Tag Archives: comedy/ drama

repost: review of “Doctor Who and the Pirates” from Big Finish

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Title: Doctor Who and the Pirates

Produced by: Big Finish

Series: Sixth Doctor and Dr. Evelyn Smythe

Summary: Evelyn arrives unexpectedly at the quarters of one of her former students, Sally, and proceeds, with the Doctor’s help, to tell a story of piratical adventure to the protesting Sally.  With each episode, this story takes another unexpected turn.

Unexpected Thing: Since it includes Gilbert and Sullivan music, I was under the impression that the story would be silly and lightweight.  I should have known better, given Big Finish’s other productions.  I can’t blow this for you, but just have some tissues nearby, ok?

Now, this my first Big Finish download, and I’m glad that I started here.  (Don’t worry if the sixth doc wasn’t your cup of tea on tv; he wasn’t mine, either.  He’s good here, and they make fun of his silly coat.)  I’ve been in love with Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas for many years, and the pastiches of their songs are what attacted me to this story in the first place; so, let’s begin with the music…

The compositions here are very, very strong.  Gilbert was a brilliant lyricist, and many writers since have been baffled by trying to update his lyrics.  The production team here did a lovely job within the second and third episodes, with the highlight being Colin Baker’s solo “I am the very model of a Gallafrayian Buccaneer.”  [That one’s getting separated and going with my Chameleon Circuit playlist. 🙂 ]Very clever work, chaps.  The overture (which is actually played at the end) combines the Who theme baseline with several themes and harmonies from a variety of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, including Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado.  It’s beautiful and worth the price of the download alone.

Another particular bit of loveliness, given my love for words, is the nature of the meta-narrative (these elements are strongest in the first episode, but resonate throughout).  Evelyn is telling the story, but she keeps getting confused and having to go back and change bits.  In addition, we soon learn that she also is hiding something.

If you don’t wish to know any more, go to the Big Finish site and download it now.  http://www.bigfinish.com/43-Doctor-Who-and-The-Pirates

**** Here there be spoilers****

Soon, the story spirls out of control, as Evelyn gets in too far before realising that she can’t escape the story without finishing it, including the parts she doesn’t want to remember.  Only after listening to the entire story does the subtitle (common in G & S works) carry its meaning and impact : The Lass That Lost a Sailor.

Speaking of Young Jem, Doctor Who as a program is rather known for its high body counts, especially of nameless soldiers, guards, and townsfolk.  Just look at Resurrection of the Daleks, for heaven’s sake!  After a while, as viewers, we come to regard these deaths of nameless guys as blasé.  In this story, though, the author writes a very powerful argument against our callous attitude towards the death of extras and minor characters.  The name games that Evelyn plays with the sailors first establish them as fairly interchangable, but this comes to an unexpected fruition in the deaths as the story continues.  Each murder builds in power, until Jem’s death becomes unbearable.  We don’t even hear/ see it, but Jem’s murder forms the crux of the story and lends it heart-breaking strength.  In fact, the tone change as we approach it provides such glaring contrast to earlier episodes that it reveals them to be Evelyn’s attempts to whistle in the dark.  It also gives us a glimpse, perhaps, why the Doctor gallavants with such jocularity around the universe, even though he carries with him the weight of constant death and evil.

Following up on the lessons we and Sally learn as we hear the story, the Doctor’s final scene alone with Sally provides a capstone to the adventure.  It could very easily have descended to preachiness, but it rather neatly side-steps this.  Instead, it just reinforces what we are all thinking, as we muse with Sally.

Overall– a strong story that unexpectedly stayed with me.  I’d definately recommend it for anyone who likes radio drama, G & S, or the Doctor.

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Robots of Death pt 2 commentary

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At last, the long-awaited commentary for Robots of Death part 2, the classic Tom Baker story.   (If you want to read my comments on the first part, click here.)  Just a note here—I generally cannot be bothered to remember the character’s names, so mostly they will be identified by their distinctive hats

No, Curious George, this is not the Man in the Yellow Hat.

No, Curious George, this is not the Man in the Yellow Hat.

We will pick up with the Doctor trapped in the collector and being buried in sand…

  1. Reprise—where did the Doc get his little Boy Scout flashlight from?
  2. This sand must be coming in at a spectacular rate, in that the Doc doesn’t try to escape, just stands there staring at it.
  3. Ah, back to the BBC storeroom, in which Leela is hiding unconvincingly behind open shelving.
  4. Um, what is the Doc breathing through?  Where did he get his bit of pipe?  We never see it again.
  5. Commander really is useless at commanding.  Is he an example of the Peter principle?
  6. Is anyone going to bother to tell gold-dressed woman that [how to be delicate here…] that her shirt’s fabric is clinging embarrassingly.  Do they not wear bras in this culture?  I wonder if the poor actress noticed only after the show was on tv? 
  7. Tom does look very happy to be out from under what look like coffee beans.
  8. Do all of the machines and buttons on this spaceship make exactly the same noise, ‘cuz that could really be a nuisance.
  9. “What were you doing in the hopper?”  “Oh, don’t ask me such silly questions!”  ha!
  10. Wait, wait, wait—Doc got rescued when continuing flow of ore was turned off, but was chamber completely drained?  Otherwise, how could robot, with only one quick glance, see & id body (especially when Doc himself had to enter the chamber & get up close to see that it wasn’t Leela?)
  11. The vibrant greens and silvers of the masks are inspired.
  12. Classic horror film bit here w/ body behind curtain—bringing up point that murderer is increasingly trying to hid bodies, whereas killed the first one in plain sight & left him in the storeroom.
  13. Oh, D84, your dark silver face is so meanacing.
  14. “If I had killed him, would I not have killed you, too.”  Well, who can argue with that logic?
  15. Go Strycnine, with your same exact model shot as before, only in close-up.  Way to be boring!
  16. This conversation between Leela and the robot is a bit odd—she seems oddly relaxed for someone who thought she was going to die just 30 seconds ago.  D84 is being all Sherlock Holmes, too.
  17. “Is there anyone alive to tell?”  Ah, so you’ve seen the end of Hamlet too, huh.
  18. Ha!  Serves him right for slapping a girl! Take that, Commander!  He does look mighty shocked, but maybe it’s just the eyebrows.
  19. “You try that again and I’ll cripple you!”  I believe her and serves him right.  This here is why I like Leela so much.
  20. Leaf-hat boy seems to take particular pleasure in labeling the robot “D for Dumb.”
  21. Did you notice the little squeeze that the robot gives Leela as she asks if anyone has told him that he can’t speak?  Nice touch (literally).
  22. Wow!  Leela really has a ton of strong, insult/ one-liners in this scene.  She’s quite the spunky one, and pulls no punches when she recognizes stupidity.
  23. Um… Commander, are you aware that your argument makes no logical sense? Ok, just checking.
  24. Pool, there’s no point talking sense to a man wearing a leaf-hat.
  25. “Bring THAT.”  Dude, are you trying to earn yourself another knee to the groin?
  26. Methinks Pool has an idea about who did.
  27. I think that the Doctor uses the jelly babies as a system to distinguish good guys from bad guys—have you noticed that bad guys always overreact to them, whereas good guys eat them, usually cautiously…
  28. Poor Tom’s feelings are hurt b/c they refused his jelly babies.
  29. Tom assumes he is in charge because he has the tallest hat.
  30. I like the lilting, danger-under-the-surface tones of voice between the Doctor and the Commander here.
  31. Ah, boys and girls, a little lesson on the differences between facts and inferences.
  32. I like how they all turn on each other (rather like Midnight, that).  It’s quite realistic for the circumstances.
  33. Ah, Tom’s little mischievous grin as he suggests an alternative murderer.
  34. Dark-haired boy doesn’t even deign to turn around to snipe at the Doctor.
  35. Oh Oh!  I want to use that one: “You know, you are a classic example of the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain.”
  36. Ok, so everyone is upset as the two stow-aways are being hauled off, and fish-girl has chosen this moment to begin a chess game with herself???
  37. Oh, good.  You can use all of that extra money to buy some mouthwash because, dude, really!
  38. What was that last look on the Commander’s face all about? 
  39. Um, the rest of the design is fab, but those boots—is that really the best you could do?
  40. Shhhhhh!  Don’t be exclaiming your murderous mission to all and sundry!
  41. Clearly they ran out of money making all of the cool sets and costumes, leaving zero cash left for the metallic restraints (though the script does have a go at explaining away their cheap looks).
  42. “I have an uncomfortable feeling…” could be that bubble wrap around your neck.
  43. Leela looks suitably skeptical about the Doc’s ability to save them.
  44. Yet another close-up of Strychnine with unwarranted dramatic sting and dodgy CSO.
  45. It is nice to see people actually working on this ship for a change.
  46. Commander is terribly whiny—maybe his hat is heavy.
  47. Excessively long shot of Strychnine’s wheels?  Why ?
  48. Poor Leela just looks miserable and bored.
  49. I like that Leela is perceptive and can judge people by their body movements, then warn the Doctor.
  50. Pool has two things going for him here: 1—he has no hat; 2—he reminds me of one of those sarcastic and smartly-sardonic Shakespearean characters.
  51. And now, for those of you who were not paying attention in episode one, we will review Asimov’s robot laws.
  52. It always comes back to the bees, doesn’t it.
  53. You have befuddled Pool, Doctor.
  54. Are we going to leave poor Leela locked up?  “Thank you.”
  55. And where are we sneaking off to in such a hurry, fish-girl.
  56. Meanwhile, in the BBC closet… was the guy’s name really Chav?
  57. Another point to the strange scream.
  58. Tom’s Doctor does make a good investigator.
  59. I’d call for a robot—with goofy shoes, apparently.
  60. Methinks that the robots would be sneakier murderers if they had pockets in which to keep their corpse markers hidden.
  61. Cue sub-plot point and very fake crying from Zilda.
  62. Yes, thank you Captain Obvious.
  63. Oh, gold-girl, you really do need a bra.  Why did no one tell the poor woman?
  64. Perhaps the humans turn to this robots after the Ood freed themselves.
  65. I like the little bit of jargon that she slips into her radio message to Pool.
  66. “Oh, I should think it’s the end of this civilization”—rather casual there, eh Tom.  It’s the end of the world as we know it, it’s the end.
  67. That’s quite the snazzy watch the Commander has there.
  68. Ahh, he had a crush on fish-girl the whole time.  He apparently never grew out of the stage where pulling on a girl’s pigtails (fish tails?) and teasing her showed his lurve.
  69. Go, Pool!  You tell that Commander what’s what.
  70. I like the contrasts between Pool’s light and the Commander’s dark.
  71. He goes down rather easily—has Pool been practicing his Venusian jujitsu?
  72. “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.”  Such a creepy bit of poetry—and used by the great Agatha as well.
  73. Oh dear, a greenly lit Strychnine fell off of a cliff—good Star Trek acting, all.
  74. Leela has to be very careful about how she stands up in that dress.
  75. “Oh thanks, I’d never have thought of that.”  Everyone gets good sarcastic lines.
  76. Oh dear, have they broken poor Strychnine?
  77. “It’s a gift!”  and a curse.
  78. Well, that settles that, then.
  79. Apparently Strychnine is a girl ship?  “She’s going!”

 

And… we’re out!

Well, that was quite a long one, especially as I began it last Thursday and finished it a midnight on Tuesday night, with a long weekend of family time in between.

Hopefully, part 3 tomorrow evening. 

Until then… [doo doo doo da dooo…]

For Part 3, click here.

I am the very model of a Gallafrayian Buccaneer…

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Title: Doctor Who and the Pirates

Produced by: Big Finish

Series: Sixth Doctor and Dr. Evelyn Smythe

Summary: Evelyn arrives unexpectedly at the quarters of one of her former students, Sally, and proceeds, with the Doctor’s help, to tell a story of piratical adventure to the protesting Sally.  With each episode, this story takes another unexpected turn.

Unexpected Thing: Since it includes Gilbert and Sullivan music, I was under the impression that the story would be silly and lightweight.  I should have known better, given Big Finish’s other productions.  I can’t blow this for you, but just have some tissues nearby, ok?

  Now, this my first Big Finish download, and I’m glad that I started here.  (Don’t worry if the sixth doc wasn’t your cup of tea on tv; he wasn’t mine, either.  He’s good here, and they make fun of his silly coat.)  I’ve been in love with Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas for many years, and the pastiches of their songs are what attacted me to this story in the first place; so, let’s begin with the music…

The compositions here are very, very strong.  Gilbert was a brilliant lyricist, and many writers since have been baffled by trying to update his lyrics.  The production team here did a lovely job within the second and third episodes, with the highlight being Colin Baker’s solo “I am the very model of a Gallafrayian Buccaneer.”  [That one’s getting separated and going with my Chameleon Circuit playlist. 🙂 ]Very clever work, chaps.  The overture (which is actually played at the end) combines the Who theme baseline with several themes and harmonies from a variety of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, including Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado.  It’s beautiful and worth the price of the download alone.

Another particular bit of loveliness, given my love for words, is the nature of the meta-narrative (these elements are strongest in the first episode, but resonate throughout).  Evelyn is telling the story, but she keeps getting confused and having to go back and change bits.  In addition, we soon learn that she also is hiding something.

If you don’t wish to know any more, go to the Big Finish site and download it now.  http://www.bigfinish.com/43-Doctor-Who-and-The-Pirates

**** Here there be spoilers****

Soon, the story spirls out of control, as Evelyn gets in too far before realising that she can’t escape the story without finishing it, including the parts she doesn’t want to remember.  Only after listening to the entire story does the subtitle (common in G & S works) carry its meaning and impact : The Lass That Lost a Sailor.

Speaking of Young Jem, Doctor Who as a program is rather known for its high body counts, especially of nameless soldiers, guards, and townsfolk.  Just look at Resurrection of the Daleks, for heaven’s sake!  After a while, as viewers, we come to regard these deaths of nameless guys as blasé.  In this story, though, the author writes a very powerful argument against our callous attitude towards the death of extras and minor characters.  The name games that Evelyn plays with the sailors first establish them as fairly interchangable, but this comes to an unexpected fruition in the deaths as the story continues.  Each murder builds in power, until Jem’s death becomes unbearable.  We don’t even hear/ see it, but Jem’s murder forms the crux of the story and lends it heart-breaking strength.  In fact, the tone change as we approach it provides such glaring contrast to earlier episodes that it reveals them to be Evelyn’s attempts to whistle in the dark.  It also gives us a glimpse, perhaps, why the Doctor gallavants with such jocularity around the universe, even though he carries with him the weight of constant death and evil.

Following up on the lessons we and Sally learn as we hear the story, the Doctor’s final scene alone with Sally provides a capstone to the adventure.  It could very easily have descended to preachiness, but it rather neatly side-steps this.  Instead, it just reinforces what we are all thinking, as we muse with Sally. 

Overall– a strong story that unexpectedly stayed with me.  I’d definately recommend it for anyone who likes radio drama, G & S, or the Doctor.

for a happy Monday

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For all of you poor darlings who have to go to work tomorrow, I will have lovely presents for you when you come home– a review of both Big Finish’s audio production of “Doctor Who and the Pirates” and a running commentary for a classic Doctor Who episode.   Check back tomorrow to find out which one…

OH– and check out my blog stats!  We’re about to hit 500!   Hooray!

a little bit louder and a little bit worse

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title: Baby, Would I Lie?

author: Donald E. Westlake

series: this is a sequel to “Trust Me on This”

summary: Reporter Sara Joslyn and her editor Jack Ingersol are back, now working for respectable, cultural weekly magazine “Trend.”  They are covering the infamous trial of country-singer Roy Clark.  When Sara notices the shenanigans of their old colleages from the Weekly Galaxy, Jack determines to expose them.  In the meantime, Roy seems to be playing some game of his own.

I have to admit that I’m in two minds about this one.  I’m pleased to spend more time with Sara and Jack.  The hijinks of the Weekly Galaxy team are fun.  The author’s attitude about country music was refreshingly positive.  There were several twists and turns in the plot that kept me reading.  Overall, a fun read; however, a few things really bothered me, which is why I had to give this one a bit of thought.

1– The constant descriptions of the tourists as fat, polyester-clad, fast-food-guzzling people with whiny children got on my nerves.  I get it, already.  Enough.

2– Part of what made the previous novel so much fun was rooting for the Weekly Galaxy crew to get away with their ridiculous stunts.  Now that Jack and Sara are legitimate journalists, though, they have certainly developed a “holier-than-thou” attitude.  Here, Jack goes out of his way, pretty determinedly, to nail the Galaxians.  Not only hypocritical, but actually tainting the previous novel.  After all, they are quite lovable rogues.

3– The last bit that really threw me off was {spoiler alert} when Binx, the anxious and over-morgaged editor from the Weekly Galaxy, callously abandons his family, just because he wants an out from his confining life.  I get that he wants to escape and that this decision represents his finally taking control of his life; however, the fact that Jack and Sara (our eyes into the story) respect Binx after he leaves his wife and children abruptly and without notice really bothers my sensiblities.

Now, other than my issues with the plot, a nice novel that I did enjoy reading.  I’m very much looking forward to the up-coming final Dortmunder novel next month.

For more on Westlake, check below:

http://www.donaldwestlake.com/wks_bkex5.html

P.O.E.M.

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Title: English Majors: A Comedy Collection for the Highly Literate

Author: Garrison Keillor/ Prairie Home Companion

2 disc set

Summary: These discs are a collection of a variety of skits, stories, poems, etc as they were presented on “The Prairie Home Companion” radio show.  Included are “The Six-Minute Hamlet” and the “Ten-Minute Macbeth,” advertisements for P.O.E.M (the Professional Organization of English Majors), and a skit with Dave Barry.

I had forgotten how fun this collection is until I listened to it again this afternoon.  It’s a satisfying blend of humor, literature, and drama.  Granted, because this is a collection taken from many years worth of shows, there is a certain amount of repetition (Hamlet, for example, is parodied at least twice); however, each version contains a slightly different take on it, so it’s still worth your listening time. 

I grew up with my mother reading to me, and Garrison’s “News from Lake Woebegone” segments remind me of  that feeling– comfortable and safe, but also full of meaning.  He evokes details from his life in the Mid-West, but his stories are nearly universal in their appeal. For example, in a story on the second disc, he describes his uncle’s combover and “watching the sun set through his hair.”

As for the poetry segments– they are well-read overall.  Billy Collins, Roy Blount, Jr, Robert Bly, and Calvin Trillin are some of the authors included.  Mostly, the authors read their own works.  Since poetry is such an auditory genre, with its cadence and rhyme, that hearing the authors speak their own poems is a rare and excellent experience. 

If you enjoy the beauty of words, this is the collection for you.

For more, check below:

http://www.prettygoodgoods.org/product/show/31707/

trust me on this one

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Title: Trust Me on This (1988)                                                                                    trust me... read it

Author: Donald E. Westlake

Sequel: “Baby, Would I Lie?” (1994)  see my review here.

Summary: As a new “reporter” for the outrageous tabloid “Weekly Galaxy,” Sara Joslyn must track down (or invent) the stories demanded by her irascible editor Jack Ingersoll.  Soon, she is part of a series of increasingly calamitous capers on the Galaxy’s behalf.  One little problem– on Sara’s first day on the job, she discovered a dead body.

I LOVE Westlake’s “John Dortmunder” series!  (If you want to know why they are so good, go and read Laurel L. Russwurm’s excellent post LOL: The Dortmunder Novels.)  Anyway, since this is one of his other caper novels outside of the Dortmunder series, I figured I’d try it out, and I was not disappointed.  Certainly, some of the tricks we see here get used again in later books, but it was great fun. 

Sara and Jack make a strong team, and like most partnerships, theirs gets off to a rocky start; however, Sara soon proves she is very capable of working within the insane and surreal world of tabloid journalism.  For example, instead of cubicles, the editors of the “Weekly Galaxy” work in squaricles, which are made up on black tape outlines on the floor; yet, everyone in the offices treats these lines as walls and does not cross them.  Our narrator is a detached third person limited, shifting between Sara and Jack, with occasional sidelines to other characters.  The author, though, does use the beginning of the book to have “A Word in Your Ear.”

The Jack Ingersoll team engages in anything-goes tactics to get their money shot and quote; the harder the shot, the more they want it.  Thus, the merely difficult quickly rolls into the realms of absurdity.  I found myself laughing out loud at several points.  Through it all, though, Westlake creates characters that the reader can recognize and understand, and (in the cases of Sara and Jack) care about.  They may be on a fool’s errand, but you want them to succeed.

  The novel is divided into sections, beginning with “The First Day,” and chronicling Sara’s adventures with the 100 year old twins, the celebrity wedding, the body in a box, and culminating with “The Way We Live This Instant.”  Westlake weaves multiple sub-plots throughout his main plot, ensuring that the reader doesn’t get a chance to be bored anywhere in the book’s nearly 300 pages.  The story careens like an express train from South Florida (very accurate description of an expressway in the ‘Glades, by the way), to Indiana, Martha’s Vineyard, Chesapeake Bay, and New York City.

The only problem with this novel is that you might have a hard time finding a copy.  My local library had an original hardback from 1988, but they’re good like that.  Looking around online to find the cover art, I had a difficult time even getting anything other than a bibliography to appear.  So, good luck– it’s worth a bit of a search around.

Here are my best online finds:

http://www.amazon.com/Trust-Me-This-Donald-Westlake/dp/0445408073

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/w/donald-e-westlake/trust-me-on-this.htm