Raging Against the World

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Monthly Archives: October 2009

A Ghost story for Halloween

It’s almost that time of year, so here’s something to send the shivers down your spine.  Of course it could never really happen, could it?  Or could it?  Perhaps it could.

Or could it?

Not so much a Big Finish as a damp squib

So I’ve listened to the first half of Patient Zero and oh god it’s dull.  The premise appears to be that there’s some spirit living inside the TARDIS which has been there since The Chase and is invisible to all TARDIS occupants.  It’s now taken over plummy, silver spoons and all the other cutlery in her mouth, Charley.  That’s right, hundreds of years it’s been there.  It even lists them one by one in a piece of fan-wank nerdy listing.  This is their hook and it wouldn’t catch a stickleback.

Now of course being written by the supreme egotist Nick Briggs we can run through the checklist of Briggsisms.

Daleks?   Check.  Base Under Siege?  Check.  Plenty of middle-class people making a living from doing apparently nothing?  Check.  Nick Briggs writing himself another “comedy” cameo role which he plays with “an accent”?  Check, bloody check.

So yet again he trots out his Daleks and on the CD extras we hear people gush about how he’s the only man on the planet who can do the voices.  Rubbish.  Anyone with a ring modulator can do it.  If you pay attention to Doctor Who 1963-1989 you’ll notice that it’s not Nick Briggs doing the voices.  Believe it or not other people can do a perfectly acceptable Dalek too!  Who’d have thought?  But he’s got a ring modulator you see!  So he’s better than anyone else!  Even if they all sound like Nick Briggs in different pitches!

It was often said during the eighties that all Dalek scripts had to be vetted and approved by Terry Nation’s people.  This lead to a situation where Dalek stories came perhaps one a year, in most cases one per Doctor.  Nowadays we have a glut, and not just on television.  The Big Finish audio range is full to bursting with Dalek appearances.  On television the 6th Doctor met Daleks once.  On audio he’s met them (and Davros) so often that he now sneers, is sarcastic and mocks them at every moment.  It demeans them and us as a viewing audience.  The Daleks are the most evil, cunning creatures in the universe and now they’re having the piss taken out of them by the Doctor.  It’s got beyond a joke.  In Patient Zero we have yet another piece of writing which reduces them yet further in much the way that Star Trek ruined the Borg.

Let’s just briefly mention “the accent” again.  In 1968 the Krotons had magnificent voices, speaking with rich resounding South African accents.  When the Krotons were brought back by Big Finish recently (written by Nick Briggs of course) who gets to do the Kroton voices?  You’ll never guess.  Nick Briggs.  Oh we need someone to play Ice Warriors?  Hmm, says Nick Briggs, who can we cast?  I know!  Me!   Is there any character he can’t cast himself as?  Expect to hear him as a Sontaran, all Autons and as the next female companion, I shouldn’t wonder.  Oh it’ll happen.

The tedious Return of the Krotons (listen for yourself) has them doing a cod-Brummie accent, again atrociously.  He usually trots out cod-Brummie or cod-Cockney, mockney if you will.  And being a terribly well-spoken middle class chap his cockney accent is about as believable as Nicholas Courtney’s in The Mind of Evil.  It’s that bad, but it doesn’t stop him trotting it out at every possible occasion.

I tried listening to his stodgy dull, dull, dull, dull Dalek Empire series and hated every second.  I tried, believe me I tried, I listened to the whole of the first series and it never reached any level of quality.  Cyberman was slightly better, but again piffle.  Go on, try to guess who played the Cybermen.

Listening to the Big Finish podcasts is an exercise in fawning and gushing.  He seems to have surrounded himself with a group of yes-men who think he’s wonderful.  In a recent podcast his employees were congratulating him on how good he was in the Torchwood series, a casting choice brought about by nepotism rather than talent, that’s fairly obvious.  He was atrocious in it and it’s not just me that thinks so, it was a roundly ridiculed performance by most of fandom.

But I can’t recall the last Big Finish audio I actually enjoyed.  Which is such a shame, as the first 28 Doctor Who audios were almost universally fabulous.  I haven’t yet found an 8th Doctor audio I enjoyed (though Chimes of Midnight is good for the first three episodes) and that’s with me being a big fan of Paul McGann.

One of the complaints I had about Doctor Who Confidential is that it was just an excuse for all the crew of Who to gush at each other about how wonderful they all were.  This came to a head for me after the nadir which was The Lazarus Experiment.  Mark Gatiss failing to be a straight actor in a godawful story with the crappest CGI monster you’ll ever see.  Not to mention Martha’s sister and mother being inexplicably around for no discernible reason.  Watch it and hang your jaw in disbelief while they congratulate themselves for how much the CGI monster’s face looked like Mark Gatiss.  I’ll bet even Mark Gatiss himself couldn’t recognise his face in it.

And this is the problem with Big Finish CD extras nowadays.  Nick Briggs wants to have a little making of feature for each as a sort of memorial of the recording process, which is admirable, but every one sounds the same:

“we cast x because he/she has a range to his/her voice which we thought would be great.”

“this is such a great script, it’s better than any others I’ve read” (including the next one and the next one etc.)

and lots of gushing about what it’s like to be an audio director.  The same.  Every. Time.

I once heard Mr Briggs say that he cast someone as a cockney because they had a cockney accent and they would be perfect for the role.  The inference in the way he said it (sorry, I can’t recall word-for-word what was said or I’d prove my point better) was that this person was working class and that he drafted them in to play a working class character because that was all they were good for.  There does seem to be an over-reliance on middle-class actors at Big Finish with just about every character and every role played by people with received pronunciation.  I realise this is something the middle-class honchos at Big Finish can’t help.  It’s been said in studies that employers will tend to employ people like themselves and this is very evident at BF.  I never truly understood what Christopher Eccleston meant about posh Doctors poshing about the universe until I noticed it in Big Finish.  He was so right.  Bless you Christopher Eccleston for opening my eyes.  I’m not an advocate of class war, but I feel that in entertainment the working classes are not well represented.  The BBC itself seems to be more interested in degrees and which university you went to than how much talent you have.

Now I know this comes across as an attack on Nick Briggs and it really isn’t.  He’s probably a very nice chap who is very nice to get on with, but his audio work leaves me cold.  I don’t like his writing, I don’t like his ideas for releases and I’m particularly brought out of the scene when I hear his voice, seemingly in every single release.  He’s too recogniseable as a voice actor.  He should realise his limitations and stand back. 

Mr Briggs, please:  be a bit more creative in your casting and get a few people around you who’ll tell you when you’re wrong.

Why does no-one tell me these things?

A typical Digiguide screen

A typical Digiguide screen

Every now and then I check the internet to see if Digiguide has been ported to the iPhone and I always come away disappointed.  But today I stumbled across tvguide.co.uk who do have an iPhone tv guide!  It doesn’t yet have the full functionality of Digiguide (there’s no radio listings, no reminders, no colour-coding) but it’s still damn good.

iPlayer

And clicking on a BBC iPlayer link on one of the programmes showed me that, yes, you can now listen to The News Quiz via your iPhone – hurrah!  Not a big fan of the news quiz myself, but it shows that streaming content is slowly edging it’s way towards the mobile phone.  Now I’m sure you can pay for some streaming material, but being a British citizen I’m used to getting all my tv and radio for free.

I assume the News Quiz (and I’ve just found a lot of bbc7 stuff!) can be streamed as there’s no copyrighted music involved (unlike trying to listen to a streaming radio channel) and that a further amount of rooting around would find other programs I could listen to via the iPlayer.  I haven’t yet found any TV that streams to the iPhone, but I’m sure a year from now it’ll be commonplace.  It’s a good start, it can only get better.

It’s 2am again

Just a reminder to those of you who haven’t been told.  The clocks went back.  We’re now off of BST and back onto GMT.  So if you woke up at 10am you’ve effectively woken up at 9am.

This time yesterday it was an hour later than it is now.

Can you Sausage me a Gregory?

Today Amazon made me happy.  The much-wanted Sweeney boxset turned up and it’s magnificent!  Now if you’re not British or under 35 you won’t know what it is, but if you like Life On Mars you’ll love this.  The writers of Life On Mars said that basically they wanted to write The Sweeney.

Packed full of all the episodes in lovely remastered beautiful-looking colours was all I was expecting.  But it’s got more!

Commentaries with Dennis Waterman, Garfield “Haskins” Morgan; writers, Ted Childs, Trevor Preston, Troy Kennedy Martin; editors; directors and numerous introductions by the guest stars it’s worth every penny of the measly £46 I spent on the DVDs (all 18 of them!) and also music-only audio tracks should you want them!

It also has the Armchair Theatre episode which inspired the series and the two Sweeney movies.

The colours are beautiful and the banter in the commentaries just make me wish I was working for Euston Films in the 70s.  It sounds like they had a blast and hearing them now you can picture them all sitting before the mics with a tumbler full of scotch.

I heartily recommend this to you, buy it, you’ll have the time of your life (Running time: 48 solid hours if you didn’t sleep, or go to the toilet).

Now get yer trousers on, you’re nicked.

Buy it here

Fobbed off

 

Just found these rather beautiful watches on http://celestialtoystore.com/catalog/ and I really want one.  I have a gold Hunter but I really like the look of the Gallifreyan watch.

However the one I really want is this!

The Sixth Doctor's watch

The Sixth Doctor's watch

Bunged Up

So about a week ago I got this pain in my upper left jaw and then developed earache in my left ear.  Over the weekend my hearing went funny, kinda like when you’re underwater and you come up for air.  I went to a NHS Walk-In centre where they said it might be a perforated eardrum, gave me antibiotics (the standard response) and told me to see my GP when they ran out.

This weekend has been hell, my ear’s been leaking goo all night and I’ve barely slept.  Today I could take the discomfort no more and moved myself post-haste to hospital to see if they could pump out the goo which is dulling the sound in my left ear.  Fears of being diagnosed with a perforated eardrum and encroaching deafness nearly sent me over the edge.  I rely on my senses, if I lost my sight or hearing I would freak out.   I stopped going clubbing when I heard my ears ringing in the toilets of a particularly loud club.

So after about 20 pages of Dickens (which gives you an idea how long I waited) I got called in to see the nurse.  She set my mind at ease that if my eardrum were to be perforated I would heal and my hearing would return to normal in 3wks to 6 months.  I’m not going to be deaf!  Phew.  I still have the unceasing discomfort of all sound being not exactly stereo, but as if someone’s turned the balance to the right.  I can still hear in my left ear, but not higher frequencies.

She said to keep all water from my ear (showers etc) and see my GP who would either give me more antibiotics or have my ear pumped.  They call it an “aural toilet” apparently!  If it is pumped my hearing won’t instantly return to normal, but I see it as a good start.

Now I just have to endure the agonies of getting past the GP’s receptionist.  You know the drill, they try to keep people from the GP for as long as possible.  I don’t want to have to book an appointment for three days from now.  The nurse at the hospital assured me that I can be seen by any duty doctor, not just my GP so hopefully I won’t be prevented by these harridan desk jockeys.

How to improve your eBay shopping

Shhh…  Don’t tell everyone, but I’ve just found a clever little app which has enabled me to get the much-wanted genuine Microsoft Office 2007 for only £36.42. 

It’s called Fat Fingers and you can get it from fatfingers.co.uk or the iPhone app store. 

What it does is it’ll search eBay for spelling mistakes or misplaced spaces, eg.

Play Station

playtation

and using it I managed to find a copy of Office which was listed as “microsoftoffice” without a space separating the words, hence it had no bids.

Of course someone tried to snipe it off me in the last few seconds of the auction so I didn’t get my bargain at £25.00 but it still beats the £342 Microsoft would charge me.

Desert Sands

Scorpion fight!

Scorpion fight!

 

Just playing through some old videotapes and found an episode of last year’s mediocre ITV show, Primeval.  Rather impressed to see a very realistic panoramic desert on show.  I don’t know where it was filmed, but I bet they didn’t waste a vast amount of money on shipping cast, crew, equipment  (and two buses) to Dubai.

Big ol' desert

Big ol' desert

Cutter and eye-candy

Cutter and eye-candy

Marco Polo – finished at last

Off to Marinus

Off to Marinus

Episode 7 is now finished, making all 7 episodes on my iPhone.  Lovely.  It’s been a long hard slog, interrupted only by marathon sessions of Warcraft.  God it’s addictive.
Next project: revamp my episodes of The Reign of Terror.