Friday, December 30, 2005

Return of the train

I love North by Northwest, and I especially love the train journey between New York and Chicago, when Eva Marie Saint explains to Cary Grant that she'll share her carriage with him (yes, a euphemism), though they've only just met.

Honeymooning last year, the Dr and I did the same journey in reverse, and paid out a shed-load for the "luxury" room. A proper, romantic trip, we thought. And maybe the Dr could foist filth on me, just like the bird in the film.

But trains are not what they were. Our compartment was tiny - I barely fitted in it - and the toilet was also the shower. Other passengers' rooms were, er, a chair with curtains either side. Service was lowsy and rude, and we slowly realised that the only people who travelled by train were freaks.

(That is, in the American sense of "people without cars", or unwilling to fly.)

The view out the window was quite good, though. Odd thing to be in the middle of a swamp, dip into a tunnel and then emerge in the midst of Manhattan.

Anyway. Virgin has been advertising "the return of the train", with Cary and Eva Marie CGId into one of their swanky new carriages. "Yes, bollocks," I'd thought.

Then yesterday, me and the Dr took one of these new trains up north (for visiting in-laws). There's not a lot of luggage room on them - like a plane, you can just fit a handbag and coat. So, what with all the Christmas/New Year travelling, people were laden down with baggage there wasn't room for and there were various strops and arguments going on while we waited to leave Euston.

One group were especially worried because their chum was running late, they couldn't reach him and still had hold of his ticket. The train was due to leave in a minute, and what were they going to do?

At which point a Virgin person appeared from nowhere. He offered to take the ticket to the customer services desk, where the chum could collect it and jump on the next train - all so easy and at no extra charge. Blimey, I thought. That's a bit good.

And then we set off, and the journey was very smooth, and guards came through every so often to make sure things were dandy, and took away litter and... well blimey, it's not what you expect, is it?

Didn't get any filth out of the mrs, though. Perhaps 'cos we'd not only just met.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Cold Bath builds character

My parents tell of the misery of bording school in the 50s, where days began with long runs followed by ice-cold baths. Apparently this built character.

So I am probably much better rounded after a day in Bath where the trains were freezing, as was the pub, the museum and the shops... and we spent a fair bit of time outside, too.

Arrived in time for lunch with two ex-pat friends, over to wave their new kid at its in-pat relations. Aardpig had his first cider in two years and it was merely a half-pint (for driving reasons).

When they'd buzzed off to do family things, the Dr and I tried the Museum of Costume. Had fun strapping her into the corsets to try. She liked the later versions best as they were longer. Didn't try the Jane Austen dressing up, but she did coo at Darcy's cast-off shirt.

Then we went and found her some new shoes. I am a good husband today.

Train journeys meant I've finished that bloody story (8,127 words) and sent it in. And written an episode of something.

Off to darkest north tomorrow, which may be even colder. Gah.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

All-dancing Nazis

Never really been one for musicals – they tend to be low-budget, low-effort opera with all the emotional truth of soft porn. But I’ve seen two musicals in as many days.

Saw the Sound of Music yesterday, for the first time ever. Can see why the Dr got giggly. As well as being fun – a lot of the appeal in Maria’s clumsiness and silly faces – its last half-hour really lifts it up. Laughed at Liesl, who’s meant to be sixteen, and found it a bit odd that little Friedrich is Spider-Man while the suave Captain’s also a bald Klingon.

(Via which link I've learnt a new word: fanon. Christ.)

It could easily all have ended with the wedding and still been a memorable girlie movie. The Anschluss gives a jolly, frothy story some real depth. Rolfe is an interesting character, and I genuinely didn’t know which way it would go in his final confrontation with von Trapp. Would he shoot? Would he let them go? Would he flee with them? Blimey.

Today we ambled down to Beckenham to see The Producers. Knew I’d seen the original, but couldn’t remember how it all played out due to mixing it up in my head with Cabaret. Which, as the Dr pointed out, is not the same. She laughed and laughed, and it’s all good fun.

Though Captain Jack is scary in his blue contact lenses.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Did you miss me?

Christmas was pretty damn top. Silly, giddy mood on Christmas Eve having finally finished a draft of a story at 8,155 words. Needs some polishing, but the hard work’s done. Such a relief! And I now know what a Mim is.

Festive curry and then down the road to the pub with good chums. Surprised by how many were there, but had lots of good cheer and chatting. Rolled home a little on the drunkish side, though I’m sure no one noticed. The Dr was amazed to discover that Father Christmas had been and a stocking awaited. But she’s been rather good this year.

Excitable all yesterday, despite best efforts of hangover. Loot included the Dr Who annual (care of the cat) which is full of brilliant top facts, and all kinds of other suitable reading. Dr did pretty well, too.

Once all the smoked salmon had been ate we went for a gander round Crystal Palace park. Dr then set to the turkey, and I watched two hours of old Droo – in preparation for the next installment. Was practically bursting by 7pm, and by golly that was fantastic. Blood control was really rather chilling. And a new room in the TARDIS! And aliens being outed for all the world to see! And the new theme music! And and and!

Skilfully saw off the Graske before our chums B. and D. popped round. Huge, glorious roast dinner thanks to the Dr, then watched Christmas invaded again. Dr sloped off about one-ish, but we tough chaps stayed up to watch Big Lebowski and see of the wine. Got to bed about half four.

Best Christmas Day ever.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

"Very nice, but far too young"

Lunch with the very lovely Sophie Aldred yesterday, again for the thing we will not speak of here. Amongst everything else, we chatted about New Show and is it too scary for her boys.

The previous night, I’d been struck watching Devil's Backbone by its similarities in feel to The Empty Child. There’s something really troubling about freaky, ghostly kids, but it seems to be something that affects adults more than it does children.

Maybe that's 'cos kids, who don’t think they're necessarily special, innocent or anything, are fine with the idea of kids being monstrous and scary. That’s just what it’s like going to school. In many ways it’s empowering for them to see a kid with power to scare their parents. But for adults it triggers all kinds of primal, protective urges…

Had a mail from the best mate, out doing anthropological things in Papua New Guinea. He makes it sound a bit like Eastleigh.

Also been sent a Time Travellers review by Hugh Sturgess, which I’d not seen before. Hugh is apparently “just like me”, poor bloke. But he says some nice things.
"One thing I don't get though: what's the importance of that weird traffic light tree on the cover?"
A few people have asked this one – Cornell on Tuesday asked, “Was it what you wanted?” Yes, it’s just what I asked for, only better. And as well as appearing literally in chapter one, it’s also a bit similar to what the Doctor draws in chapter nine. Do you see? Aaaah…

Am going to try and finish the short story today, in time for pubbing tonight. And a festive top fact to conclude with:

Issue 473 of Michael Quinnion’s weekly “World Wide Words” mail reveals that the unrestrained licence of Saturnalia is an anagram of Australian.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Not in hot water

"If burner pressure is low; check inlet pressure to the boiler when maximum flow is being drawn at tap – compare the value obtained with that specified in 4.2 (refer to 8.9)."
No, I don't know what that's about either.

The day did not start well. Boiler finally gave up on the whole hot water thing, so – after some bashing of forehead against wall – I tracked down The Man who can fix things. And then begged.

He’s kindly, heroically said he’ll drop in as soon as he can to see what the problem is. But there’s not a lot to be done this close to Christmas. And it looks like it’s going to cost a fair sod. Ah, the joy of houses.

Other Christmas things: "History of…" author Scott has pics of new spawn, while Phil has read the book. There’s also a review by Charles Packer which is generally positive without saying many nice things. Quite a trick. Think it warrants a response for one paragraph in particular, but when I’m feeling less all-round curmudgeonly.

The return of the Fear Forecasters does make the world seem that bit more festive, and I’m also much relieved to have got my shopping and wrapping all done.

(Considered at length whether I should say so on here, ‘cos the Dr reads it and now she’ll want to inspect the parcels, guess their contents and – as one year – "accidentally" tear the wrapping open. For such a noble and learned academic, she don’t half behave like she’s six.)

But what’s making me most happy is that I’ve still got some work done. Lots more transcripting – including Phillip Olivier being extremely nice about The Settling (and not just when I was in the room). Yay! Came up with some more stuff for Ade to draw, received some smart thoughts about Sapphire and Steel which I’ll need to incorporate, and the thing being written is at 4,853 words. And finally has some kind of legs.

And I did the washing, and hung it up and everything.

Had meant to reward myself for such feats with a night in the pub with the geeks, but that’s dependent on when The Man comes to see boiler. Probably a bad idea when I'm in this kind of stinker. Probably not much fun to be around anyway.

Or to read. Sorry.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"I don’t want to get married."

M. appeared on the nose of my easyeverything hours being up. We found good curry (not at all like the review it gets here) and, nicely stuffed, hit the birthday party.

Dr Who and the Hat of DeathSaw some people I’d not seen in years, and met a bloke who works for the Independent who also knows his Who. We discussed the relative merits of Hartnell, and he explained how you make an Astrakhan hat. Induce the lamb so it’s born prematurely, and you get those fetching close-curls. Naw.

Little bit pissed, stumbled back to the train with B. and got home to dish all to the Dr about people’s haircuts and who snogged who.

Into town this morning for a work thing that went well, made some deliveries and then met the lovelies Charley and C’rizz for lunch. I now know much about the future of Who things.

And again I'm not telling.

Ballsed up the settings on my costly new-bought machine so it cut out halfway through the interview. As yesterday, the trusty (and borrowed) Olympus Pearlcorder S701 did the business.

Home again to write the thing up, and my night out with the brothers is off, so I’ve an evening of work now ahead of me. But first I am going to watch Dr Who natter, then feed the cat, then have my own tea. By which time, if I manage it right, it’ll be bedtime.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"Take me home, you lout!"

A busy day today, not helped by the Dr's work Christmas party last night, after which we bumped by chance into my senior brother and forced him to drink beer. Eventually got home to terrorise the cat, who the Dr thinks has the same mad, weasely face as the new Dr Who.

Up earlyish to get some writing done, and thence to see D. to borrow electrical hardware and do Grant Mitchell impressions. He laughed at my feeble Oirish, which came out sort of Scouse. Hum ho.

Then into town to pick up my terribly expensive new toy, which records voices in a number of clever ways. Had to queue and queue to collect it. London seems crazy-packed. Apparently there's some kooky ethnic festival happening this weekend. Political correctness gone mad if you ask me.

Then to the pub, where I'd barely begun my HUUUUGE club sandwich when televison's Paul Cornell arrived. We had a very pleasant chat about all sorts of everything, bits of which I have now transcribed. More interviewing tomorrow and Friday, but I'm not going to tell you what it's all in aid of yet. This is because I am a master of intrigue, and also a bit annoying. Be patient. It is the Jedi way, and all will be revealed in time.

Now sat in the easyeverything on Tottenham Court Road, and am due at a birthday bash later. M. has just txtd to say he's finished work, so I might even dare some nosh with him.

Such is my whirlwind rollercoaster life. Pip pip.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Build high for happiness

While waiting for horrors on BBC4 last night, the Dr and I found Demolition, in which Kevin McCloud scoured the country for ugly buildings to X-list and tear down.

It was an odd programme, with McCloud fully in favour of X-listing generally, but less keen on the actual buildings proposed. There was some attempt to defend the dreary, grey concrete blocks so unloved by the public, so it became "tell us what you don’t like, and we’ll tell you that you’re wrong."

Though some interesting points were made about architectural fashions (and how, as a result, much top Victoriana was lost in the 80s), the arguments were pretty lightweight. And they failed to appreciate why some buildings just don’t appeal.

Wikipedia: Buckinghamshire county hall taken from the Grand Union Canal basinOf Aylesbury's vast and ugly county hall, Janet Street Porter was keen to point out that the interior’s lovely. But we didn’t get to see inside. Nor did we hear what it’s like to work in the building, or to clean and maintain it. Or whether it’s efficient to heat and run, or how often the air conditioning breaks down… Nothing on the practicalities, which is surely so important to whether a building “works”.

McCloud was also embarrassed that the new Scottish Parliament Building had made the show’s “dirty dozen.” An expert was duly wheeled out to answer the plebs. Having entirely failed to convince them, he muttered that people lack the wit to appreciate good bricks. Better visual education was what’s wanted.

But this is missing a fairly fundamental point about what the Scottish Parliament building is for and what it represents.

The look of London’s own parliamentary palace earned much scorn and criticism in its day. But Barry and Pugin soldiered on, knocking together a gothic folly festooned with history and majesty. It’s terribly Empire and still feels like some fusty old gentlemen’s club, the few women there barely on sufferance.

What Joe Public thought didn’t have to matter: the palace was built about the same time that the Duke of Wellington was planning gun placements in London to see off the Chartists.

Scotland, though, is a new parliament and one hard fought for. It’s a response to years of having Top Schemes like the poll tax tried out on it. Specifically, it’s about fair representation, “the people” having a say…

Which isn’t reflected in the design of the building, nor the way that design was selected. Then there’s the poor management and spiralling cost of the whole project, and the failure to find any villains to pin it on. Hardly of and by and for the Scottish people, is it?

I think there’s even an argument that, just like when under us terrible tyrants, the Scots have had something rubbish dictated to them by those who claim to know best. Which might explain why folk are so angry about it.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Effusion of blood

Missed this, but Big Finish have put up the blurb for The Settling:
Note to Sir Arthur Aston, governor of the town of Drogheda, 10 September 1649.

"Sir, Having brought the army belonging to the Parliament of England before this place, to reduce it to obedience, to the end effusion of blood may be prevented, I thought fit to summon you to deliver the same into my hands to their use.

If this be refused, you will have no cause to blame me.

I expect your answer and rest your servant.

O. Cromwell."
Yes, that is historically accurate. At least, I copied it out of a book.

Busy writing stuff today which (for the moment) includes the lines, "But was the Armada invading? King Phillip of Spain had been married to the Queen of England, hadn’t he?" Discuss.

Friday, December 16, 2005


You've been ink slinging too long and too hard when, like yesterday, you're in fits of delight when the threat of a yellow card is dismissed as a red herring.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Turf war

"I don't advocate everyone trying to live like us in roundhouses, but I can see a future in which those people who live in self built ecohomes in ecovillages or ecologically balanced (earthright) towns will have a much higher quality of life."

Tony Wrench, unpublished extract,
from an interview with me, 2 September 2004.

To the Photographer’s Gallery last night for mulled wine and David Spero’s "Settlements" (until 5 February 2006). And blimey, there’s some snaps of Tony Wrench's roundhouse, which I interviewed him about just over a year ago. Pembrokeshire Council are still threatening to pull down the place, which has low-to-no impact on it surroundings, and which they only discovered in the first place by accident.

Spero’s recorded quite a variety of similarly "invisible" self-built homes, and I preferred the more cottage-like ones to the scruffier, ramshackle sort, surrounded by shambles and spare building materials. The cottages looked homely and secure, while the rougher structures looked fleeting and unsafe. But then I’m a city boy. (The Dr will probably be laughing at this last bit.)

There’s an odd correlation between these buildings and KSR’s Fifty Degrees Below, which – yes – I’m still working my way through (page 400 today, but my train journeys are stuffed with work). Among all the ideas dashed through the book, there’s Frank’s longing for a more natural, savannah-style living, playing with hand-axes and shagging in his treehouse.

(The book (and possibly the trilogy) is about practical and scientific solutions to abrupt climate change, and therefore of rethinking assumed models for living. From the author of the Mars trilogy, a book about terraforming the Earth.)

What both the book and these snaps show is a mixing of some bliss, "Golden Age" (and so never-existent) pre-urban way with modern practicality. Frank's "natural" living includes modern fabrics to keep the cold out, and a remote garage-door opener to work the ladder to his house. Likewise, the settlements in Brithdir Mawr use recycled double-glazing and tarpaulins.

The point of my article – what I hoped made it different – was that it wasn’t about unusual houses as homes, things people actually lived in. (See "Bricks and mortar – paper, stone, steel and wood: how we choose to live" in Lexus magazine Quarter 1 2005, pp. 38-41)

What became evident was that these alternatives (and I also covered curvilinear and recycled-log dwellings) was the need to share land. These communities are all based on shared access, mutuality. Which is about as unBritish as you get.

So Brown stepping in the way of yet more buy-to-letting is good news. And yes, I’m aware of the irony of just having bought my own home. And one that leaks heat every whichway. We’re working on that.
"At least insulate your loft, for God's sake. The thing is to imagine a world that works sustainably, and work back to seeing your part in it. There isn't any choice, in the long term, but to live sustainably, so why mess about?"


I'hantom zs/eat/cc

I talked ages and ages ago about discovering a thing I'd written back in '99, predicting what'd have to happen in the next two Star Wars films. Well, here it is.

Had to do correcting of things the scan didn't like - "Palpatine" and "Jedi" it was fine with, but "Phantom Menace" threw odd errors. Make of that what you will. Otherwise, I've not edited it, so apologies for some clumsy phrasing - and a number of Who cliches. Rather delighted that it's not entirely wrong...

Still To Come In The Galaxy Far, Far Away
Last updated: 27 January 2000

Now we've had Anakin in the UK, and as cinemas across the country one by one remove The Phantom Menace from their schedules, eager followers of the Star Wars saga must soon begin to wonder about the contents of episodes two and three.

Some comment has already seen print. ‘Which soap star will play “Young Adult” Anakin Skywalker?’ and so on. Among the predictable nominations was the heartening news that Leonardo di Caprio isn't interested.

Yet there's a glut of information about the contents of the next two films. It's been sitting under our noses for a couple of decades too. We can glean a huge amount from the four films already available to us. We know not only the major events that have to happen in the remaining chapters, we can also make an educated stab at a number of smaller elements. What follows, then, is my own best estimate, built up from evidence in the four films themselves. I've avoided events from the spin-off cartoons, books and comics because - as with the Alien franchise - Lucas has no obligation to adhere to merchandising apocrypha.

The dramatis personae of The Phantom Menace will carry on into episodes two and three – albeit for a recast Anakin. Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi will grow a beard by the end of episode three, and someone will probably refer to him as ‘Ben’, too.

C3P0 is reunited and paired with R2D2, but is likely either to have his memory wiped by the end of episode three, or remain marginal to the events of episodes two and three: explaining his lack of knowledge in A New Hope. He does insist ‘No more adventures' in the Tatooine desert in episode four - so recalls at least something. He ought also to be fully dressed in golden livery by the end of episode three.

It has been suggested that Samuel Jackson's Mace Windu will play a greater role in the next films. Of all the Jedi High Council, he is the one easiest to visualise wielding a lightsabre in the midst of great battle. We can also confidently expect reappearances - at least in cameo - by Hugh Quarshie and Ralph Brown. Ric Ollie may prove to be the Wedge Antilles of the prequels. [And not “of the pretzels”, as the text reader thought.]

Somewhere in the conflict of episode three will be glimpsed prototype X-Wings and TIE Fighters. The inclusion of Star Destroyers at this stage might, however, detract from the infamous opening shot of New Hope. Prototype Stormtroopers ought also to appear, along with the reason Phantom Menace's battle druids are given up in favour of men in plastic suits. There is an attitude towards droids as second-class citizens in A New Hope - the ‘we don't serve their kind here’ stuff in the cantina. Maybe robophobia is born from the war.

While young versions of Han and Boba Fett have been rumoured for years, both would have to be very young if born at all during the events of episode three. More likely is a view of either Bespin or the Millennium Falcon in a less developed form than we see them later. Also introduced is a young officer by the name of Tarkin. Paul McGann has the cheekbones to play a junior Peter Cushing, surely.

But what's to be done with Jah Jah Binks - apart from the obvious garroting? In Phantom Menace he was the banished, clumsy coward who rose to be a general in the Gungan army, having paved the way for an alliance between Boss Nass and Amidala. How can his character progress? With the years that are to pass between the end of episode one and the start of episode two, he will have to be considerably older. Surely the only role for him is as Nass's successor. Unless, like Lando, he forfeits his political responsibilities in favour of being a general among the freedom fighters. But who will his army be battling?

Episode two has to consist of some variant of The Empire Strikes. If not part of the title of the episode itself, this has got to be what the film is actually about.

In A New Hope we hear of the ‘Clone Wars’; when the Jedi made their last stand and where Anakin Skywalker perished. What does the title ‘Clone Wars’ suggest? GM Jedi? Or perhaps the fearsome Stormtroopers keeping the local systems in line for Palatine in A New Hope are all clones.

Princess Leia addresses Kenobi as ‘General’ in A New Hope. Like Han and Lando in Jedi (and Jah Jah in Phantom Menace he must be promoted prior to the big offensive. But do Jedi gain ranks and act as soldiers? Luke remains marginal to the offensive on Endor in episode six, and never receives a military title - even after destroying the Death Star in part four. In Phantom Menace, Qui-Gonn says he cannot fight a war for Amidala. The Jedi are peace-keeping diplomats, not a ninja infantry. There must be some special circumstance for Kenobi to join the army.

Appearing to Luke on Hoth, Ben describes Yoda as ‘the Jedi Master who trained me,’ which suggests Obi-wan still has much to learn in episodes two and three. On Dagobah, Yoda mutters that Luke is difficult and headstrong, and Kenobi counters, ‘Was I any different?’ Clearly Kenobi will follow Qui-Gonn’s example and argue with the High Council. ‘I was once a Jedi knight,’ he tells Luke in episode four, suggesting that he leaves the order to join the rebels, fighting shoulder to shoulder with Leia’s adopted father.

Bale Organa is someone we will have to meet in episode two. He has a key role to play in events to come. Mentioned as a political rival to Palpatine in episode one [actually, no he isn’t], he will take Amidala under his wing and raise her daughter as both his own and as a princess. When we first encounter him, it will be as a competent and respected minister - cast as a villain by Palpatine.

At some point in the political machinations, Palpatine has to reveal himself as the Sith Master. We ought also to learn how he has kept his Sith revival hidden from the Jedi. His powers have to be incredible. Napoleon made himself Emperor after heroic military service during the Reign of Terror. Palpatine must do something equally grand to ensure being made leader of the Senate. Perhaps he engineers a war with a third party, to split his rivals both in the Senate and on the Jedi Council.

Whatever the case, Palpatine will emerge from the early stages of the Clone Wars as a hero, while Jedi power and authority is assaulted and defeated. The surviving Jedi scatter across the cosmos, becoming secluded, lone hermits on backward worlds far from the Empire. By A New Hope, for all that he has done for Owen and Beru Lars in bringing them Luke, they dismiss him as a ‘crazy old wizard’. On Dagobah, Yoda is even more peculiar.

Something within the Jedi order itself also changes, so that its casualties become ghostly visions. Liam Neeson had a corpse that could be cremated, while the bodies of Ben and Yoda disappeared, appearing later as benign spectres. Vader got to both burn and return. The ‘change’ passes young Anakin by. He’s surprised by Kenobi’s vanishing at the end of their duel in A New Hope, but Ben knows what will happen should he be struck down.

The power appears to be broken some time during episodes one and four, so it may be that they are Palpatine's third party. The Jabba who lauds over the pod race in Phantom Menace is a poorer, quieter gangster skulking around Mos Eisley with a clutch of bodyguards in A New Hope, having to deal personally with small-time smugglers like Han Solo. Compare his sordid den and entourage at the beginning of Jedi to the massive, married exuberance feasted on him in episode one. Where did that go? He must have gambled badly on the outcome of the war.

As a result of this change in circumstance, war hero Anakin is able to free the slaves on Tatooine as promised. Maybe he proves too late to save his mother, or she is dying. With all the fear relating to his mother that the Jedi High Council can see in the young boy, this crashing failure would be the event that turns him over to the Dark Side. Dearth Vader is then the classic psychological villain: his wickedness motivated by his feelings for his mother. I wonder if he keeps her corpse in the Death Star’s cellar?

The dead mother and wish to save her also echoes Luke’s obsessive need to rescue and redeem his ‘dead’ father. Everybody - Yoda, Ben, Leia, even the Emperor - try to convince him that he is wrong, and yet he persists. Very Freud, and the loss of his mother also gives impetus to Anakin’s burgeoning relationship with an older woman: Amidala.

Han and Leia’s courtship develops through the entire four hours of episodes five and six. The first flirtations are being sign-posted right at the beginning of Empire. While Leia may admit that she loves Han at the end of Empire, it’s not until the end of Jedi
that the ‘But what about Luke?’ question is resolved and their relationship confirmed. What with all the spaceship and lightsabre battles interrupting them, it takes all four hours to get them together properly.

In that time, the stubborn, independent characters we met squabbling in A New Hope have mellowed and matched. Han Solo - who casually guns down Greedo in a seedy bar when we first meet him, and runs out on the rebels once he's been paid - is by Jedi a General in the resistance, leading a desperate mission many think hasn't a hope of success. He apologises to Leia for a moment of jealousy in the Ewok village, and later promises not to ‘get in the way’ should she want to shack up with her brother. Leia, as well as being far more caring, concerned and friendly by episode six, is able in Jedi not only to turn the tables on Han by rescuing him, but also gets to throw the ‘I love you’, ‘I know’ joke back at him.

In the same number of hours that this affair blossoms - in which Han and Leia get only a handful of brief snags - Lucas has not only to get Amidala and Anakin
together, he’s got to get Amidala pregnant and widowed, too.

Being a family saga, we won’t see much of the actual baby-making [no, that happens in a cartoon!]. Still, there is the question of whether Luke and Leia are born in or out of wedlock. Surely Naboo’s eligible Queen, after so much has threatened her power, is going to insist on a wedding ring before getting into the sack with some pod-racing slave boy. What valued her people think of her bit of teenage rough? Maybe his Jedi training and part in defeating the invaders in episode one will help to win over the readers of Nubian Hello magazine.

So will episode two end with a wedding - one last joyful occasion before the horrific collapse in episode three? That would seem the most sensible place to put it in the four hours allotted. Maybe Anakin and Amidala’s relationship will already have been sparked before the start of episode two. The loaded moments given them in Phantom Menace must surely have developed somewhere in the intervening years.

At the same time, Anakin’s relationship with Palpatine has been developing. At some point, Anakin will have to make the meaningful decision that turns him over to the Dark Side. Palpatine will surely have been slyly coaxing the boy towards his service for years, subverting the Jedi prophecy Mace Windu speaks of in episode one. How late into episode three will the turning point come, and how far will it be sign-posted in episode two? The older Anakin we’ll meet in episodes two and three could easily suffer from over-confidence in his abilities as pilot, Jedi and lover, and exert the same keen naivety shown by his son in episode four. Maybe he has an argument with the wife, or finds the Jedi order too restricting. Vader loves power. Throughout episodes four to six, he bullies not only prisoners but his officers, too. I suspect Palpatine will have established a confidence with Anakin well before the marriage to Amidala is made.

Episode two ends with the Jedi wedding guests at the happy party concerned for the near future. Palpatine keeps noticeably distant, finally making his first public gambit at the beginning of episode three. The trap he has sprung is all-consuming, the fall of the Jedi inevitable. Anakin leaves his pregnant wife to join the battles and in the midst of the war is faced with some character-defining dilemma.
His decision brings him into direct, cataclysmic conflict with Kenobi. They fight a terrible duel (conveniently) on a one-to-one basis, Anakin wearing the black robes of the Sith, the partial costume of Vader. At the beginning of A New Hope Vader affirms that, ‘there's no one to stop us this time,’ but we can only guess at what it might be that Kenobi stops him from doing.

With each film in the series, the final lightsabre duels have become increasingly faster, more furious and impressive. With so much hanging on their battle, with so inevitable an outcome, the battle between Obi-wan and Anakin will have to be breath-taking. We’ve already seen that Ewan McGregor can kick bottom.

Anakin must sustain terrible injuries to have to dress up in the garb of Darth Vader - we can gauge something of that damage by whatever he’s having done to his brain in Empire and the scars to be seen on his unmasked face in Jedi. When Luke slices off Vader’s hand in their final battle in Jedi, it is revealed to be mechanical. Maybe Kenobi slicing off Anakin’s hand in pitched battle in episode three will be the first instance of the family wound. It will also make him drop his weapon. Ben retains Anakin’s lightsabre at the end of episode three, and passes the heirloom down to Luke in A New Hope.

Anakin has to appear to be dead - to the majority of his compatriots at least. What a propaganda blow it would be for them to know that their young star of a pilot has gone over to the enemy. It’s therefore a little strange that the politically agile Palpatine doesn’t take advantage of this. Maybe the change of name to Darth Vader is part of Sith lore. Kenobi - fully aware that Anakin has survived their duel and become Vader - doesn't tell a soul until Yoda outs his mistrust in Jedi.

We ought to see more of Coruscant. The bell ringing the news of Palapatine's death in Jedi will surely ring in his ascension to Emperor at the end of episode three. Close by stands his Sith advisor, Vader - voiced, ever so briefly, by James Earl Jones. Their victory seems complete.

Elsewhere, our heroes have gone to grounds licking their wounds and promising that they will, one day, fight again. Obi-wan and Bale Organa agree to separate the devastated Amidala's children to protect them. How is ambitionless farmer Owen Lars found by Kenobi? Perhaps they meet in episode two, when Anakin comes to rescue the slaves.

Widowed, a child taken from her and with the resistance crushed, Amidala fades. She dies when Leia is very young, and Leia remembers her only as sad and very beautiful.
Vader has no idea that Leia is his daughter. It’s a revelation to him towards the end of Jedi that Luke has a sister. However, he and Palapatine have expected a young Skywalker to turn up. Palpatine has even seen this child as powerful enough to threaten him. Maybe that is why Kenobi insists that Luke keeps his father’s surname.

That surname risks attention on Tatooine in his formative years: ‘Your name’s Skywalker? Like the only human ever to win pod racing, who went off to be a Jedi knight, saved Naboo, then came back here and freed the slaves? You related to him?’

‘No,’ Luke would have to say. ‘l’m just the son of some other Skywalker - some hotshot pilot who got himself killed in the Clone Wars…’

What’s more, surely the Empire would have followed the flight of the Nubian Queen and her child to Alderaan, while the adoption of Leia into the Organa family can’t have gone unnoticed. There are problems with the nature of monarchic hierarchy and succession in Phantom Menace: Amidala is the ‘newly elected’ queen of her people, for example, though I’m told that there's a precedent for this sort of thing in the lineage of some of the European royal families.

Alderaan remains an opposition power to Palpatine and his cronies for some time. The Imperial Senate is only disbanded at the beginning of A New Hope, while Leia appears to have met both Vader and Tarkin prior to her capture - suggesting political wrangling off-screen. The destruction of Alderman becomes then a particular pleasure for the Empire.

But Bale Organa dies having already put in motion events to bring down the Empire. He knows where Kenobi will be hiding. From him comes Leia’s plea for alp. He must also know about Luke, too. ‘This is the time we’ve been waiting for,’ is his message to Kenobi - and Obi-wan's first reaction is to hand Luke a lightsabre and invite him to the fray.

The young Tatooine boy follows the beardie Jedi rebel into space and adventure and destiny. The circle is now complete.

Well, that’s what I reckon, anyway.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


A morning of scawling, and I'm now at 2,216 words. Which is less than at this time yesterday. Hmm. Still, I think they are better words than before. I have to think that, or I'd go perculiar. More perculiar.

The boss also rang to tell me not to do the [censored until announcements made] bit, which has probably lost me another paragraph. At least I've come up with a word to use instead of endlessly repeating "the pain".

Speaking of which, my back hurts. Not sure if this is the monitor being too low, or the zen-like office stool I'm using, or having been to the gym twice in two days after a month's lapse.

This is, of course, but trifling inconvenience compared to the wife of one of the Xmas authors, who's just had a baby. Well, she had the baby yesterday but I've only just found out. Hooray and hooroo!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Things heard, written and drawn

A couple of correspondents beef that I don’t say much about music. This is probably because, when I do, my eclectic “taste” is much-mocked. For what it’s worth, I currently have on Bone Machine by the Pixies.

A day’s writing, and 2,243 words now sit where there was a blank page before. Quite pleased by the woman with a dog and her shopping.

Also managed some transcripting, and to listen to some things on the pile to be heard. After due consideration, think I’m better Dead than a Fan. Not a surprise.

Enjoyed Lizzie’s Afternoon Play, which is chock full of Who people. But did they really say “multitask” in 1587?

And, since the BBC is showing off it’s fantastic tumbling TARDIS, here’s something I did a while ago and never got round to finishing.

And, er, now can't even get into any more due to a crash and lost .FLAs. Gah.

The clever CGI stuff is by Simon Belcher, of course. He's the clever one.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Feat. BA Baracus and O Prime

If there is a god (and He is not a bit bollocks), this beautiful theeng will be the Xmas no. 1. Come buy, come buy. Lovely, lovely Flash. Lovely, lovely choon.

I am sat here with J Brown, bit pissed. J Brown wants to say 'ello to his mum. Hello his mum.

Like a bad head in the morning

Christmas folk: Joe Lidster, Jonathan Clements, me, John Isles, Robert Dick, XannaEve Chown, Charles Auchterlonie, Scott Andrews, Joff Brown, Ben Woodhams, Ian Farrington, Matthew SweetA fun bash in the festive upstairs of a pub last night, with as many of the Christmas lot as could make it. Got to see some people I’ve not seen in ages, and one or two I’d not met before at all. And I also now know how to pronounce "Auchterlonie". Good eggs all round, and S. and B. yanked the Dr and I to another pub afterwards, which seemed like such a good wheeze at the time. Not so clever this morning.

Oh, it isn’t even morning any more. Oops.

S. sent me this uisge bertha-fest, harking back to our wine-selling days. For the love of God, no. "I don’t think I’d survive," I said.

"Quite," he agreed. "But if you had to pick a way to go..."

Worst review of Time Travellers yet:
"By no means the best Doctor Who time travel story I've read, and Guerrier’s supporting cast are often woefully underdeveloped, but if you can struggle through the pedestrian opening two-thirds of this novel you will at least be rewarded with a cracking finale."

Lawrence Conquest, Reviews – The Time Travellers, Outpost Gallifrey.

Luckily, I am off to see some chums’ new kitten. Also I am helluva-tough.

Especially in the brain, just now.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Method writing

A load of new work has just come my way, so things are rather fraught. In fact, finding out that my booking for Monday is now cancelled is a huge relief.

Just having to get on with it, which is actually very satisfying. Wrote until half-two in the morning (though did spend some of the evening drinking port and watching the TARDIS crash). You can tell the Dr is away, being clever, can't you?

One thing I've done is break the back of the script editing, with notes on two Benny plays written up, and ready to go to the authors (subject to being cleared by my boss).

Also made notes on Joe Lidster's fab "Terror of the Darkness", for something else in the pipeline. On the off-chance it shows a valuable insight into my working methods, and on the basis it gives nowt else away, here's what I scribbled:
  • H down from York. Got lost on tube. This his first day.
  • C ignores him. Posh voice. "Cold-hearted cow," he thinks. Imagines shooting her.
  • Dr accosted by youths (London doesn't change).
  • C "recoiled slightly at the physical contact."
  • She's met (another) Dr before.
  • Colonel Coldheart. Code Blue.
  • Killing lovers - H - not helping them.
  • H a problem: "cocky and uncontrollable". Dr sees it as "impulsive and reckless and probably likes a drink or two ... sounds like he's the perfect U soldier".
  • He likes: "Pints. Pop Music. Football."
  • "Space vampire." (Another space vampire?)
  • Woman gets nails in his face and hits him with a poker.
  • "London survives another day, then."
  • C has a mobile, fancies a pint.
  • H smokes and has a "practised lady-killer grin."
  • "Straight back to HQ, I promise," and "But remember, boys, I'm in charge."
Are you illuminated? Will explain later...

Now off to town to have drinkies and nibbles with the Christmas crew. It is work, I tell you.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Picaresque (= "pirate-y")

"The music industry is to extend its copyright war by taking legal action against websites offering unlicensed song scores and lyrics [...] Mr Keiser [President of the Music Publishers' Association] said he did not just want to shut websites and impose fines, saying if authorities can 'throw in some jail time I think we'll be a little more effective'.

Ian Youngs, "Song sites face legal crackdown",
BBC News, 9 December 2005.

Yes, the terrible practice of copying out song lyrics. I often read song-lyric sites to avoid buying music. It is the first thing they teach you at Buccaneer School.

I think next they should go after people who flagrantly listen to music they've not paid for. Like people on a train, near someone with headphones on. Think of all the royalties being thieved from the artists. And, more importantly, from the MPA.

And don't just tell them off; jail's the only thing these villains understand. Also, if we could cut off their feet or ears or something, that would probably help too.

It is daylight robbery. Like Dick Turpin. And probably funds terrorism.

The perfect spy

Overheard this yesterday, from the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, and immediately added it to my Christmas list. ("If I get you that," said my dad on the phone later, "I can read it, too.")
"Some in your Lordships' House will recall Colonel Bailey's book Mission to Tashkent. Bailey, Britain's principal agent on the Northwest Frontier in 1914, became, because of his mastery of Muslim dialects and of disguise, in the aftermath of the 1918 war, the senior staff officer from the Indian Government attached to the White Russians in central Asia. Bailey, who died peacefully in his own bed in Norfolk in the 1960s, achieved his professional apogee by attaching himself to the Bolshevik NKVD murder squad, whose only duty was to hunt down and destroy the notorious British spy, Colonel Bailey."

—[Official Report, 8/12/05; col. 781.]—

There's a good review of the book, too, at Almaty or Bust!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"The way that our surroundings shape us"

"Written in stylised, clipped and concise prose, and from frequently shifting viewpoints, Guerrier gives his book a real sense of immediacy and reportage that distinguishes it from most Doctor Who novels. Guerrier performs a cool tightrope act between celebrating the Hartnell era and presenting something new. Oblique and occasionally eye-wateringly complex, The Time Travellers is a satisfying book."

Matt Michael, "Off the shelf",
Dr Who Magazine #364 (4 January 2006), p. 63

Which is nice, though I’d hoped the “eye-watering” was more about (spoilers) the snog on page 284.

Another recommended book (from an unusual source) I can tell you about tomorrow, when what got said is in the public domain. Ooh, mysterious.

The BBC linked to Will Howells’s blog, so if it’s good enough for them…

Speaking of blog, this one seems to have acquired a Livejournal-feeding wossname. Not sure who set it up, whether it works, or what it’s all about, really. Perhaps some kind soul could let me know.

And more baffling technology: my new pin and chip bankcard shows they’ve learnt the new address. Hooray! But I’m boggling at the Space Year expiry date. That’s not a year, it’s the future.

Right, that interview with Billie, and tea and wine and wife… I’m also going to take my tie off.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Things that work

Oh, work it out for yourselves.Merely 12 hours after they rang to say my broadband was working, it's working.

Hurrah! Google is in the house, and I can't quite believe how many weeks I've survived without it. Lots of links and bits of things sent my way, some of which I can tell you about...

Busy few days of eating and drinking and seeing people (some, like Phil, for the first time.)

As well as the Internet, I've had a clever fellow come and fix some holes in our living room wall, and done Quite A Lot about getting my sister's place rented out. This morning, in fact, I met an estate agent who seemed an entirely decent sort. Or perhaps I have just fallen to the dark side... Afterall, it's not the first time I've taken The Shilling.

Tucked in with the original artwork for Lost Museum, the keenly gifted Ade also included a copy of The Faceless, which I enjoyed a great deal. There's a fun review of the thing by the Groovy Age of Horror, which also includes an exclusive pic of Sharp stalking a tasty vampirette. Nummy.

Borrowed the second series of "Randall and Hopkirk", mostly to see Gareth as a mental patient. Puzzled in episode one by the sexy/geeky/funny and familiar-looking maid, only to suss it's m'colleague Lizzie. She's really rather brilliant, her.

"The only problem with Kong is there's just too much of him."
My King Kong review is up now. And the first two eps of Lost series 2 really pick up the pace, and have the Dr and I clamouring for our next instalments...

Otherwise been too busy writing and editing this and that to see much. Apparently I've made DWM's Matt Michael cry, which has always been an ambition. Hope to pick up the new issue tomorrow, to confirm this.

More soon. Hooray!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Press ups

Should have email in the new pad from tomorrow, so updates here will get back to normal. If normal is the right word. Various odds and ends to tell you about, and I ended up reviewing the flick I saw on Sunday. More on that after Friday.

Time Travellers is getting some nice coverage now, which kind people have passed on. Also, my Mum txtd to say it was in the Waterloo Smiths. Blimey, and cool!
"The Time Travellers expertly captures the gritty edge of early Doctor Who. A glib remark wouldn't help the TARDIS crew save the day back then – they'd more likely be battered, bleeding and relieved simply to get back to the ship at the end of it all. Also, only in the Hartnell era could saving the universe have to wait until they'd done the shopping! […] Let's hope Simon Guerrier can find the, er, time to delight us further with his challenging story telling."

Robert Muller, "Reviews",
Dreamwatch #136 (January 2006), p. 76.

"Simon Guerrier makes The Time Travellers an adventure that the crew live through over time, and captures the First Doctor incredibly well. In a very nice touch, there's a second Time loop that extends beyond the book, as the reader's left to work out which of the Doctor's future adventure[s] will avert the catastrophe that brought about this history."

Anthony Brown, "Bookshelf",
Starburst #331 (December 2005, vol. 31 no. 9), p. 89

"In this, his debut novel, Simon Guerrier manages […] a pleasingly romantic approach to what couls, so very easily, have been a dry SF story. It has the endearingly didactic tone of the first year of the original TV show, and by explicitly presenting for us the impact of what should be some pretty devastating events on both regulars (Ian and Barbara, most significantly) and several subsets of his own incidental characters, he transmutes thouse neighbouring refuges of the scoundrel writer – the Time paradox and the alternative history – into something rather more affecting."

David Darlington, "The TV Zone Reviews",
TV Zone #196 (December 2005), p. 86

But I rather like the thought of being a "scoundrel writer".

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Questions that don't matter anyway

Five top facts, rummaged from my notebook:

An “alibi” is not just an excuse, it is proof that you can’t have done it / been there. If you’ve got an alibi, you’re innocent (and not just claiming to be).

Breathing CS gas? Keep a vinegar or lemon-soaked handkerchief over your mouth, effective for short periods. (I assume you keep these in some kind of sealable plastic bag). A squirty water bottle (like cyclists use) is good for cleaning CS-gassed eyes.
"[Joseph] Paxton’s proposed solution to the 19th-century traffic problems in central London was the Great Victorian Way or Crystal Boulevard, unveiled to the Select Committee in June 1865. This monumental arcade was to have formed a 16-km (10-mile) ‘girdle’ around London linking all rail termini and would include shops, cafes and hotels as well as a main street and railway systems. Its estimated cost of construction was £34 million and although the Committee recommended his plan to Parliament, it was never realised"

Kate Colquhoun, “Cathedrals of glass”,
The Garden, July 2003, p. 525.

“Handicap” derives from “hand-in-cap”, because people with disabilities were assumed to be beggars.

Potatoes are high in vitamin C, though they lose it when cooked. So crisps are packed with vitamin C. Though you’d probably not be able to market them as “healthy” (as some sugary orange drinks do) because of all the salt and fat.