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February 14, 2007

Review: Life on Mars 2x1-2x2

Posted on February 14, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Lifeonmars21-1

In the UK: Tuesdays, BBC1, 9pm with the following episode on BBC4, 10pm
In the US: Coming to BBC America later in the year. With edits again, probably.

Characters re-cast: 0
Major characters gotten rid of: 1
Major new characters: 0
Format change percentage: 10%

It's always a tricky thing reviewing Life on Mars. Can you praise/slag off an hallucination? Is it even an hallucination or is it regular drama with a sci-fi twist? Until the end of the series, we won't know.

So I'm going to tread my way gingerly, here. First, I'll lay my cards on the table and say I don't think the first two episodes were quite as good as last year's cracking crop. I think it's now playing to the audience a bit too much and crosses from parody into self-parody a bit too often.

But let's face it. It's still bloody good fun.

Continue reading "Review: Life on Mars 2x1-2x2"

February 13, 2007

Canonicity: give up now

Posted on February 13, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Mr Mark Wilkinson tried to goad me recently. He quoted Paul Cornell for one thing. Never a good plan, particularly after he himself had posted a link to this Lawrence Miles interview that 'confirmed' everyone's worst fears about PC (how apt those initials).

Cornell, it seems, wants to talk about canonicity in Doctor Who. The problem with Who is that nothing matches up. Stories contradict each other. Then there are the comics, the audio plays, the novels, fan fic and so on. How to make it all fit together?

Some people care. Some people can be very imaginative with canonicity. How come KITT in Knight Rider exists yet is so clearly impossible with 1980s technology? Because he's made from the crashed parts of a Cylon raider from Galactica 80, of course. Didn't the red light at the front give the game away? It did to a whole load of fans which is why this particular theory is now “fan canon” or “fanon”.

Now, if there's a canonicity problem, I for one simply point in the direction of Toby at Inner Toob and say if anyone can sort out this tangled mess, he can. He, after all, has a grand project to make all TV shows fit together into one canonical whole. So the whole goading thing doesn't work. My faith in Toby is great. He will sort things out.

I'd also point out that the nature of Doctor Who is such that we could have a story in the next series of the show that said the Tom Baker era never happened and because it's about time travel, it would be true. That would be that. It happened but it didn't. It really doesn't matter if anything contradicts anything else because it can all be rewritten at a moment's notice. So lie back and enjoy the fun. Read a book, listen to the play. It happened. It didn't happen. It's quantum mechanics in merchandising format (do you Copenhagen or do you multi-world at WH Smith's?).

But I've noticed something new is happening that makes canonicity harder and even more brain-warping.

We're all aware of DVDs that have “deleted scenes” - scenes that never made it to the final episode but were filmed all the same. I imagine working out if they're canonical or not is a whole load of weirdness. Plus, it's relatively easy to discount them because they're optional. You don't have to watch the deleted scenes. They're not in the episode itself. Easy.

But what of Battlestar Galactica? For the last two episodes, the producers have included a deleted scene (aka 'bonus' scene. You can view them on the web site, too) just before the end titles. Now it's on television, you have no choice to watch it and it usually directly contradicts what you've just seen in the episode itself. How does it all fit in?

My mind hurts. I suspect that canonicity is broken, that the existence of Paul Cornell contradicts itself and he has become a figment of everyone's imagination. But I might have forgotten to carry the 1.

Toby: save me. Save us all.

February 12, 2007

Review: The Sandbaggers - Series 3

Posted on February 12, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Sandbaggers - Series 3

This will be popping up on the Action TV web site at some point soon, but you lucky people get to see it first.

On paper, The Sandbaggers could have been one of many lesser shows. Detailing life for the “Special Operations section” of MI6/SIS, it could have been a James Bond-esque tale of daring-do. It could have been a slightly more sedate, John Le Carré-style affair, all intrigue, politics and back-biting. Instead, it proved to be a combination of both worlds, marrying the excitement of a Fleming book with the authenticity of Le Carré.

Throughout the show’s three series, the agents of the piece – the eponymous Sandbaggers – and their boss, former Sandbagger Neil Burnside (Roy Marsden) were faced with as many murky plots from the depths of Whitehall and from the UK’s supposed allies as they were by Soviet espionage. They failed or died in their missions on any number of occasions because of office politics back home, all while being paid a civil service salary.

The success of the show was as much due to the authenticity of the scripts as it was the mesmerising central performance of Marsden. Much of that was a result of the (possible) inside knowledge of the show’s creator, former naval officer Ian Mackintosh, who wrote all the scripts for the show’s first two series. At the very least, it was because of his talent as a scriptwriter.

Tragically, Mackintosh died in an aircraft crash before the start of the third series of the show. He’d managed to write a number of scripts, including the final episode’s, but without his continued input, the show failed to hit the creative heights of the previous two series.

Continue reading "Review: The Sandbaggers - Series 3"

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