Filed under: Doctor Who Series 6
I was just about to post my review of the new Bangles album. But reading it back, I’ve decided it’s far too gushing…so I’ve ditched it. However, I’ve stumbled upon this post I wrote four years ago (since deleted). It’s far better than the Bangles review I’ve written, so it deserves a place on my current blog. More relevant now than it was then. Yes, the Bangles review will be rewritten this weekend.
HMV AND THE DEATH OF THE RECORD SHOP. 03 November 2007
Get yourself a time machine and head for Manchester in the early 1990’s. You’ll find a rather geeky teenager wandering around the city centre in pursuit of a copy of David Bowie’s ‘Diamond Dogs’ on vinyl for under 3 quid. That geeky teenager was me, and on that day I didn’t manage to find a copy that was cheap enough (I ended up going home with a rather battered copy of ‘The Slider’ by T. Rex). Going into Manchester every saturday afternoon was always an adventure. I never knew if I was going to find the album that I wanted, and 50 percent of the time I didn’t. Marching from record shop to record shop was a day out, a job, my life. I didn’t have a cd player, so it always had to be vinyl, I spat on cassettes I thought they were rubbish. In those days Manchester was bursting with record shops on nearly every street. In the Corn Exchange alone there were at least five little shops flogging cheap vinyl. I could only afford to buy one album a week, so it was always a special moment. A magical journey into another world…..the 1970’s!. It really was a fanatastic experience and I’ll never forget leaping out of bed on a Saturday morning, having my breakfast, then running down to Heaton Chapel railway station with a scruffy handwritten note of 60’s and 70’s albums I had to find, if I could. Proper record shops like HMV were too dear and I always thought Our Price was cheap and tacky. If I did buy something from HMV, it was always with birthday money and the choice of records was always quite mind boggling. It was a cold clinical experience and I was snobby enough to tut in disgust at this corporate cash cow. But one could not deny their range of albums stretching for yards and yards. When the big HMV first opened in 1990 (i think), it was half records and half cds. The full conversion to cds hadn’t taken place quite yet and it would be another couple of years before this would happen, sucking me in, along with everyone else. This was the beginning of the end…………fast forward 16 years.
October 2007, and you’ll find a rather geeky confused man in his 30’s looking for record shops that no longer exist. I must say what a trite and hollow experience it was shopping in Manchester last Saturday, and I doubt i’ll ever do it again. Firstly HMV seem to be in a state of utter panic, caused by downloads, file sharing, copying etc. As I walked in I nearly fell over the stacks of bargain DVD’s of films and TV programmes i’ve never heard of. Each one carried a garish sticker proclaiming ‘ was £70 now £35 ‘ for example. I don’t give a shit about DVDs and waded my way through to the cds, to find the most bizarre pricing system i’ve ever seen in my life. You could buy a James Blunt album for as little as £4, four pounds seriously wasted, in my opinion. But if you wanted some classic rock, Rubber Soul by The Beatles for example, you had to part with……….wait for it………wait a little longer………..£20!!!!!!!! 20 quid for an album that’s 42 years old and hasn’t even been remastered, what!!!. Not only that, HMV’s range is virtually non existant, catering only for impulse purchases. A word of advice to HMV; yes, you will get people buying DVD’s and cds at stupid low prices when they’re in the sale, but if you think that people are gonna forget that everything else in the shop in massively overpriced, you’re wrong. The place was nearly empty aswell. For a Saturday afternoon, this spells real trouble. Disgusted with what HMV had turned into, I promptly left, never to return. The only second hand record shop left in the city centre is The Vinyl Exchange. I had fond memories of getting most of my stuff from there, when I was a teenager and in my early 20’s. Imagine my shock to discover that the shop was devoid of stock. There are more records and cd’s in my bedroom than in the Vinyl Exchange. Clearly struggling to make money, just about all of their second hand cds were the same price as a new cd purchased on the internet. I remember that the basement used to be chaos, with people falling over each other to have a look at racks of vinyl. I ventured downstairs expecting a familiar buzz of excitement……………..it was dead, empty, almost spooky. The racks once bursting with records were only half full. Picking up a selection to look through, it beacame painfully obvious that all of them were once again over priced. No chance of picking up a bargain in this shop anymore. I left knowing i’d never go back, not just because of the stock, deep down I knew the place was doomed, just like so many others over the years. The Corn Exchange was bombed in 1996 and took all the record shops with it. I still find it hard to walk past the place (now called The Triangle) knowing it’s full of upmarket clothes shops, people that probably don’t even own a record now flock to one of my favourite teenage haunts. How very sad. Which neatly brings me to i pods and the internet. I’ve nothing against modern technology at all, I find the internet most useful, in fact i’m using it right now, so that’s clearly demonstrated. However, the internet and music is a marriage I wont be attending, the whole idea of clicking a button on a mouse to listen to music still strikes me as a really cold, soulless, and downright lazy method of getting into music. Yes, it’s all there at your fingertips, but to me that’s it’s downfall. The joy for me was (and to a lesser extent still is) the unknown journey into dusty record shops, never knowing what you’ll find. Clicking a button an a computer, without even having to leave your chair isn’t really the same, is it? And the idea that someone out there is downloading my entire record collection (that took 20 years of hard work) onto a plastic box the size of a fag packet fills me with horror. So tonight i’m going to dig out that battered copy of ‘The Slider’ I bought on that wonderful saturday afternoon so many years ago, put it on my turntable and remind myself what music is still all about to me. Yep, the record will probably crackle and the inner sleeve will be falling to bits, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the experience that counts.
Filed under: Doctor Who Series 6
How series six started off so strongly, and then ended in a rambling incoherent mess will forever remain a mystery. Well, actually no it won’t. I’ve just viewed again the first two episodes of this series and I stand by everything I wrote in those reviews. It was a great idea to start the new series with The Doctor’s death and set up what should have been a really great story arc. Without wanting to sound like a smart arse, I predicted Steven Moffat would make a hash of pulling these endless subplots together though. In fact sometimes he simply didn’t bother. Series six turned into a raging headache as further ideas were thrown into the pot, with scant regard for whether they either worked or could be resolved rationally. The best episodes were the stand alone ones, and that speaks volumes about the direction Doctor Who should be taking. Will Doctor Who take that direction in series seven? That seems very unlikely if Steven Moffat is still the head writer and producer. Now then, before everyone starts thinking I’m off on a Moffat bashing again, it must be noted that he seems hell bent on including every single idea he ever has. The result is scripts that are muddled, confusing and poorly realised. Characters such as River Song becoming downright annoying. And stories that are unnecessarily complicated. Okay, fair enough, I am totally bashing Moffat. Yet, this is the man responsible for my all time favourite Doctor Who episodes (Girl in the Fireplace and Blink) so there’s still hope. But Doctor Who was a different show then, and I feel Russell T Davies probably played a very strong hand in taming and rounding Moffat’s stories. Let of the leash Moffat seems intent on dragging everything he achieved with Russell T Davies and David Tennant through the gutter. And this gutter is getting very very full now.
Filed under: Doctor Who Series 6
Okay, this isn’t so much a review of this weeks Doctor Who, more my thoughts on Steven Moffat and the direction this new series is taking.
Firstly, this week’s episode was every bit as good as last weeks regarding script, direction and performance. No problems there then. So why did I have to watch the second episode of the new series twice before posting a review? No, it wasn’t because I didn’t understand it. No, it wasn’t because I was blown away by sheer scope of the production values. To find the answer you need to go to Blackwell’s staff room. And more specifically last Tuesday.
During a discussion about Doctor Who we all concurred the first episode of series 6 was great and vastly enjoyable. However, two observations stuck in my mind as being both true and potentially dangerous. Dave Hartley and Peter Huxley both noted that Steven Moffat has a tendency to shoe horn too many ideas into his scripts and often starts a story with seemingly disconnected events that come together at the end. We all agreed at the time that this was just a facet of his writing and not a major criticism.
However, It was watching this week’s episode that I noticed another facet of Steven Moffats writing creeping through more and more. An obsession with leaving several questions unanswered is now starting to interfere with the roundness of his scripts. Back in the Russell T Davies days the Bad Wolf mystery was always kept in the background. Only rising to the fore after slowly brewing over several series. Steven Moffat throws these unanswered questions and sub plots right to the front, running alongside the main story line. Without doubt the two episodes of series 6 are as good, if not better than anything from series 5, as Steven Moffat takes Doctor Who into his own creation , rather than the Russell T Davies hangover that was series 5. The scripts are better. The direction is better. The acting is better. The story archs are getting more complicated…….hmm, maybe too complicated. I’m starting to think of Steven Moffat as some kind of Brian Wilson figure, hard at work on his own Smile creation. And just like that legendary ‘lost’ album, will Steven Moffat forget how all the pieces are supposed to fit together? Or indeed if they ever actually could. An unanswered question in a story is only clever writing if the circle is eventually completed. If the circle remains broken it’s surely just an invitation for further ideas to be shoe horned in. Yet more unanswered questions.
Steven Moffat has started this series with two strong episodes, taking Doctor Who into dark territory combined with vastly increased production values. But Moffat needs to be careful. What made these episodes so great could very easily pull the series apart. Keep up the good work Steven, but be warned, I am taking note. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best ones.
Filed under: Doctor Who Series 6
Let’s be honest, the previous series of Doctor Who was rather patchy. And offering yet further comparisons with my underwear, the Christmas special was ropey too! In fact the last series was so hit and miss that a work friend actually stopped watching Doctor Who completely, after that god awful Dalek episode. Shame, because he didn’t see Amy’s Choice, which in my opinion was the best one of series 5. Yes Peter Huxley, I’m talking about you. So, there was good moments in Series 5, but far too many weak ones. Leading me to give 4/10 on easily over a third of the stories and only targeting 3 episodes worthy of 8/10 or more; Eleven, Beast Below and Amy’s Choice. But enough about the last series. Let’s get down to reviewing the first episode of the new series….series 6!
I’ve been feeling ill all day, so I was thinking a light hearted episode of Doctor Who would cheer me up. After all, the first episode of every new series is always very bouncy to get you in the mood. I assumed series 6 would start in the same manner as the others. How wrong I was this time!
Bugger me, this was one hell of a dark episode. And thankfully a bloody good one. I always know when I’m watching a good story, because I was intrigued right from the start. I really don’t want to give the plot away, but you’ll be shocked at how sombre this was for 6 o’clock on a Saturday evening. Mostly this was set in 1969, the year of the moon landing. Features a man playing Richard Nixon (not in a naff way). Stars not just one companion, but three. A trapped child calling out for help via a phone (this has been done before, new ideas please). Space suits becoming processed or taken over (er, this has been done before too). Aliens that you instantly forget the moment you look away. And…….oh yeah, the Doctor is dead!. Nearly forgot to mention that bit. Killed and not given the chance to regenerate fully ,killed once again. Yep, this time he really is dead. They’ve even burnt his body in a boat out at sea. But hang on, who’s this? A younger doctor, previously invited by his now dead self via an envelope to make sense of all this madness. So how did the Doctor know he was going to die? Guess we’ll have to tune in next week to find out.
Overall, I found this episode very well scripted and perfectly directed. My only criticism was the rehashing of old ideas, yet again. But at least this time they were used creatively, rather than in a lazy manner. A very good, yet creepy episode of Doctor Who. A solid start to the new series!