Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas everyone


Merry Christmas everyone, and the best of New Years!

xxx

Monday, December 08, 2008

"Created and written by Adrian Hodges"

OK, so I would have posted about Survivors sooner but I accidentally deleted the most insightful and witty review the world had ever seen from my 'handheld' a couple of weeks ago and so had to start from scratch. Hard to make the words go together a second time so here's something slightly less witty but much less mean.

I'm a big fan of the original Survivors, you might have guessed that after my droning on about it for the last year or so since the new version was announced. I was pretty excited about the remake as I think it's that rarity - a story that deserves, demands even, to be retold. If you ask me the apocalypse is more relevant today than it was thirty years ago and I doubt society has ever been closer to it's inevitable collapse.

A couple of years ago, before I'd heard of a Survivors remake, I started writing a post apocalyptic drama pilot about a rag tag group of mismatched people bonding together in the face of barbarism, disease and the threat of their own lack of practical skills. I was halfway though it before I realised it was really just a retread of Survivors.

Maybe that's what irritates me so much about Adrian Hodges unimaginative take on Survivors (apart from the qu
estionable 'Created and Written by' credit he seems to have given himself*). It's such a great premise for a series and so full of potential for new tales yet this reinterpretation retreads very closely the ground covered by the original. Whole sequences (I'm thinking particularly of the sequence where Abby succumbs to but eventually survives the virus) seem to be filmed straight from the original script. I suppose I'd read to much into it being described as a re-imagining of the original.

As has been pointed out in previous comments on this very page the new show is populated exclusively by young and beautiful people, shunning the ordinary folk of the original while crowing about it's multiculturalism.


Our band of beautiful survivors came together very quickly, which just about worked for this viewer, but I can't help feeling that was more due to only having six episodes commissioned than for the benefit of the story.

'Shit,' cries Mr Hodges, 'we can't spread them all meeting out over three episodes guys. They all need to have bonded by page 82. Plus let's just have them already set up in a house when episode two starts - no time for all that travelling the countryside guff'.

We heard so much about how 'slow' the original was and how 'pacey' and 'updated' the 2008 version would be. Truth
is the storytelling in the remake is just rushed, not pacey.

Once established (off screen) in their new home the survivors seem to take no steps to protect themselves, despite encountering a series of armed and unfriendly people they gad about shopping and chasing chickens without any apparent thought of arming themselves or indeed any sign of a plan for the future. Stark contrast to the original where the group is drawn together by Abby's determination to survive and designs for doing so. By the third episode there seems to be little feeling of danger or jeopardy. There has been much talk of farming and relearning old skills but zero evidence of it actually happening.

The apocalypse has been a slight inconvenience mainly manifesting in an inability to text. This lack of danger is exacerbated by the viewers occasional visits to a secret and isolated scientific base where people wear lab coats and talk about the virus and it being 'time to begin'. Yawn. Perhaps this problem is caused by the programme makers seeming intent to focus on the 'hope' aspect of the story in an effort to avoid the show being depressing or weighty. Chirpy post-apocalyptic dramas are, in my experience, quite rare - and I struggle to see this as a bad thing.

Another irritation in the opening episode is the casting of lovely Freema Agyeman as Jenny, a character who survived the entire run of the original series, only to kill her off in the opening episode. That caught us off guard didn't it? Except the character replacing Jenny isn't particularly different to her and a new viewer wouldn't care anyway. It feels as if the production team are saying 'Ha! Anything goes in our Survivors.' The reality though is that it doesn't make a blind bit of difference if Jenny survives or if Anya survives. The change is purely superficial.

Public reaction to the show seemed to start well, although ratings have declined with each episode. Internet chatter and press reviews seemed to take issue with another post apocalyptic drama (perhaps not helped by the very recent, and very good, Dead Set on Channel 4). Perhaps in these days of 28 Day/Weeks Later, Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Fallout 3 and Wall-E there's only so many dead Earth's the public can take (not a sentiment I share). They'll be gutted to hear there's another TV version of Day of the Triffids on the way then.**

None of which is to say that I'm not enjoying it...

Maybe it's just the apocalypse slut in me but I kind of like it. I like the new characters, I like the multiculturalism. I think Paterson Joseph has managed to channel Ian McCulloch's standoffish (to the point of having a personality disorder) Greg Preston. Julie Graham (wincingly awful in the dire, dire, dire Bonekickers) brings much determination and passion to Abby Grant, even if she can't really compare to Caroline Seymour. Phillip Rhys is fun as the disenfranchised yuppie, completely out of his depth in the brave new world.

Cream of the new crop however is Max Beesley's Tom Price. A very differnt proposition to Talfryn Thomas's sometimes comical itinerant sleeper villain. The 21st Century Tom Price is a mercurial sociopath who seems happy to stand fast with his codependants for now, though it seems inevitable that blood will spill sooner or later - but whose will it be? His interaction with the other survivors is one of the highlights of the series so far.

If it wasn't for that 'Created and Written by' tag I'd probably be wholeheartedly endorsing Survivors 2008. As it stands I'm sticking with it in spite of it's lack of originality, it's arrogance and it's oddly neutered and unthreatening quiet Earth...

*How can something be 'Created and written by' one person AND ALSO 'Based upon the novel by' another person..? Discuss.
**And not gutted for the very good reasons that a)they can't hope to improve upon the 1981 version and b) there is so much more to Wyndham than the bloody Triffids. Why not film The Kraken Wakes for Gods sake!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Unnamed Blog Update

I've been a bad blogger. Not bad as in murdered your parents and fashioned their faces into underpants but bad as in not really been updating the old blogerooney as much as I ought. In the spirit of a bit of catching up then, here's some of the nonsense what's been filling my head the last few months...

As I was recently saying over at the old Fractal Hall T2 never really delivered on the promise of the original Terminator film for me. I mean it's got some good moments, and Linda Hamilton does a fantastic job of turning the Sarah Connor of the first film on her head. I just couldn't be arsed with the cutesy 'I'm your best friend' version of the Terminator especially in the relentless-killing-machine-knee-capping-people-because-killing-is-bad scene. Call me a sourpuss but there it is. As it goes I was never a fan of ET or the Goonies either.

Anyway, I had zero interest in
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (which is as much interest as I'd had in Terminator 3 or the upcoming McWhatever sequels) but I happened to catch some of the opening episode on Virgin and thought it looked worth a look. I'm now starting on the second series and I must say it's really good.

It's a perfect sequel to both the original films story of the future resistance and the story of Sarah and John from T2. Lena Headey is excellent as the terribly damaged but relentlessly determined title character and Thomas Dekker (formerly of fast disappearing up it's own backside -
Heroes) is sympathetic as teenage John Connor, who is almost a prisoner of his own destiny, whilst sometimes showing the steel of the impossibly heroic future John Connor we have heard so much about. Also Summer Glau of Firefly fame gets to beat the crap out of big burly blokes on a weekly basis - which has got to be worth a look surely?

Fringe is great. It's often referred to as a kind of X Files clone but there's much more to it than that. While it owes plenty to Mulder & Scully (you know, mysterious strangers, magic torches (as seen on CSI) and all that FBI baggage) it's an awful lot more fun that that show was even at it's peak. Most of the audiences enjoyment of the show comes from the relationships between the principal characters.

These three characters are drawn together by the things they see and quickly seem to bond almost in spite of themselves. Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), is an FBI agent drawn into a world of mysterious phenomena and niche science when her partner (in all senses) falls victim to a particularly unpleasant virus. The only person who can help them is Dr Walter Bishop (John Noble), an experimental scientist and grade A genius who has spent the last sixteen years in a mental institute. The third character is Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), Walter's brilliant and estranged son who is required to sign Walter out of the sanatorium.

Quite aside from weird science and hidden conspiracies Fringe is worth watching for the amusing and sometimes questionable antics of Walter Bishop, frequently reminiscent of televisions favourite Time Lord.

Right that's it for now but be warned, I'll be back soon to talk about Apparitions, Survivors and (as Look-In used to say) much, much more...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Screenwipe Writer Special

Stop what you're doing and listen to me! ...with your eyes...

Thanks to my Electronic Programme Guide I've just noticed that this evenings Screenwipe
promises to be a Writers Special...

Charlie Brooker takes an irreverent look at all aspects of life on the small screen, including capsule reviews of the week's highs and lows.

In a writers' special, Brooker is joined by some of the best in the business to talk about how you make a TV programme actually happen. The people and pens behind Doctor Who, Father Ted, Peep Show, Life on Mars, Shameless and many more lead us through the joys and pitfalls of writing, with the added benefit of some of the best bits from the programmes.

More reason than usual to check tonight's edition out then. Remember it'll be be iplayable for a week after broadcast.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Congratulations...


...to the plethora of Scribodromers who are through to the next stage of the Red Planet competition. In keeping with my unproductive year (two half complete scripts and just embarking on a third) I didn't enter this year, to give everyone else a chance obviously, but these guys did. And then they got shortlisted.

Jason, Michelle, William, Laurence, David, and Oli - Well done and good luck to all (we don't have any favourites here on the island (apart from you obviously, but don't tell the others)). How exciting to have so many scripter/bloggers selected - here's hoping one of you goes all the way.

Congrats also to anyone I haven't mentioned who got through.

Right, back to the day job now...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Coming soon...

Hello.

Yes, it's me. Remember me? Remember all those great times we had? Well I'm back. Well not back exactly but nearly back, in the sense that I will soon be posting with details of what I've been up to recently and lots of ill-informed opinions about telly and writing and writing telly and stuff.

In the meantime I just wanted to highlight a couple of things happening on a tellybox near you at the moment...

Thing 1: Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe returned to BBC4 on Tuesday night. If you missed it be sure to check out the BBC Eye-voyuer for a digital rerun at your convenience.

B: Set your video, put your friends off of visiting and get excited because the remake of 'Survivors' starts on Sunday at 9pm. It has an excellent pedigree and promises to be a major television event so don't miss out. I'll be checking up on you remember...

That's all for now, you may go about your business.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Big Picture

Oh do I feel like a doofus. What a gulla-bull...

I've been working on this script for months. And months (it's not been the best year grindstone wise). I've been forging away and checking back to my little breakdown of what happens when, looking up at my notice board to get the big picture.

'Big picture' my jacksie.

I was writing away just now and I thought, OK, I've got to the mid point. I reckon I can blast on to the end of act two tonight (since I'm in pretty good spirits). Then I thought, 62 pages - wow. That's a long way in for a mid point on a fifty minute drama.

So I had a look at some other people's scripts for similar length slots.

What do you know, they're all around sixty-two pages. That's nice but there's a lot of stuff I'll cut, this is a rough draft after all. Although, there's a lot of notes I've made about things I want to expand on or add in during the redraft, this is a rough draft after all.


Then it hit me like a train, in a moment of complete clarity, an epiphany you might say: my scene breakdown is for two episodes, not one.

Of course I doubted myself. I said 'You're just saying that so you can tell yourself it's finished.'

'No I'm not,' I replied defensively.

'Yes, you are,' I insisted, 'I'm you, and I know how fed up of this first draft you are.'

'Still no actually,' I answered cockily, 'look at the structure, it's three acts. You're breakdown is six acts.'

'Shit,' I said, 'it's finished and I've got episode two planned already.' Then I gave myself a high five.

I badly needed an epiphany on this one and there it is. I'm happy. The draft is finished. Now I can legitimately go back and tidy it and stick bits in, draw stuff out and generally beat it into shape (which I was fighting the urge to do already), and I've got episode two ready to draft if I like what shape it turns out to be.

That's a nice big bucket of awesome.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Le Morte d'Arthur

iPlayered Merlin last night, out of curiosity.

There's a lot to like, some nice performances from the glut of young actors that have been jammed into it. It's a great cast altogether. The music seemed a bit sub-John Williams to me but was effective none the less. The locations and sets were nice but seemed very clean for the dark ages, much like the characters themselves - all young, clean and beautiful, not so much of the Dark Ages-chic.

The relationship between Arthur and Merlin was especially engaging, the two actors well conveyed a
n instant and amusing rivalry which was a high point of the episode for me. The other highlight was the lovely sequence where Eve Myles made everyone fall asleep with her song before trying to stick it to Arthur.

It's always hard to judge a first episode, there is such a lot to establish in fifty minutes when setting up a returning drama, and this was more successful than many (stand up Bonekickers!); so it's probably best to watch another episode or two before getting medieval on Merlin's arse.

The issue I have on a personal level is this; if you're going to make a series about a kingdom where magic is banned and a powerful young wizard has to hide his powers while finding his destiny entwined with a despised rival why bother forcing Arthurian legends into the story for no good reason? Better surely to call it the Kingdom
of Zog and have a clear conscience. If anyone tells you you're ripping off King Arthur just ask them if they've seen Star Wars, or read Lord of the Rings, or... well, you get the idea I'm sure.

Of course, this could all just be because I still hope to see Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles given the full BBC drama department treatment. Guess we can rule that out for another decade. Mind you, it'll give me time to work up a treatment...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pornography

Went to the Birmingham Rep to check out Simon Stephens Pornography last night. It's a play made up of a series of monologues which look at the events of July 2005 between London being selected for the Olympic games 2012 and the bombings of July 7th.

Although first produced over a year ago the play has never been performed in the UK before. Seems no one wanted to touch it as it was perceived as being so controversial. The play also gives the director a little more of a clean slate than they might be used to as the dialogue is intended to be mixed around and intercut however the company wish.


This production has been raved about in the press and the cast were nominated for a best Ensemble award in The Stage Edinburgh Festival awards; of a fantastic cast Frances Ashman and Sheila Reid stood out in particular. The staging of the production was imaginative and arresting whilst utilising the simplest of sets and minimal effects.

A very thought provoking piece, it's only a shame that it has taken so long to be staged in the country it has most resonance with. It is to be hoped a London run will be imminent, although there are sadly no plans to perform this production there at present.


Links...


Birmingham Rep
Guardian interview with Simon Stephens

Telegraph interview with Simon St
ephens

Monday, September 15, 2008

These are their stories...

Watched Casualty for the first time in about fifteen years yesterday. Holby City has crept into my weekly schedule so it's only natural that the mother show would get a look in. Wow, it's changed a bit.

I listened to an extraordinary Mark Catley Radio Four play last year, called Flutterby, and was interested to see what sort of influence he was having on the BBC's favourite hospital drama now he's lead writer. Flutterby was about a council estate that was riddled with crime and drugs, the weekends Casualty opening salvo featured antisocial behaviour
and a riot on a council estate, in addition to the customary gruesome accidents. Looks like social realism is high on Catley's agenda, as well as drama and explosive set pieces.

It was exciting, well paced and gritty. Not just a little gritty, very gritty. Nasty even. Like the twisted twin of Casualty murdered the original in it's bed and took it's place. By the second episode it felt like all bets were off on who might live or die, or just what might happen next. Sterling stuff.

It wasn't all good, the rivalry between Doctor Trueman and the cheeky paramedic Jeff was a little overdone; and the hospital did seem pretty quiet for a casualty ward down the road from a riot. Filmmakers following medical staff has been done more effectively before but despite this I'll certainly be taking a look at next weeks, so surely it's done it's job.

Read an interview with Mark Catley here.

Catch the weekends Casualty dosage here on iPlayer for the next six days or so.

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I have become addicted to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Every night I have to record it on the Hallmark channel. I've watched about fifteen episodes in two weeks - this from someone who was only recently complaining about not having time to watch television.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was the first spin off from the (incredibly) successful and long running US show Law & Order but where the parent show follows any crime from the investigation through to the courtroom SVU's unique selling point is that the department deal exclusively with crimes of a sexual nature. Rape, kidnap and paedophilia are their daily grind.

To stop me gibberring mindlessly about it being great I'll present the case for in the form of bullet points, consider these the reasons why you should be watching it - if you don't already.

  • The story telling is fast. SVU will tell a complex tale leaving you stunned, exhausted or both in 41 minutes. This is lean programme making.
  • The cast. Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni manage to get under the skins of their characters, you'll understand why what they do is so important to them and the lengths they'll go to for the victims they encounter.
  • SVU is not into happy endings or neat conclusions. These stories are bleak and disturbing and the conclusion will often leave you more contemplative than satisfied. As one of the characters says; 'Even when we win, we don't.'
  • There's no gloss. If you're a bit queasy from all those high-in-style CSI variants you've been watching then SVU is for you. The opening credits look like something from 1982 and they don't make much use of swishy camera work. It's all about the story.
Catch SVU on Channel 5 on Tuesdays (around 2300hrs), or every week night on Hallmark at 2200hrs.




Keep an eye out for the new L&O spin off,
Law & Order: UK being made by Kudos at the moment. Chris Chibnall and James Moran are among the writers working on it and it's assembling a pretty impressive cast. If it has half of the pace and credibility of the franchise it will blow the freaking socks off of most other British crime series.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Like Turning On a Tap...

I have had an excellent few days. Nearly done on the first draft of my current project, working on a treatment for a Brand New Thing (which could become a Red Planet Entry - even though I'd decided not to enter this year), another treatment taking shape in my mindtank and enough momentum to finally finish Hitman and a short I started ages ago (just after watching The Arnopp's inspiring Look At Me). I just want to clear the decks and work on the new stuff. In fact that's all I've wanted for about six months.

I'm feeling damn good about writing today. Which is nice. I've just spent an hour storylining but now I have to shower and clean the house as we have a friend visiting tonight.

It's funny, in my last post I said
"Every day that I don't work is a tiny kick in the teeth to me"
and that was a very accurate description of how I often feel. The contrast with my mood now is incredible. I haven't cured cancer or written a masterpiece, all I did was do a couple of hours work every day and I feel like a million bucks. God bless writing, the cheapest drug in the world.

Happy times and places!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gratuitous Cat Photo (and telly and stuff)...

Let's get the gratuitous Nyssa photo out of the way first. Oh yes, she now knows how to get on top of the bookshelves...


------

As could probably be gathered from the recent lack of posts I've been tied up/a bit shit recently, both with the blog and in terms of producing any work. I've therefore taken the bold step of booking some time off work just so I can get some writing done. Now I've had writey weeks before and they've always been productive (obviously I'm a binger), but I've been trying to switch over to the 'slow and steady wins the race' mentality with mixed results (when I say mixed I mean rubbish). So when I finish work on Tuesday I've got three days off to get some grafting done. I mean it's not like I'm short of ideas, I've got them coming out of my ears - I just need to finish the three projects I've been 'working on' for almost a year (when I say 'working on', I mean 'shirking off').

I think sometimes I'm a little too strict with myself though. I'll have a really good idea (like the other day in the bath I had an awesome idea for a Doctor Who story) but I'll tell myself "No, you can't write that until you've finished this!" Is this the right mentality? It's not like I'm trying to eat my banana split before I've finished my salad, is it? Why not work on the story for a bit, get all excited and then switch over to one of the ongoing jobbies?

Mind you, maybe I just push myself too hard, a couple of weeks ago a writer was quizzing John August about a script which he didn't anticipate completing a first draft of for six months to a year, due to him having a day job. I guess everyone should work at a rate that they're comfortable with but that seems a long time to me, and I have a day job. Don't get me wrong, I've been wrestling with one script (second draft of) for a twelve month but that's not what I consider normal. I know I can bash out a full draft in a week if I really want to and I have a little luck (and some time off...).

So what's my point? Don't know. Every day that I don't work is a tiny kick in the teeth to me, and I plan on doing something about it next week. I'm hoping I can make some decent progress and get a bit of momentum going, I'll let you know how I get on.

------

Phill was recently talking about not seeing a lot of telly which can be a major problem for anyone who wants to write for the goggle box. I struggle to keep abreast of films and television, especially when I'm trying to manage my time between day job/2-3 hour daily commute/seeing long-suffering wife/squidging Nyssa. God knows what I'll do if and when we have a tiny demanding baby to deal with.

Some of these activities can be merged of course - it's possible to squidge Nyssa/see wife and watch telly simultaneously AND I could probably eat an apple at the same time. The problems creep in because some activities don't go together. For example I can't write with the television on. Yes, my school reports were true; I am easily distracted. It might work for RTD but it's no good for me.

I also can't always watch everything I want to see with my Wife because she (quite reasonably) doesn't always want to see the same thing. I still haven't watched
Doomsday because Dog Soldiers (Neil Marshall's earlier film) scared the crap out of her, and I never bothered suggesting she watch The Descent (which scared the crap out of me).

Worst of all no activity goes particularly well with the daily commute, about the only thing I can do is read - which is great, but often I'd rather do some work (perhaps I need something like
Moran's Anus). It's possible to watch stuff on the tiny screen of my psp but it's quite a faff to transfer things on to it (though I did see Nightmare of Eden for the first time on my psp - can't be many people who can say that).

I feel a sort of duty to try to keep up to date with the soaps, and any other programmes that offer opportunities to new writers. It's kind of like homework. With the exception of Coronation Street this can be a bit of a chore. I'd rather catch up on Battlestar Galactica than watch Holby City (although I don't dislike the show by any means), and I can't shake the feeling that when I'm watching Eastenders or Doctors I could be watching the second series of Survivors, or the Sopranos finale, which I'm sure I'd get more out of. If that phone call ever came though, and you were asked what you thought of the current story lines in Eastender Street Farm, it wouldn't do to ask if Hilda Ogden was still around.

Mostly I end up watching samples of shows, a smattering of this, a glance of that. It's basically précis television, I think it's the way forward. Perhaps it could be a new cable channel.

------

Finally went to see
The Dark Knight last week. Blimey it's good. Everyone is still going nuts about Ledger; Oldman, Eckhart and Bale were showing some pretty intense acting chops as well you know...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Introducing Nyssa

There’s a new arrival at Stickler Hall, her name is Nyssa. On the afternoon of Friday August 8th Emma and I went to meet a cat in foster care with the RSPCA. Emma is on holiday until September and with us just back from our holiday the time seemed right to finally make good on our interest in rehoming a cat.

It feels a horribly shallow thing to pick a cat off of a website from a couple of photos and a potted biography but that’s what we had to do. One cat did stand out to us, though in truth we would probably have homed any of them. So after a telephone interview and a home visit to make sure we didn’t have any cat mangling equipment hidden in a secret laboratory the RSPCA agreed that we were fit to foster a cat. All that remained was for us to meet her, hence our trip to Walsall.

Nyssa was rescued from a third floor flat where something like eleven other cats were living. As far as we’re aware she’s never been abused or neglected, the cats were removed due to complaints from neighbours. We’re told she’s about three years old and has never been outside, although she loves to watch the world go by through the windows. We have to keep her indoors for the first four to six weeks anyway, after that we'll see if she shows an interest in going out and see what happens.

Nyssa was described to us as a timid cat and certainly seemed so in her foster home, which she was sharing with another four cats. She spent the duration of our visit tucked in behind the sofa with one wary eye on us and the other scanning for rival felines. Once we got her into our kitchen it became a different story. She bounded out of her carry case and had a nose around the kitchen. After a couple of quiet hours under the kitchen table she set about exploring the house. She’s friendly and very, very affectionate. We had a few friends over for the weekend and she was quite unfazed by the noise and disruption.

She was given to us with the name Nikki but shows no evidence of answering to it. In fact there was some confusion about whether it was Nikki, Mickey or something else ending in -icky. We decided to come up with a name of our own for her and as you see Nyssa managed to stick where Kenickie, Mr Bennett and Mouse failed.

It’s been ten days since we brought Nyssa into our home and already it’s impossible to imagine it without her. Her favourite spots are on the back of the sofa, in the kitchen window and under our bed. She may like running up and down the stairs mewling at three o’clock in the morning but then I’m sure some of our habits must seem odd to her too. I guess it’s just a matter of getting used to each other, she certainly seems to be settling in...


Sick Note

Two months? How did that happen! OK, so what have I been up to…

Got a cat – I’ll come back to that.

Had a holiday – yeah, an all inclusive sun chaser in Marmaris, Turkey. Our first holiday for nearly two years and just what the Doctor ordered. Sadly just a memory now though. There are some photos in the ‘lens jockey’ box to the right so keep an eye out.

Not had much sleep due to cat – I’ll come back to that too.

Caught the dreaded lurgee. Why does being ill always seem like more fun than it is? When I was a kid it meant sitting in my PJ’s all day watching Doctor Who and eating satsuma’s – a bit like Christmas. Had a long weekend and Sunday night I was feeling pretty crappy. I’ll see how I feel in the morning I thought (I don’t take time off work lightly). Sure enough in the morning I felt like crap (the cat didn’t help on this front I should note) so I called my boss and told him I wouldn’t be in. It’s not all bad – I thought – I’ll do some work; after all I’m always complaining that I don’t have enough time. Four hours of kids TV later (hey – that new animated Batman is ok!) I’m still sitting on the sofa in my dressing gown.

It’s sick day two now, feeling a bit better but eyes still streaming and such like. Yuk. Another day of recuperation and I’ll be back to work I think, both at the day job and the important stuff.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

7 Songs

Memed again, thanks to the Lord of Fractal Hall.

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to. Oh, and howdy back.

Ok, here goes, no excuses and no explanations - don't expect it to be cool though cuz I spent the best part of a decade working in a record shop...

1) Sweet About Me -
Gabriella Cilmi
2) Starship Trooper -
Hot Gossip (feat Sarah Brightman)
3) Pump -
The B-52's
4) That's not my name -
The Ting Tings

5) Lie to Me -
Tom Waits

6) Nude -
Radiohead

7) Lydia -
Jonathan Richman

Enjoy! I cast this on to the following blogulators, Kai, Dan, Robin, the one we used to call Peacey, Martin, Sheikie and the redoubtable Mr Smith...

Friday, June 06, 2008

On Target!


No, not 'on target' in terms of personal objectives or anything like that (though I have had a very good week), I'm afraid I'm banging on about Doctor Who. Again.

Eagle-eyed Island visitor Dave spotted my collection of Target Doctor Who novelisations in the previous post which has sparked a bit of conversation.

Knowing that there are more Target book owners out there in the blogosphere (you know who you are!) we thought it might be fun to compare notes in a meme-ish sort of way!

I personally have a collection of 53 books. The first I ever bought was The Keys of Marinus (to this day I've never seen the original TV version - I fear it may not live up to my pre-pubescent imagination) in my local newsagents in the very early eighties. The last one I picked up was Ghostlight off of ebay last year.

Pop over to Dave's place and rediscover the magic!

So come on you lot, own up (Yes I am looking at you Phill, Jase, Paul and Piers)!

Have good weekends everyone...

Monday, June 02, 2008

Post Birthday Update

Hullo, I'm back from my blogholiday with a nice blogtan and some blogsnaps to show you later. Hope you all had a lovely time while I was away. I did consider prolonging my experiment in posting only through the medium of screenplay but decided it was lunacy. Expect that one again when I'm next at the end of my tether.

What's that? I beg your pardon? Did you ask what I'd been up to? Well tough cuz I'm telling you anyhow...

I've been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, kind of dipped in and out at the time but last week I watched the first series (it's only twelve episodes!) and had a mini epiphany. I'll likely wax Buffy (if you see what I mean) and Whedon (Urh!) in more depth soon so in the mean time suffice to say that I immediately took advantage of the PLAY sale to order the next couple of series. I liked it. A lot. In fact it's like a handbook on how to do modern telly.

Went to see Indiana Jones and the - uh -Kingdom of the Crystal - no, don't tell me, - Skull - right? I really enjoyed about ninety percent of it, in fact if I block out the other ten percent I had a great time. It's a good job Harrison Ford was awesome because there were some issues elsewhere...

2000AD have a 'jumping on' issue this week with all new stories, there's Sinister Dexter, Nikolai Dante, a new Dredd thriller but most awesomely of all a second series for Defoe by Pat Mills & Leigh Gallagher. I loved the first run and if you like Zombies, alternative history and comics then you probably will too.

Had a birthday, woo hoo! Oddly I share a birthday with the mighty Arnopp but we decided not to celebrate together as that would be weird. Amongst other bits and, indeed, bobs I had Tomb Raider Anniversary for my PSP (so much for plotting story arcs on the 6.27 to Birmingham New Street), Alan Moore's complete Future Shocks (learning from the master - I'm determined to come up with a decent submission for 2000ad this year!), a NASA Space pen that writes upside down or under water (just the thing for making notes in the bath), and a zombie pirate snowstorm from the loverrly lady.

Speaking of Zombie Pirates I also finally watched Pirates of the Caribbean at Worlds End (disappointing, no make that very disappointing), Control (good, and so British it hurt - lovely) and 30 Days of Night (Nah). All that and I still found time to paint the living room.

Work is progressing well, currently partway through a couple of projects to be completed by the end of the month. I'm driving myself quite hard because I'm sick of moaning to myself - a new tactic which I'm finding quite effective so far. Finally settled into the new writey room too (see right).

That's it for now, speak soon...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Scenes from The Island of Dreams (i)

EXT. The Sea - Day

Camera rushing over blue water towards a small desert island. As the island draws nearer music (MUSIC - 'The Island of Dreams' by The Springfields) can be heard, getting louder.

                     THE SPRINGFIELDS
                I wander the streets
                And the gay crowded places
                Trying to forget you
                But somehow it seems
                That my thoughts ever stray
                To our last sweet embraces
                Over the sea on the island of dreams

There is a dense copse of palm trees on one half of the island. The only building is a small wooden hut at the edge of the trees. There are no signs of life on the island. Closing in on the hut.

Inside the hut is a desk with a typewriter and half a cup of tea on it. A corkboard with coloured index cards pinned to it. A book props up a leg of the desk (Elements of Style).


The music is coming from a CD player on the floor behind the door. The repeat light is flashing.

                     THE SPRINGFIELDS
                High in the sky is a bird on the wing
                Please carry me with you
                Far far away from the mad rushing crowd
                Please carry me with you

The camera backs out of the hut. Linger on a post-it fluttering on the hut door, handwritten in black biro, 'BACK IN 5 MINUTES'.

Rushing back now, across the sea, the island receding into the distance. Nothing but blue sea everywhere.

                     THE SPRINGFIELDS
                Again I would wander
                Where memories enfold me
                There on the beautiful island of dreams
                Far far away on the island of dreams


FADE OUT

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Being More Human...

Great news everyone...

A six part series of Being Human has been commissioned, due in no small part I'm sure to the Herculean efforts of big blabbering web mouths like myself, Piers, Oli, Jase, David and many more. Hi five gang.

The Guardian says;

BBC3 controller Danny Cohen has ordered six more episodes of Being Human, the one-off drama pilot about a flatshare between a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire broadcast earlier this year.

Cohen has commissioned the full series of Being Human from independent producer Touchpaper Television, part of the RDF Media group, after the one-off episode was shown in February as part of the channel's drama pilot season and peaked at nearly 450,000 viewers.

Filming on the series, which will once again be written by Toby Whithouse, will start later this year for transmission in 2009.

The BBC said it would confirm casting at a later date. Russell Tovey, Andrea Riseborough and Guy Flanaghan starred in the pilot.

BBC Wales head of drama Julie Gardner, who was one of the show's executive producers, said: "BBC drama is always looking for diverse and surprising pieces, and Being Human hit the spot with its irreverence and wit."

Cohen added: "Of all our recent drama experiments on BBC3, Being Human struck the most powerful chord with the audience. At its heart is a bold and adventurous concept and I'm looking forward to seeing how this is realised across a series."


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Grindstone time

I didn’t come here to blog, if blog really is a verb now, but to work. It’s difficult to settle down to work after so long a break though. The mind wanders...

Emma and I have finally moved into our new home in Sedgley. I have some lovely photos to post but there’s a USB lead with a tiny little connector somewhere in this house and until I can locate it no more of my stunning photies will be appearing on these pages. Of course I could google ‘house’ for images and post a picture of someone else’s house, it would probably be similar after all.
Actually it would be even easier for me if you could just look out of your nearest window, go on. See a house? No? Ok, nip out of your front door and look over your shoulder. House? Bingo (pun intended, and really quite witty I think). My house looks a bit like that (unless you live in a mansion, a motor home, a flat, under a rock, in a castle, cave, hole in the ground, canal barge, hollowed-out tree, caravan, forest, space station, Lada, tree house, farm house, hen house, poor house or outhouse).

The no pictures scenario is quite a bummer as my favourite bit of my house is the writey room. I used to have a desk (illustrated here) in my old house in Cardiff but have been sans surface since last August. Now I have a whole room. Wow. Actually it does also contain all my – shall we say – geeky stuff. Most of it anyhoo. But you’ll see when I find that pesky lead.

Due to the house moving process and major upheavals of last year I haven’t done any proper work for quite some time now, I have a few projects to get straight on with or finish off and then the rest of this year is going to be devoted to building my portfolio. I’ve got an ace short film script I’m halfway through, a script for a challenge that I think may turn out to be good enough to form the long awaited (by no-one but me really) BBC Writers Room follow up, and of course Hitman, which I got into a pickle with and now just need to kiss off, so to speak.

Step one, though, is getting into a routine. I’d say back into a routine but I’m not a liar. I’ve always been a binge writer but I can’t work that way anymore, got to do the Rocky thing now (cue music), train up, work hard and get fit – only in a writing sense.

So I’d best crack on…

Planet of the Ood (Spoil-Sphere)

“Every now and then you let one go”

Donna and the Doctor visit the home world of the Ood, the servile race first encountered in The Impossible Planet. They go on to discover that the third great and bountiful empire of the Human race is built on slavery and profit, like most other empires.

For the first time since the Tardis resumed it’s televised travels in 2005 we have a proper snowbound setting. Planet of the Ood slots in happily amongst The Ice Warriors, The Seeds of Doom, Dragonfire (maybe) and those other ones that have slipped my mind for the moment. The ice planet of the the Ood, the Ood-sphere, is beautifully realised and the travellers are able to interact with their environment more satisfyingly than has been possible before.

Donna has another great episode as she is initially repulsed by the Lovecraftian physiognomy of the dying Ood before recovering herself and once more accepting this great universe of diversity. She is appalled at the treatment the Ood receive and at the idea that cruelty and corruption are as rife in the greater universe as they are in her own world.

The Ood are at the centre of this story rather than so much dressing as they were in their previous adventure. There was apparently talk of the Pentallian in 42 having a cargo of Ood, this idea was scrapped or forgotten and that can only have been a good thing as to shove them into another story as extra dressing would probably have seen them consigned to the monster scrap heap forever. Instead, with Planet of the Ood, Keith Temple is able to explore the background of these creatures, seemingly born to serve, and indeed to make that background fit with what we’ve already seen.

The Ood have three brains, it transpires. They have their proper brain, kept in their pasty noggin, which presumably looks after making their legs move, their heart beat (if they have them) and reminding them to breath or whatever; then they have their hind brain, which they cart around in their hands, and this enables them to ‘sing’ (telepathically, and probably is also the creative bit that likes choosing wallpaper, composing haiku’s and so on; then there’s the big giant Ood brain that looks after them all and tells them what to do. This super brain has been kept silent for a couple of centuries by the Human race so that the Ood look for their instructions elsewhere – and receive them from the humans that have enslaved them. This rather neatly explains not just why the Ood live to serve, but also how come their so susceptible to telepathic suggestion (although –it was the Devil I suppose).

The latest in a long line of weary pencil pushers to manage the export of Ood, which are sent across the galaxy as a valuable commodity, is Mr Klineman Halpen (played with relish by Tim McInnerny) but McInnerny makes him a selfish middle manager rather than an over the top villain. Halpen is rude, stressed, pompous and clearly hates what he does, being as much a slave to the Ood industry as the Ood are, as his receding hairline to proves.

Planet of the Ood stuffs a lot to think about into it’s trim running time, it offers up slavery, cheap clothing, the evils of empire and commerce and the idea of having a conscience about where you work and shop. Despite all that it avoids being preachy by dressing it up with great action sequences, a giant claw, a full scale battle for a climax and some great humour.

The episode also has a number of very satisfying comeuppances; it’s a delight when Solana Mercurio, the PR girl, doesn’t go with her conscience and switch sides, as a result she falls victim to the revolting Ood; when the brutish, insane security chief ends up getting gassed it pays off his harsh treatment of the Ood, his crazed mechanical claw attack on the Doctor but most of all his obvious pleasure in the suffering of others (a great turn from Roger Griffiths); and however unlikely Halpens transformation may seem it is a fitting end for the character. It seems justice is both swift and poetic on Ood-Sphere, a shame then that the episode as a whole ends rather swiftly with the blithe statement that the Ood are returning now. So all the humans are ok with that, then? If that thread isn’t picked up later in the series then it represents quite an oversight.

You want niggles? Alright then. Firstly I didn’t like the brain. Giant brains are difficult to manage (ask the Rani) but I ws just about ok with it until it ate someone. I found that a bit hard to swallow (ahem). Secondly, the delegates for the tour of Ood operation seemed to be from Wall Street circa 1988, couldn’t wait for them to buy the farm. Thirdly, I’m not sure the Doctor’s in a position to take the morale high ground about sweat shops and cheap clothes when he’s warming his tootsies in converse trainers. Finally, one slight fannish regret in that I had thought we might get a glimpse of a Sensorite, being as they were so close by but no, although the Sensorites like to keep to themselves so I suppose if nothing else it’s in keeping with established continuity.

Another great episode, series four continues to deliver the goods. Some more hints at things to come in the shape of the Ood’s, perhaps ungracious, comment that the Doctor’s song must end soon, and a nod to the past as Halpern, like Blon Fel-Fotch Pasameer-Day Slitheen before him, lets one go.