Thursday, March 16, 2006


Ooh, I Do Feel Queer

The big ‘Ides of March’ story was whether Mr Blair could count on his sworn enemies to vote for more education power to be exercised direct from Whitehall – Labour MPs did vote against him, of course, so he had to rely on the Tories – while I wrapped myself up, made some chicken soup and looked for something appropriate to the day to watch muzzily from under a duvet. Carry On Cleo was tempting but obvious, so I looked up some TV anniversaries. I was delighted to find that the splendid Doctor Who story The Caves of Androzani had first been shown on the Fifteenth of March, 1984 (the third part, at least), so I pulled out the DVD. As that episode’s most memorable scene features the murder of a President by his leading industrialist backer while pretending to warn him of an assassination plot, this seemed so perfect it must be serendipity.

It’s an unusual story, in that the Doctor doesn’t want to sort out the small war and large political intrigues he lands up in, finding each side as bad as the other (pretty much everyone in the story’s a monster, amoral, greedy and self-centred), just to get himself and his friend out alive – but his mere presence starts a chain reaction that brings down everyone involved, and costs him his life. It’s Peter Davison’s last and best story in the lead role, and he gets his teeth into it so strongly here that it makes you sad to see him go. Amid moody, atmospheric music and direction, the cast really run with a great script, and you can spot here Robert Glenister of Hustle fame, though you won’t spot Christopher Gable, who spends the story masked as a Phantom of the Opera-style obsessive; he’s so stunning that normally he’d have stolen the show, but not when John Normington’s cynical, murderous businessman / politician is around. At the time I thought of it as putting an edge of Dallas into the series, with a similar mixture of archness and ruthlessness, but after House of Cards it’s impossible not to see him as Francis Urquhart. Was Andrew Davies watching this? The anti-hero here is so similar he even has asides direct to camera, too.

Both of these irresistible villains also have in common that stories making you guiltily root for them do exactly the reverse of promoting citizenship and civil society. Thank goodness.

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Just discussed this woozily with Richard down the phone. Well, I say 'discussed'. More 'quoted lines from Carry On Cleo' to each other. And suddenly it's all become clear. Drop 'Britishness' from the curriculum; just show every child in the land Carry On Cleo and Carry On Up the Khyber. They do a much better job of communicating what being British is all about than anything Gordon Brown is likely to come up with.

Meanwhile, thanks to a certain someone who should remain completely anonymous but whose name begins with R for pointing me to a picture for tomorrow's episode of Hustle. I've rearranged the link to point at it. Looks fun ;-)
That's tomorrow unless you're in Scotland, of course, in which case Hustle won't be on until April.
Ooh, the meanies!

I'll have to be careful what I post on it now...

I will say that episode two of the new season, or The 'Who Da Man' Scam, was one of the most amusing they've done so far, though with the downside that we both spotted the con at the end, er, right from the beginning, and the slight nasty aftertaste that there's some simple robbing from ordinary people rather than greedy gits who dive into it voluntarily.

Upside: you can spot a Doctor Who guest star, and discuss the relative merits of the chests and arses of Adrian Lester and Marc Warren (we came to a definite view, and it was the one we expected. But nice to be confirmed in one's hopes).
I've seen the first three now. Can't remember who the Doctor Who guest star was. I agree about the petty theft - it undermines the concept a little.

Pop fact: Marc Warren is older than Adrian Lester.
Excellent pop fact, Will! Gosh, he must drink the blood of virgins (I still think Mr Lester's much more attractive, but it's a shock that I'd assumed Mr Warren was playing about five years younger than his age and he's actually passing for about fifteen years younger).

I thought last week's - The 'Remember the Elephant' Scam - was a bit hokey until it suddenly came out with the big Bollywood number right at the end, and that really saved it. Still not quite as good as the previous week's Jedi Master's Scam with Richard Chamberlain, which was just rude.

And tonight...?
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