Doctor Who

Weekends are for…

1. Royal Wedding Parties

In spirit of last week’s post on all the negativity surrounding the royal wedding, nothing made me happier than being able to spend Friday glued to the radio, hearing of the hundreds of thousands who’d flocked to London to line the streets outside Buckingham palace, decked out with Union flags, wedding dresses and patriotic Daleks in the lead up to the event of the century. I can’t begin to describe the buzz in the air as I listened in on the outburst of national pride and excitement – despite being halfway across the world, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of your home country uniting in masses of support over such a joyous occasion. As soon as the clock hit four, I rushed home to finish our attempt at Prince William’s chocolate biscuit cake , deck the halls, lay out the spread and put on a party dress. Girlfriends arrived in style, and we spent the next six hours toasting, laughing, crying, and sitting in awe as we witnessed an historic occasion that will be talked about for generations.

Favourite moments? Prince William whispering to Kate how beautiful she looked. The nod to nature as the aisle of the stunning Westminster abbey was lined with a canopy of trees. The Bishop of London’s charismatic and powerful sermon which was composed perfectly, captivated hearts across the globe, and got major bonus points for quoting Chaucer. The music. My goodness, the music. The choral arrangements sounded like angels, and hearing Jerusalem (a patriotic, national treasure of a hymn) in full choral and orchestral arrangement ringing through the abbey, covering my arms in goosebumps and my cheeks in tears, making me positively proud to be British. Kate’s dad radiating with pride the whole day long. The human tide of support lining the mall, and Kate’s reaction to seeing it. And of course, Princess Beatrice winning the award for Most Ridiculous Hat in all of millinery history.

2.  Nerding Out

Sometimes there’s nothing better about being a fan of something than being able to share it fully with people just as passionate as you. A new season of Doctor Who is underway, and we gathered together to celebrate with a kickoff party. The wedding TARDIS made a welcome appearance, geeky t-shirts were worn with pride, and a major hand went to a die-hard friend who made us all Oreo  Dalek cake balls! The new season is excellent so far, and scarier than ever – just as it should be. Any fellow fans with thoughts on the major turn of events in episode two, thoughts are most definitely welcome!


3. Creating a New Space

We live in a two-bedroomed house, and with only two people, one of these rooms had inevitably turned into something that may as well have been visited by a Malon freighter. It had nothing on the walls, everything on the floor, and acted more as a storage locker for all the things that didn’t fit anywhere else in the house than an actual functioning room. When it got to the point where we could no longer remember if there had ever been a floor, we decided it was time to do something. After a few hours and cries of “Sweetie? I think I might be a hoarder…”, the closet was organised, the floor cleaned, and the paraphernalia sorted into several donation bags to go to the local Salvation Army. The room became a fresh slate – and a fresh opportunity. After scoring a few bargains on Kijiji, learning how to use power tools and spending an afternoon at Winners, our spare room is now a haven for reading, writing, and creativity. Fairy lights sit behind translucent cream drapes, candles occupy ornate decorations, and a vintage desk and antique nautical barometer are enough to make my inner history nerd rejoice! Now it’s finished, I adore retreating upstairs after a day at the office, slipping in some choral music, and reading by the candelight in our new space. 🙂

How did you spend the weekend?

Wibbly Wobbly, Time-y Wimey

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually,  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.”
– Doctor Who, “Blink”

I wish. There are many times in life I wish for the ability to travel through time. When I’m feeling nostalgic about England, I could hop in my TARDIS and go spend a week in Shakespearean London, and be home in time for tea. When I’m curious about life elsewhere in the universe, I could pop up to Saturn and explore. When I’m really poor after Christmas, I could go forward a few days and nab the lottery numbers. Or when I sleep two hours past my alarm clock on a Monday work morning (hello boss!), I could rewind to 11:30 on a Sunday night and decide NOT to go for coffee and philosophical talks on the state of humanity.  Actually, scratch that, I definitely still would. I’d just remember to set the alarm instead.  🙂 I’m a couple of weeks into the 26 Before 26, and it’s already been a rollercoaster of nerves, excitement, and awesomeness – but the biggest challenge I’m having is with finding the time to do it all.

Our daily waking hours are finite. Unfortunately, no matter how many Borg regeneration alcoves one prototypes, this is a sad fact.  If you’re going to throw  two-dozen new things into the mix, this doesn’t leave much room for life in the status quo. My schedule in the last two weeks has been packed with visits, yoga classes, writing dates, birthdays and meeting amazing new people lately, but I’m not going to lie and say it hasn’t left me all sorts of exhausted! My problem is that I’m continuing to do all the things I did before I made the list – including wasting too much time on Facebook, watching too many Star Trek reruns (I have a Trekkie to convert!), straightening my hair, and cleaning the house. If I’m ever going to tackle this list, I’m going to have to re-prioritise – and some things are going to have to go.

I have to learn to ask myself if what I’m choosing to occupy my time is going to benefit me, or others, in the long run. There’s been all sorts of studies on Facebook usage, and I can’t help but think it’s a curse as well as a blessing. It’s full of win in terms of getting concert notifications, creeping on new friends’ likes and interests to see if they’re as big a nerd as you are, and to see how the girl that bullied you in high school is now an overweight mess. But it’s also awful. They change their privacy settings faster than the Enterprise rotates shield frequency under an attack from the Hirogen. You can peruse photos and interests all you like, until you look at your watch and realise your entire afternoon’s gone, and that a new album from a weekend get-together has just gone up and you weren’t invited. Facebook’s been hailed as the saviour of modern communication, reconnecting us with relatives and long lost friends. But in the last few weeks, in endeavors at balancing new activities, online presence, visits and hobbies, I’m finding online time to be more draining than it should be – and that it’s eating away at time I could be using infinitely more productively.  Social media fosters an ephemeral feeling of connectedness, yet in reality causes enormous disconnect from real life.  I had a great chat with someone recently about productivity, and we both decided that this probably has something to do with the increase in distractions as the world moves forward. In ages gone by, there was no Facebook, TV, blogging or MMORPGs. People had time in bucketloads, which they spent interacting with other people, seeing new places, coming up with ideas, which would pave the way to the way we see modern-day science.  Without distractions, they were more productive.

I made the list to push myself out of my comfort zone, to experience and interact with the world in ways that would help me grow, help me become a better person so I could in turn do and become something better for the world. Wasting time wasn’t on that list, so as alluring as “social” networking is, I have to see both sides of the equation, and weigh out the pros and cons. Ask myself if spending as much time as I do online is in line with what I want my life to be. At the end of the day, it’s the things we did, the people we spent time with, the lives we touched and the memories we made that are going to be remembered. Not how many followers we had on Twitter, or how many blogs we commented on. I’m realising that in order to make room for the awesome, I have to cut out some of the crap. Allocating categories to productive internet time (AKA staying in touch with all of you lovely people) vs. wasted Internet time. So this means, as of now, I probably won’t be online as much as I may have been in the last little while. I probably also need to stop prioritizing laundry and a clean kitchen and just say to heck with it, sometimes there are more important things in life.  Every 60 minutes spent reading status updates on a Sunday morning could be an hour running, learning dance moves, writing, or at a hot yoga class. (Sidenote: first one was full of accoustic live music, candles, and AWESOME.) Dr. Who‘s finished for another year, so there go TV Saturday nights. And I need to stop being so obsessive about getting enough sleep, and actually enjoy staying up with people I love spending time with, even at the risk of turning into a pumpkin.

There’s a lot I want to do, and I think it’s high time the routine was shaken up a little.  Out with the old, and in with the adventure of the new. I want to be able to say I lived this year. It’s just going to come down to prioritising, and deciding what’s going to make the cut.  How do you make time to achieve your goals?

80s Time Traps, McCartney & Gaga, and Weapon-Wielding Monarchs: April = AWESOME

Sweet and I aren’t big TV watchers. For the longest time, we didn’t even have cable (only signing up for the “3 months free” promotions, and promptly cancelling at the end of each trial, resulting in a strangely large collection of remote controls, and much to the chagrin of the installation guy). We watch our favourites online, mostly, or on DVD box set – sometimes there’s nothing better on a dreary Saturday than curling up with back to back episodes of Star Trek and a cup of tea! But this month, we had no choice but to succumb. Three of the best programmes on TV are all starting new seasons, and I’m BEYOND excited.

#1: Doctor Who

It’s no secret I’m a huge Whovian and, after a 2-year hiatus and much anticipation for the latest incarnation of the Doctor, it FINALLY returned to our screens last week.  For those of you who’ve never seen it, Doctor Who started back in the 1960s in black and white, and rather low budget, and has continued to this day, remaining the longest running science fiction show in the WORLD. It follows the story of the Doctor, the last of his race, travelling through space and time with various companions, battling evil and saving the Earth. He has the ability to regenerate into a new body near death – and the current series marks the eleventh actor to play the role. I hope it goes on forever!! Generations have grown up “hiding behind the sofa“, and this series’ new writer definitely has a taste for the darker stories – last season had episodes which literally made me afraid to turn off the lights, and this week showed one of the most chilling, and best episodes I’ve ever seen. Humanity fleeing to space after a major catastrophe on the Starship UK, led by a gun-wielding, cape-donning Queen Elizabeth X, going undercover to find out what her government is up to while voters are given the option to “protest” or “forget” – and the Doctor left with a choice between killing the last of a race or saving humanity – this episode was to DIE for.  And next week? Winston Churchill building an army of “English Daleks” to win the war? COUNT ME IN.

#2: Ashes to Ashes

This may VERY well be the new highlight of my week. It’s in its final season and was a spinoff of the amazing Life on Mars (the UK version – please, America, never try and remake anything again…), which, if you didn’t catch, was a sci-fi police drama (I know, brilliant), telling the story of a present-day police officer who is hit by a car, and wakes from consciousness in 1973.  We don’t know if he’s gone back in time, in a coma in the present, or if anything is real – the story is full of wonderfully creepy “signs” he might be in a coma, like hearing present-day voices on the radio, or ’70s television characters stepping out of the TV into his apartment and talking to him about his “real” life…

Ashes to Ashes followed the incredible finale, telling the story of a female police officer (played by Keeley Hawes, of MI-5 and Death at a Funeral fame) who is shot, and inexplicably regains consciousness in 1981.  When she wakes up, she is shocked to meet the head of the same police department she’s read about (in researching what happened in Life on Mars).  Throughout the series, we don’t know whether she is dead or alive in the present day. Gene Hunt, the DCI, is one of the most brilliantly written characters I’ve ever seen. He’s hilariously politically incorrect (“This case is going as fast as a bunch of spastics in a magnet factory“), unnecessarily brutal, and has lines that’ll have you splitting your sides one minute (“I”m not a religious man, Mr Warren – but isn’t there something in the Bible that says, thou shalt not suck off rent boys?”), and full of hope and absolute fear the next. The season 2 finale remains hands-down the best finale of any TV show I have ever seen in my life, and this series is proving to be simultaneously full of wit and spine-tingling chills, leaving me HANGING off the edge of my seat with a blanket half over my eyes.

#3: Glee

I’ll admit I was a bit of a new kid on the Glee block, but since starting the season in February (and subsequently buying both soundtracks, converting officemates on lunch breaks, and watching the whole thing through about three times since), I’m officially hooked. Another hilariously politically incorrect antagonist (“I empower my cheerleaders to be champions. Do they go to college? I don’t know. I don’t care. Should they learn Spanish? Sure, if they wanna become dishwashers and gardeners”), an ongoing theme of  losers and nerds coming out on top, half the cast of Heroes, and amazing numbers – this one has it all.

Do watch the videos! What’s keeping you glued to your seats these days??

Russell T. Davies interview pre-Torchwood airing

I have always loved science fiction. As a child, I absolutely adored Doctor Who. It’s a passion that’s never left me. But I understand why there’s still a taboo around it. I’ve never liked fantasy. I get very put off by elves and dwarves and any sort of Middle-earth fantasy land. I can’t stand The Lord of the Rings. Science fiction, to me, is quite different. More rational, closer to the real world. My homemade definition of science fiction is that it deals in rational, scientific rules, rather than fantasy’s world of magic. That’s my distinction.
If there was a Doctor Who story in which magic occurred, I simply wouldn’t allow it. I’d rather it be alien technology than magic. Because I always want there to be some ordinariness in there; some mundanity with the extraordinary.

That, I feel, is what my work over the past couple of years has been all about. You have to look at what is being served elsewhere on television. These days there are 500 shows, good and bad, which have fleets of spaceships and monsters all creeping on what used to be Doctor Who’s preserve. So, in looking for scripts, you have to think, well, Battlestar Galactica’s got the big spaceships and Buffy’s got the fantasy and the vampires, what have we got that’s unique? And it’s the real world.

You can have the Tardis land on a street corner and have the real world running as a thread throughout the story. It’s the whole philosophy of the show. It’s one of the programme’s strengths, to find the sinister in the everyday. That it invades a young audience’s life. If you’re a child it really invades your imagination. Your whole house becomes a deathtrap in your mind. You’re walking past a wheelie bin or mannequins in a shop window and they could come to life, anything could happen. I didn’t invent that, that was all in the programme.

I have made changes. But if people say I’ve introduced a soap opera element into the show, I take that as a pejorative. What they mean is drama. A soap opera element would be the Doctor turning round and saying, “I am your father, Rose.” But if you mean people are happy or sad or affected by events, that’s drama. And it’s quite inconceivable that a primetime BBC show could be written in any other way today.

The emotion of the new Doctor Who gets spoken of an awful lot. But it was never talked about in the planning. To be absolutely blunt, it’s because they got me in to write it. And I’m not a hack, I’m not a new boy, I’m a very, very experienced and successful TV writer and there’s no way I could have got there without understanding character. And emotion. The issue was never discussed, we never sat and thought “I know! We’ll put some emotions in.” It is untenable for the programme to have taken any other course.

In Torchwood, which is on postwatershed, we can be more adult about such things than we have been before. (Torchwood is the name of a mysterious team of investigators, led by the charismatic Captain Jack (John Barrowman), who use alien technology to solve crime both extraterrestrial and human . . . in Cardiff. It is also, trivia fans, an anagram of Doctor Who.) That doesn’t necessarily mean being more adult in terms of sex and violence — even though I wrote Queer as Folk, I’m not terribly interested in depicting sex and violence; they can be so sixth-form if you don’t do them correctly — so much as in terms of emotions. One of the lead characters, played by Eve Myles, starts to have an affair. She has a lovely boyfriend at home, she has this extraordinary job at Torchwood which she can’t talk about. She starts to have this affair with someone at work because it’s the only way she can share what’s going on. It’s a very human situation. I’m very pleased with that storyline because it’s told in a very adult manner. There are powerful scenes of lust and anger and hurt and the joy you get out of the initial stages of having an affair. But it wouldn’t be right for Doctor Who to go into that sort of territory, you’d sit there at 7 o’clock on a Saturday thinking “What the hell is going on?” So why do some people still see it as kids’ stuff, or at least nerds’ stuff? Well, that’s partly because it is. From my point of view there is something very young about science fiction. None of us working on Doctor Who thinks it’s just for children but we do think it can be for children. Like Toy Story or Monsters, Inc. — that’s got some of the most intelligent, stimulating ideas of any film ever, and it’s a story about a talking eyeball! It also attracts a lot of geeks. You can’t deny that when you get a mailbag like mine. And what we’ve done on Doctor Who is to take it away from them, which has left a lot of the men screaming and crying. But to get eight million people watching it, which is the whole point, that male white middle-class audience that dominated the audience for so long has to put up with no longer being pandered to.

Television was younger when Doctor Who was in its first heyday. All sorts of fantastic shows that lack emotional resonance from back then — Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Danger Man, even The Prisoner, acclaimed as it was, even, dare I say The Avengers, the wittiest programme made — you couldn’t make them like that now. People have to be more involved.

And I actually think we’re wiser when we come to television and we know ourselves better. We’re talking about the 1960s when Cathy Come Home was shocking, and we sat there and said, “Oh my God, these people have no hope!” We were ignorant. I’m not saying we’re brilliantly clever now. But actually we are more aware of the world around us. We expect to be a part of the programme. I always get a bit puzzled when people talk about interactive TV, because as far as I’m concerned it’s all interactive TV. I sit there talking at the screen all the time, shouting at it, taking the piss out of it.

It’s interesting how we’ve warmed up over the decades. Take Columbo, in which all you ever saw of him was him doing his job. But actually what we loved best about Columbo were the references to his wife. Even though we never actually saw her. The more stuff that got made, the more people learned to seek out the emotional content.

And the process isn’t over yet. Our connection and our fixing on detail is continuing into reality television. I despise people who say they despise reality television. They’re snotty about a form that has all sorts of things wrong with it but is genuinely fascinating. My love of Big Brother is not ironic, I genuinely find it fascinating and powerful because it shows the tiny details of people’s relationships. It exposes the infinitesimal details of how people get on together.

There’s a chance that people who don’t get on with Doctor Who, who think it’s childish or whatever, might get on better with Torchwood. But there are still people who will run away, say, “Oh, it’s science fiction, I’m not interested!” Well, you don’t want to waste your time chasing after people who don’t want to watch. You just have to concentrate on making it good. That’s all that matters. People will watch something that is good.

Doctor Who can help save science, says minister

… rather than technical and “boring” textbooks, according to the new science minister.

Malcolm Wicks, who was appointed in November following the resignation of Lord Sainsbury, believes that too many pupils are put off science during school.

He claims that popular television shows such as the hit BBC science fiction series provide children with an insight into real science that teachers can use to kick-start lessons. Science education campaign groups have warned, however, that shows such as Doctor Who often involve ideas that have little basis in science.

Mr Wicks said: “If you start a lesson with the chemical formulae you will lose 90 per cent of the class. If you start with something interesting or important, like something they read in the paper or saw on television, they will remain interested.

“It can be part of an entrée to some of the more technical, important but slightly more boring parts of the subject. If I was a teacher I would start with a chunk from Doctor Who and Billie Piper and say, ‘Actually, what was that all about and how is our textbook relevant to that?’

“Take R2D2 from the Star Wars films, for example. We are already doing that kind of stuff in robotics. I would show that, talk about how you would build a thing like that and its uses in the future in the home, in caring for people and for space exploration.”

Mr Wicks believes that it is essential to produce a generation of children who are science-literate so that they can go on to help in making the decisions Britain is likely to face on issues such as climate change and medical research.

However, Derek Bell, the chief executive of the Association of Science Education, said: “We all enjoy programmes such as Doctor Who, but teachers would need to be careful to make it clear which bits are science and which fantasy.”