The Master (the original, superb version played by Roger Delgado) –  another Time Lord, allegedly as brilliant as the Doctor, only with evil tendencies and a penchant for Terrible Plans, and I do mean terrible. Really bad, and apt to backfire on him…

With this opening story, the ensemble cast was complete, and things settled down into something of a formula, but it was a good one, and lots of good stuff followed. The creation of the Master (quite explicitly intended as a Moriarty to the Doctor’s Holmes) was a, err, master stroke – giving the Doctor an opponent who can offer a real challenge makes things much more interesting.

But not everything is new – the threat to Earth once again comes from the Nestene intelligence and its deadly Autons, with some additional tricks courtesy of the Master’s devious mind. Much fun is had by all (apart from the various people killed by the Master, shot by Autons, etc). It was a pleasure to watch it again.

Special features are not too bad, either:

  • Life on Earth One of the usual “making of” things, with the added bonus of an archive Jon Pertwee interview, and a discussion of how the production methods differ with the current version of Doctor Who. It’s all about the cameras, you know…
  • The Doctor’s Moriarty A good look at the origin and continuation of the Master.
  • Plastic Fantastic How TV made everyday objects frightening…

And of course, the usual other bits and bobs.

So, overall, this is one of the better boxed sets in the range. If you’ve already got Spearhead from Space, look at this as an opportunity to get a better version of it. Or something. Or wait a few months for the price to drop.

[1] That’s what they used to call them, you know
[2] Yes, I know it’s a bad habit, but sometimes I just can’t help it
[3] I was quite young at the time, you know. I suspect it was somewhere around that time that we first got a TV. Black and white, of course. Colour was far too expensive!

Weight and Stuff Report – 30 July 2011

Down again today. The new scale is clearly much better than the old one!

I’ve just done twenty minutes on the exercise bike, and this time I increased the resistance to the second level, which wasn’t too difficult at all.

Here’s a picture of a fish out of water:

There's something fishy about this

There's something fishy about this

Weight and Stuff Report – 29 July 2011

I finally decided that the scale was getting a little too random, so I bought a new one today. As expected, there was a difference of opinion between the new and old ones, but as the new one is an altogether more substantial device and is shiny and new, I’m inclined to give its result more, err, weight than the old one’s[1]. The fact that it came up with a slightly lower number is purely coincidental. Really.

After yesterday’s extra walking, I decided to take a break today and let myself get the bus to work. So there.

Today’s picture is one from yesterday lunchtime – some boats reflecting quite nicely in the Ouseburn, where it joins the Tyne.

Ouseburn Reflections

Ouseburn Reflections

[1] Not to be confused with any Lovecraftian Old Ones, of course

Weight and Stuff Report – 28 July 2011

Hmmm. Up a bit today in another of those fluctuation thingies. Either that, or the scale is playing silly buggers again. Might be time for an upgrade or at least a replacement, though that will no doubt lead to confusion as any new scale will be calibrated differently, so there could be an even bigger change in the recorded figures, or something. I’ll have to give it some thought.

I walked to work again, getting quite warm on the way, again remembering to get Runkeeper to record my progress. I took the Canon 5D Mk II with me today, as I wanted to check the progress of the Spillers Flour Mill demolition. And quite remarkably, I did indeed go for a walk in that direction at lunchtime. I took a different route back to make it a bit more interesting, though the route wasn’t quite as interesting as Runkeeper claims it was. Contrary to the map thingy you’ll see if you click that last link, I did not have a quick dip in the Tyne. It just shows that the positioning thingies on the iPhone aren’t as accurate as a dedicated GPS unit, but never mind, it’s close enough.

Having done all that, I decided to get the bus home, and I don’t plan on getting on the exercise bike this evening. Slow build up is the way to go…

I’ll show off some of today’s pictures when I’ve had time to look at them, so for now, here’s an owl:



Doctor Who – Planet of the Spiders

Anyone who scrolled to whatever part of the page my “Coming soon” thingy was lurking at the time may have noticed that this DVD release has been on my list of things to write about for quite some time. Well, last weekend, I finally found a suitable tuit and made a start on the growing pile of classic Doctor Who DVDs that I hadn’t yet watched. It had got to seven, which is quite a lot, especially when combined with all the other stuff I need to watch, so it may take a while…

Anyway, enough of the digressions and on with the post. This is Jon Pertwee’s last story as the Doctor[1], and also features Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith, Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, John Levine as Sergeant Benton and Richard Franklin returning as former Captain Yates[2]. And lots of really big spiders, so arachnophobes should probably stop reading at this point.

The story revolves around a blue crystal which the Doctor took from the planet Metebelis 3 and gave to Jo Grant as a wedding present after her departure in The Green Death. Having had some issues with it in South America, Jo has sent the crystal back to the Doctor. Meanwhile, the disgraced Mike Yates has called Sarah Jane and persuaded her to come and investigate the goings on at what’s meant to be a Buddhist retreat. Only some of the residents are using a slightly odd ritual in an attempt to gain power of the usually odd kind. The problem with that is that they’re being used by the mutated giant spiders of Metebelis 3, who not content with dominating the human colonists there now want, in the traditional way, to take over the universe.

Much running around, follows, including an overlong chase sequence included so that Jon Pertwee could have a bit of fun in a selection of vehicles, culminating in a final confrontation with a remarkably large spider, which sorts out Metebelis 3, but also irradiates the Doctor in a non-optimal manner. He manages to return to UNIT HQ, where he’s assisted by another Time Lord to regenerate.

It’s all a bit silly, really, and would probably have been better at four episodes than six, but it’s an important end of era story, which is worth watching at least once.

Extras include a commentary that features both Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen, in what must have been amongst their last contributions to Doctor Who, the usual production subtitles and galleries and some good stuff:

  • The Final Curtain Nicely compiled documentary on the end of Jon Pertwee’s time as the Doctor, which also saw a change in the production team. Quite apart from the ubiquitous Terrance Dicks, there’s archive interview material from Jon Pertwee and Barry Letts, good stuff from the excellent Mark Gatiss, and more.
  • Directing Who with Barry Letts A piece they must have been hanging on to for a while. Producer and Director Barry Letts recalling his work on the series.
  • Now and Then One of the traditional looks at how the locations used have changed
  • Omnibus Edition Just before the next series, with Tom Baker as the Doctor, started, an edited omnibus version was shown. It’s presented here without the magical restoration work on the normal version. Useful to compare and to be impressed by just how good the Restoration Team are.

And there’s a few other bits and pieces, too.

This is a nicely put together release, and you do need to see the Eight Legsssssss at least once.

[1] Excluding brief returns here and there
[2] Having left the UNIT job in a story that’s still waiting for its DVD release

Weight and Stuff Report – 27 July 2011

Despite it being another dull grey morning, I persuaded myself that I should walk to work. I even remembered to start the Runkeeper app on my iPhone, which logged my progress here. When I left the office, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the clouds had cleared, the sky was blue, the sun was shining and err, well, that was about it, actually. But this did inspire me to turn left, which meant that I walked home instead of getting the bus. I took a slightly different, and according to Runkeeper, slightly longer route home, which was slightly harder work what with it being warmer, me being more tired, and the little matter that coming home is more uphill than down. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, anyway.

Having done that, I’m taking a break from the exercise bike for tonight. Don’t want to overdo these things and then find I have to stop…

Your picture for today is a goat.

Great Orme Goat

Great Orme Goat

Apparently he’s quite well-known on the Great Orme. The shop even sells “I’ve seen the goat” souvenirs. I didn’t buy any, though.