Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dr Who Series 5

I have been really crap at blogging this year, I am not entirely sure why, but it's the reason I haven't blogged AT ALL about Dr Who apart from my very excited response to Episode 1 here (and I never got onto the Ashes to Ashes finale which I loved, sigh.)
So to make up for it I thought I'd round up my thoughts in general about the new series of Dr Who and how I've coped without David Tennant (sob).






The answer to that is, pretty well, actually. Considering how much in love with DT's Doctor I was, Matt Smith has done a brilliant job of coming up with something new & different from Tennant's Doctor. It doesn't always work - he wasn't very convincing in the Daleks episode for instance, and sometimes I long for the more emotional version of the Doc we had from David Tennant, but for his enthusiasm, bonkersness, and sheer chutzpah, I am really loving this version of the Doctor. It's also great to have him paired with a companion as mad as Amy Pond is, who apart from that brief flirtation when she tried to snog him (oh and yes, as pointed out by Medium Rob her rather callous attempts to do so again on her wedding day, tut, tut, Amy), isn't really interested him, and he isn't at all interested in her, except as the girl who doesn't make sense. This doctor is a bit more detached, and well alien then the previous version, and I rather like him for that.

After the dazzlingly brilliant start to the series, there was I suppose an inevitablity that not even the Moff could keep up that pace (I have to add here, that as not only do I share my maiden name with the writer, barring an extra T, I also share my married name with one of the characters. I am therefore, obliged to love this version of Who(-:), and at times it was rather uneven. As others have pointed out, Moff could really do with editing the scripts he hasn't written better - Amy was poorly served by one or two other writers - Chris Chibnail I am looking at you - and turned at times into a cipher who just did a lot of girly screaming and not much else. She (and we) deserve a lot better then that.

I didn't mind the Daleks episode, which seems on the whole to have been universally loathed, but it wasn't as good as the rest. The Daleks revealed their hand way too soon, and it would have been more fun to have the Doctor trying to persuade everyone they were evil for longer (I did LOVE the Dalek offering tea), plus the guy who played Churchill was a bit crap, so not one of the series' better efforts. I was also not wildly keen on the Silurian double parter, but that was because it was penned by Chris Chibnail who wrote the inexecrably awful first series of Torchwood - and considering that it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

However, I pretty much loved the rest of the series, from Sophie Okenedo's fabulous Liz 10, to Toby Whithouse's vampires in Venice (Vampires? Venice? Written by Toby "Being Human" Whithouse? I couldn't fail to like that one), it's been inventive, fun, and as the Moff has said had a fairytale quality to it.

One thing that didn't quite work initially, as Rory's relationship with Amy - the main questions being why would feisty Amy settle for such a wimp, and why would he stay with someone who is being so horrible to him - which lacked chemistry at the beginning, and until he apparently died in Amy's Choice (another cracking episode - hugely helped by Toby Jones' masterful depiction of the Dream Lord) I didn't think Amy cared a jot about him. However after that point, it was clear that the relationship was deeper then it appeared & his second "death" though it felt a bit repetitive at the time gained extra significance as the series drew to a close. Particularly poignant was the moment in Vincent (crap monster, but otherwise another brilliant & incredibly moving episode), when Van Gogh asks her why she's crying and she doesn't know, and she knows she's forgotten something important but can't remember what, which paralleled with the Doctor's reactions to her forgetting gave a pathos that was much needed. I love Steven Moffat's writing, but I agree again with Medium Rob he doesn't always get the emotional depth that RTD did, and while it has been a nice change to have more restrained emotions, there are moments when RTD would have given it more and Steven Moffat failed to do so, which has meant that at times things have felt flatter then they should.

Having said that, the emotion ratchetted up beautifully for the series finale. Oh God how I loved the series finale. It was such a roller coaster of a ride, and for the first time in a two parter, with Amy shot by Rory, Rory really an Auton, River stuck in the Tardis, and the Doctor locked in the Pandorica I really did believe there was a possibility that this time the Doc might not be able to sort it out. I felt sure Rory wasn't going to live to tell the tale for a third time, at least... I also loved the Rory/Amy storyline - Rory realising Amy had forgotten her, Amy remembering at the point that Rory realises he isn't human, Rory shooting Amy, Rory waiting 2000 years for Amy - Why are you so - human? asks the Doctor, Because right now I'm not, fantastic! - them being reunited in time to forget the Doctor. Wonderful, heart rending, touching stuff.

I know it was a huge cheat for the Doc to get out of the Pandorica with such ease, but oh, the sheer fun of all the time hopping, and the madness of the Fez, and the Pandorica opening in front of Amelia (Caitlin Blackwood was awesome as Amelia, hope she can come back somehow!) and Amy being inside, meant that I didn't care really. Because despite the cheats, and the Doctor being dead, but not really because he was lying, Steven Moffat tied up the loose ends and the odd bits (like the Doctor coming back to Amy in Flesh and Stone - a scene I found really touching first time around seeing it from Amy's pov, but had such added resonance when we realised what the Doctor was actually saying to her & why it was so important for her to remember what he'd told her when she was seven. Just realised I haven't mentioned The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone - two of my favourite episodes this series, for a) having River Song in them,let's here it for River! and b) bringing the angels back and making them scarier), and also left some things unresolved. So we still don't know why silence will fall or who is saying it (I don't know why, but I keep thinking of poor mad Dalek Caan, sounds like the sort of thing he'd say, if he hasn't been rewritten in this new improved universe), nor do we know why the Tardis exploded. And from what River said to the Doctor at the end, it sounds like we're going to find out who she really is, tantalisingly soon.

River Song has been one of the best bits of this new series for me - she's a match for the Doctor, the witty repartee between them is top notch (I loved the Honey, I'm Home/You're late exchange, fabulous!), and as the series drew to an end I think their relationship has deepened and become more interesting. I can't wait to find out what's going on there.

So, while I still miss David Tennant, and I am at times finding the tone of the new series so different from the old as to be a bit jarring, overall I think this has been my favourite series so far. There were some misses, but not many, it could do with more emotion, and I hope they get the script editing sorted next time, but it was fun, it was exciting, it felt different and new again.

Do I really have to wait till Christmas to see Matt Smith in action again?

Dammit, I do.

PS The proof of the pudding is that the kids who were so attached to David Tennant they were threatening not to watch the new series have been totally blown away too. Top marks Mr Moffat, top marks...

Friday, June 25, 2010

A tale of two signings...

This is only the second time I have gone into a book shop with copies of my book and signed them. There is something both incredibly egotistical and also exposing about standing up in front of people and politely asking them if they'd like a signed copy of your book. (A metaphor for writing perhaps. You have to be egotistical to do it, but it also exposes you in a way that can be quite scary.)

My first signing session took place in my local Waterstone's a couple of weeks ago. It's a bright friendly shop, well stocked, in the middle of a busy shopping centre. As I know plenty of people locally, I was hopeful that I could bring a few punters in. But going upstairs and seeing a table set up piled high with my books was a tad unnerving. As was the cheery, I'll leave you to get on with it then, shall I? from the manager.

Luckily, I had a hidden army with me in the form of not only my offspring but several of their friends. I sent them out with bowls of chocolate, and instructions to tell people to come up and get a signed copy of my books, and it worked a treat! Though the majority of books I sold were to people I knew, I also managed to palm off a few on some complete strangers. In some instances the sale was dead easy. Apprentice wannabes, eat your heart out!

I was hugely grateful to a couple of my online friends, @craftyfuschia and Caroline Praed for making the effort to come out and join the fun, and was pleased to have sold in the region of 30ish books by the time I left - it may have been more, my pilates teacher arrived after I'd gone home and came knocking at my door with more copies for me to sign.

The town was very busy with punters going to see Jordan (unlike her, I didn't demand you spend £20 on my books before I talked to you(-:), but as most of her punters weren't really interested in my books, I don't think I lost out...

Last week was a whole different experience. I popped up to Church Stretton to sign copies at Burway Books. (Have I mentioned that Burway Books is my favourite bookshop in the world?? No, really?? You can find them here.)

Although the shop itself is tiny, the knowledge of its owner, Ros Ephraim is encylopaedic, and there isn't a book she can't get you if you want it. There is a store not only of huge knowledge here, but Ros and her colleagues Emma and Hils make bookselling a really fun thing to do. I spent the best part of a day with them, and haven't laughed such a lot in a long time.

Church Stretton were having their summer festival that day, so to promote both the bookshop and me, Emma dressed up as the Walker bear (I was very glad I wasn't wearing it I can tell you...) and we went out with flyers to bring the punters in. Church Stretton is a lovely town at the best of times, but the atmosphere was wonderful as people ambled about the different stalls, some in costume, some singing, some dancing. It's the sort of thing you can't do where I live as the community is too big, but it made me want to up sticks and move up there immediately.

After an hilarious hour giving away flyers and confusing children as to who the bear actually was (I felt like I was in an episode of The Apprentice), we hightailed it back to the shop, where I provided bucks fizz and chocolates to anyone who'd take them, in return I hoped for a signed copy of my book. To begin with Emma and I sat outside the shop, but people seemed to think we were chatting to one another (well we were!) so in the end I did it solo, and despite being hugely hard work, and feeling even more like I was in an episode of the Apprentice, it really paid off. The sales were slow but steady, and at the end of the day I think I'd sold the majority of the stock (Final totals: BP, 20, LC 5, SL 2 -not bad at all). I'd also learnt a lot about how to make the best out of a signing situation, and it really is about being bold and putting yourself out there, excruciating as that can sometimes be, while retaining a smile on your face and encouraging people who might not otherwise be interested to look at your book.

I thoroughly enjoyed both days out and am grateful to the staff at Epsom Waterstone's and the fabulous Ros and Emma at Burway Books for making it so easy!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

And a very quick plug....

On Saturday 12 June I will be signing copies of this at Epsom Waterstone's in the Ashley Centre from 12-2pm

Alternatively, you could go and buy some very expensive riding gear from her at Lester Bowden in Epsom. If you have ever been in Lester Bowden (think the Grace Brothers from Are You Being Served), you would know just how incongruous this is...

Alternatively, if you can't make either event, please come and find me at Burway Books in Church Stretton on Saturday 19 June from 12-2pm, where my competition comes in the form of the Church Stretton Literary Festival.
If you could make it, would love to see you at either event!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

We have a winner ... or two!

Many apologies for the delay in announcing this. My feeble excuse is, half term (including a sleepover which went on FOREVER) and an inset day yesterday, which involved a trip to Chessington (I have therefore seen Hell's holding station twice in the last week...) I'm sure that Caroline is A LOT more organised then I am, but I am delighted to announce, not one, but two winners. Mainly because lots of you didn't realise you needed to come up with an idea for a holding station for dead people. So all those of you, I put in a draw to get a copy of Black Boxes, and drew it at random. I'm delighted to say that MissieLizzie won.

I loved all your ideas for holding stations - good work, people - and was very tempted by both the idea of a bookshop (reading for eternity, heaven!) and Wimbledon. However, I couldn't resist Aliya Whitely's inspired idea of a cross channel ferry. It was the seafood buffet wot won it(-:
A holding place for dead people... that would need lots of comfy seating, some light shopping opportunities and maybe somebody playing the piano badly, just so everybody has something to moan about other than how they karked it... I'd go for a cross-channel ferry. Hull-Rotterdam, maybe. I seem to remember that has a seafood buffet - that should cover up the stench of death. I think I'm taking this too seriously. But I really would like a copy of the book.
Thanks to everyone who took part, sorry you couldn't all win (though as the head teacher of my childrens' infant school used to say, you're all winners, really). And I hope you even come back and visit here from time to time. I do post more often this usually... honest!