Sunday, 25 April 2010

Hello sweetie!!

Haven't had time to write about last week's Dalek episode yet! Or the just-shown "Time of Angels", featuring the return of the wonderful Alex Kingston as River Song. On reflection though I reckon this week's ep. was a lot better than the Dalek one. More soon. Bye, sweeties!!

The Cheeser's Choice: Muuuuuusic makes the people ... (complete as appropriate)

Hello my lovelies ... life's got busy again now I'm back at work after the Easter break, hence fewer posts (you just knew it was gonna happen). Grr, grrr and triple grrr. Added to this, I haven't been sleeping very well of late which hasn't helped things. Oh well ... less sleep means more time to blog, doesn't it? (!)

In the meantime, I haven't done any music posts recently, so I feel it's high time for one! This is gonna be a bit of a mixed bag, as I'm the kind of person who gets into bands or artistes usually months (and sometimes years) after everyone else. Just call me a late developer.

Have you heard the new Goldfrapp LP, "Head First"? I've got to say I'm a tad disappointed with it overall. Sure, it's catchy, it's melodic and there are some great 80s influences (not least the abundance of synthesisers) but my overall feelings are that Alison G is coasting on this one.

The recent single "Rocket", for instance, whilst featuring some nice Van Halen type keyboards (and a fabulous pastiche of Xanadu on the cover, as you can see) is just too ... predictable ... normal ... formulaic. Last album "Seventh Tree" was an altogether richer and more in depth affair. However "Head First" is not without its merits. Best of the bunch for me are "Dreaming" (minor key and quite broody), title track "Head First" (a stately ballad which builds in intensity and features majestic vocals from Ms G), "Hunt" (another track in a minor key with a "dangerous" feel and "phasey" backing vocals) and, saving the very best til last, "Voice Thing" (no lyrics, just lots of amazing vocal effects from Alison which proves you don't need words for a good track - and more than a nod to Laurie Anderson's "O Superman" - my favourite on the whole album). In fact the last track shows the kind of direction the album could (and in my view, should) have gone in - i.e. more experimental, risk-taking and diverting from the norm. More of this is needed! 3 out of 5 for me as a whole. Sorry, Alan and Matty!

Blue Six. Not a "newbie" group but I happened upon them through listening to some soul-house type compilations. What a brilliant group! If you like sophisticated chill out fare/soulful vocals/music that's good for playing late at night/stripped back production, then this could well be the group for you. "Beautiful Tomorrow" is particularly to be recommended - best tracks for me are "Closer To Home" (funky bass line, muted brass, cool vibes), "Pure" (more funky bass, and both instrumental and vocal versions work very well), "Very Good Friend" (passionate vocals, clipped guitar, mellifluous synths, excellent ballad), "Beautiful Tomorrow" (broody closer). To be recommended. 4 and a half out of 5 for this particular album and their other stuff is worth investigating too.

Confection. A group I stumbled across whilst on iTunes. Their one and only album came out about 3 years ago but the moment you listen to it, you'll think you're back in 1986, circa Jam and Lewis, Cherelle, SOS Band, early Janet Jackson ... remember them?? Well, this album is an incredibly accurate reproduction of that whole electronic soul/funk style/genre and all the more enjoyable for that. "Flirt" has a ticker-ticker-ticker beat, "eeeow" bass line and those cowbell noises you used to get on Stock, Aitken and Dennis Waterman tracks (but thankfully rather higher quality than some of the dirge that lot put out), "Diamonds" is a reworking of the very same Herb Alpert dance track and probably better than the original, "Lovers or Best Friends" is a lovely ballad that treads familar territory and yet still works, carrying you away on a sea of its own soft-centre gorgeousness. Clever stuff. 4 out of 5.

Samantha James. Californian songstress Ms James has been around for a few years and I'm totally loving her debut album "Rise" ... Samantha J is a kind of new age pop singer whose songs vary from dreamy deep house to chill out, with lyrics that don't merely refer to the standard relationship stuff, but the spiritual side of life to boot. She's also got a great voice - enigmatic, yet seductive (which I just nicked from someone else's review - but I'm in agreement). Title track "Rise" is enticing pop with a laid-back feel, "Enchanted Life" has a recurrent synth motif and an urgent feel , "Angel Love" is dreamy dance with funky guitar and lovely, melting vocals from Ms S and "I Found You" is gorgeous - a bossa nova style duet with Brazilian Celso Fonseca. 4 out of 5.

Disco Discharge. Don't you just love the covers? (Especially the last one, ahem!) These are a series of compilations from, I believe, a Brighton based guy with a total love of disco! I came across him on Facebook. The difference between these and your standard disco compilations is that there's lots of unusual and different tracks that your average punter won't have heard of before (no "YMCA", "I Will Survive" then - thank God) making these albums all the more interesting for that ... and deliciously danceable! Okay, there's some more well known artists - Cheryl Lynn, Boystown Gang, Laura Branigan etc - but even with these we get (rarely heard) extended and 12" mixes. Other tracks are incredibly well selected, making for some eclectic and truly wonderful stuff. A particular fave for me is the "Disco Ladies" comp. which features amongst other things, Fern Kinney's "Groove Me", Amanda Lear "Blood and Honey" (wonderfully deep down and dirty vocal), an extended version of the fabulous "Get Up and Boogie" by Silver Connection and Phyllis Nelson's "I Like You" (you all thought the toe-curling "Move Closer" was her only track eh? This is much better...) And the "Euro Disco" comp is brilliant too - Space's futuristic "Magic Fly, the electronic "From Here To Eternity" by Giorgio Moroder (pre-Axel F days), the robotic and imposing "P Machinery" by Propaganda (one for you, Steve) and much more besides!! As expected, there's a fair amount of what might be labelled "camp" music in here too, but not to the point where it becomes unbearable ... it's all judiciously chosen and works really well. 5 out of 5 for imaginative, original and also great value compliations! Go check 'em out now!!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Beast Below

I'm a bit late with my review of the most recent DW episode. Reasons being: 1. It takes me a while to garner my thoughts 2. I usually require more than one viewing to take in everything that's worth writing about 3. Bloody blogger went and buggered up yesterday (how's that for alliteration) and all that I wrote didn't save! (Anyone else experience the same problems??)

Anyhow, I'm happy to report that The Beast Below was (in my oh-so-humble view) every bit as good as the previous week's offering, and the future of DW under Mr Steven Moffat continues to look very rosy indeed.

The good

Liked the whole central conceit: the entire population of the future UK, in order to escape the crippling of planet Earth by solar flares, have fled to the stars aboard a giant spaceship.

However, unbeknown to them, the "motor" for this vast collosus is a star whale, which mankind has enslaved in order to guarantee their survival and a permanent passage through space. Actually, this concept isn't particularly original. Anyone read Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels - about a whole world which is carried on the back of a giant space turtle? Was Steven M innocent or guilty of pilfering here?

The "Forget" or "Protest" voting plotline. Rather neatly tying in with the General Election, eh?? Good timing on the part of the Beeb and the Who team. The whole episode was about people making choices - the citizens of the UK are allowed to know the truth about what’s basically kept them safe, and are given the instant opportunity to either protest or forget once they know the full horror of it. Society as a whole chooses to forget, having their minds wiped, and then going about their everyday lives, freed from knowing what keeps them alive. Except for Amy at the end, going for the unthinkable option and freeing the whale, thus saving the Dr from making an agonising decision himself - I liked her instinct and recognition that the whale was basically a benevolent creature that has voluntarily been carrying the humans - clever girl.

Also liked the bit where Amy sits in the "Forget" or "Protest" chamber with all of the images flickering across her eyes - freaky - I wish we could have seen what she did, though.

Liz 10. Although a bit self-conciously cockney laddette at times, Sophie Okonedo (an actress I like - once a young soul rebel) put in a spirited and entertaining performance as the below-the-decks-Monarch of Starship UK (I wasn't exactly sure WHY she had to stay hidden though?)

Loved the scene where she told the Doc and co to duck, shot down two of the "smilers" and promptly stated: "I'm the bloody Queen, mate. Basically I rule" (making appropriate gun-toting gestures whilst she delivered the last bit). But the bolshy Queen also had a lot of heart - witness her pre-recorded speech in which the truth about the star whale and Starship UK was revealed - delivered very sensitively and sadly by Sophie O, even if her accent inexplicably "went posh" at this point. Still, a great character of whom I would have liked to have seen more, but the 45 minute 1 episode format precludes this sometimes.

The Dr-Amy dynamic. It's warming up nicely now and the tension between the two, brought on as a result of Amy pressing the "Forget" button, was well realised. Karen Gillan really is proving to be a good actress and was a little less "up herself" this week than the last, for instance in her exchanges with the schoolgirl Mandy (another example of a decent child actress, hallelujah!) and her ultimately altruistic gesture at the end of the episode. Matt Smith remains delightfully quirky and we got to witness some genuine Time Lord anger at the end when he opted to turn the star whale into a vegetable, a decision which obviously sat very badly with him...

More fun dialogue, e.g. the Dr, in the scene when he picks up a glass of water from a couple's table, and then places it on the floor, to their consternation: "We're checking all the water in the area - there's an escaped fish."

And between the Doc and Amy, when they first arrive on Starship UK:

Amy: What you gonna do?
Dr: What I always do - stay out out of trouble. Badly.

The segue into the next episode was a nice touch - ringing TARDIS telephone, Amy takes a call from Winston Churchill, aforementioned PM speaks to the Doc and we see the silhouette of something all-too-familiar gliding behind him - tantalising stuff to whet our appetites for next time. Some DW stories have utilised this tactic and back in the days of William Hartnell it was a regular motif. Having wrapped up one particular adventure, the TARDIS travellers barely had time to draw a collective breath before being launched straight into their next escapade - made you wonder when they had time to eat, sleep or answer the call of nature, really. Still I'd quite like to see this method used a bit more!

The not so good

Fortunately, there isn't much to put here. A solid story with solid performances and ideas from all concerned.

Okay, I thought the Smilers, after being hyped up quite a bit, weren't quite as scarey and intimidating as they could have been.

One other point of note which I've already mentioned - and I thank Dan for this as I'm in agreement with him (hope you don't mind me duplicating your ideas a bit, Dan!) - for the one episode stories, 45 minutes is a very short time to cram everything in, and this can be problematic sometimes. The Beast Below had lots of interesting ideas - mankind escaping the solar flares, the arrival of the whale, the type of society that existed aboard Starship UK - all of which could have easily been fleshed out across two episodes rather than watered down into a constraining one. We've come a long way since the Dr Who of the 60s, 70s and 80s, and granted, the style and format used then probably wouldn't work now - things had to change. But that isn't to say that the 25 minute episode format of yore didn't have its merits - there was time for the viewer to digest ideas and plotlines, characters could be (reasonably) developed, you were kept on the edge of your seat until the next episode, and most stories ran to at least 4 episodes which made for 1 hour 40 minutes screen time. It's kind of symptomatic of today's generation I reckon - lower patience thresholds, the desire to have "everything at once" - okay I'm not putting this into words very well, but you know what I mean, don't you? In fact old DW and new DW and the subsequent differences have engendered some very interesting debates ... but that's for another time, before this rant gets even more elongated than it already is ...

All of this notwithstanding, The Beast Below made a pretty solid 4 out of 5 for me. Keep it up, chaps!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Rendezvous with the Woo!

Shame I only took the one pic...!

A couple of weekends ago I had the very good fortune of meeting the lovely Alan - who was visiting the UK for the first time ever! This was my first ever meeting with a blogger and it couldn't have been more pleasant. Some bloggers are kind of reticent about meeting "in the flesh", preferring to maintain their privacy etc, which I can understand up to a point. The whole virtual communication thing is funny really - you can get to "know" someone over the net and even feel a real kinship with them, but it's not always the same when you actually hook up face-to-face - sometimes you can end up feeling disappointed and your expectations are dashed - a bit like online dating?! Fortunately nothing went wrong on this occasion (well I'd hardly have written this post and embarrassed Mr Woo if it had, would I?!!)

Alan comes from Vancouver in Canada but is actually a Yorkshire boy, born and bred - from Bradford no less - his parents used to run a fish and chip shop - eeeeh bah gum - well, you can't get much more Northern than that! Alan's parents emigrated when he was a wee nipper, so his Blightey trip was a chance for him to see his roots - very exciting! He'd put in a whistle stop tour and visited not only London, but also his relatives in Bradford and Cardiff too (Dr Who land, how I approve!), plus a trip to Paris and back! I caught up with him during his last few days' stay in London - we met in a bar close to Soho and (appropriately - but I really wasn't trying to tell Alan anything!) in ... Chinatown. He's a very warm and friendly fellow indeed and having a joint love of all things pop-cultural, as well as both being gay boys, we had loads to talk about. We then moved onto Village Soho, and sat and nattered some more about all kinds of stuff. As he had to be off early the next day, it wasn't a late one but it was still a great night, lovely to meet him and I felt like we really clicked.

Who knows , perhaps one day I'll visit Canada, not to mention the US of A, having never bloody been ...!! I'm actually considering a visit this Summer ... it has to be done. After all I'm now 41 and not getting any younger .... *sob*

Anyway Alan, hope you're safe and comfortable back home now - well actually I see you took a trip to Portland to ward off the post-Vacation blues ... don't blame you!!

Monday, 5 April 2010

The Eleventh Hour (which is roughly when I've finished this review)

So. I'm a little behind some people with my review, but what were my thoughts on the Season Five opener/Matt & Kaz's debut??

The good

Well .... let's start with the obvious. Mr Matt Smith. Prior to his Doctor-debut, I'd seen him in very little (TV/film/drama wise) and knew even less about the man himself, so he's been something of a blank slate for me. I'm pleased to report that I really liked him. All the right qualities needed for the Doc - entertaining, eccentric, endearing, energetic (right, that's enough "e" words), funny and ... cute! I just quickly nipped over to my fellow blogger Steve's site to see what he had to say (no, not steal!) and Stevenage states that Smith has "... an eccentricity that appears to be genuine and is, I suspect, as much a part of Smith's true real-life make-up as that of the character he plays" - which I am fully in agreement with - from the few interviews I've seen of Matt S, he really does seem to be delightfully oddball in real life, which can only lend further weight to his performance as the Time Lord. Favourite Dr bits in this episode included:

- the comic food-eating/rejection scenes with the young Amelia at the start of the episode - a nice piece of role reversal with the Doc coming across as exceedingly kid like and all over the place, whilst Amelia played the part of the grown up doing the cooking - "Beans are evil! Bad, bad beans!"

- the scene when the Doc enters Mrs Angelo's house and is lecturing Amy:
Amy: "You're worse than my Aunt."
Dr: "I'm the Dr and I'm worse than everybody's Aunt."

What am I doing in my nightie? And oh - why is this place bigger on the inside than the - actually that's NOT what I said!

...What a jolly chap! And a lovely little smile there ...

- the final scene in the TARDIS when the Dr persuades Amy to follow in a long line of travelling companions - Amy: "I started to think that you were just a mad man with a box". Dr: "Amy Pond, there's something you better understand about me because it's important, and one day, your life may depend on it. I am definitely a mad man with a box. (Amy laughs) Ha ha - yeah!" (I loved Matt S's delivery of these last lines and the laugh - sweet and rather unnerving at the same time.).

- on entering the newly regenerated TARDIS: "Oh, you sexy thing."

Lots more that was good about Mr S too but too much to trawl through - all in all though an engaging debut from "Who dat man" (Oh yeah another comic bit - and the Whovian geek in me feels obliged to tell you that this was actually about the third or fourth story that Matt Smith filmed, so not, strictly speaking, his "debut" - there you go). I look forward to more of the same! One other thing I should add - whilst I acknowledge David Tennant's merits, I was never his greatest fan - the silly tics and OTT elements of his incarnation of the Dr ("New-new-new-new York") really grated at times and its refreshing to see these aspects are largely absent from Matt S's performance. I hope I'm going to like Matt Smith more.

(And he got his shirt off in the first episode!!)

What jolly japes!

And Miss Amelia Pond - well, I've got to say, I actually liked the younger version of Amy more than the grown-up version - a relatively rare occasion where a little girl actress isn't cloying and irritating but manages to convey innocence and knowingness at the same time which Caitlin Blackwood did very well (fact: did you know she's Karen Gillan's real-life cousin?) The opening scenes, with young Amelia and the Doc, made for fun viewing and a different approach to the "first new Dr"story. I kind of wish that "little girl" Amy has been given the chance to travel with the Time Lord after all, rather than being left high and dry sitting on her suitcase - then again, it would have probably led to floods of letters of complaint being sent into the BBC, with accusations of the show promoting "dodgy" and "corrupting" adult/child relationships, or probably worse, if you get my drift.

Still on the subject of Amy, I also loved the whole "Raggedy Dr" fairy tale aspect of the story, with the Dr's encounter with the wee Scotts lass becoming the stuff of legend (or should that be myth?) amongst the villagers of Leadworth. The idea that the older Amy had been creating dolls and drawing pictures of the Dr since his crash, 12 years previously, plus the revelation that she'd been forced to undergo years of psychoanalysis because no-one believed what had happened to her, made the Dr-companion dynamic a lot more different and unusual - good writing on the part of Mr Moffat here.

As for the older Amy who we shall of course be seeing much more of over the next 12 weeks, Karen Gillan was very good in her own way too - intelligent, independent, feisty and sarcastic. In spite of my comments about the potential cheapening of the character through making her a "kissogram", this was dealt with in a nicely satirical way that did not detract from the character - her rather defensive conversation in Mrs Angelo's house, for instance:

Mrs A: Hello Amy dear, are you a policewoman now?

Amy: Well, sometimes -

Mrs A: I thought you were a nurse.

Amy: I can - be a nurse ...

Mrs A: Or actually a nun?

Amy: I dabble (nervous laugh)


Dr: And what sort of job's a kissogram?

Amy: "I go to parties and I kiss people ... (self conscious throat clearing) ... it's a laugh! (last lines uttered very aggressively/defensively).

Amy at her mad, starey-eyed best

It's also clear (even from just one episode) that Karen G is a gifted actress - her vocal delivery was spot on at times (see above, and her mocking pronunciation of the Dr's "bow tie" near the end, for instance) not to mention her facial expressions - she can do wide, starey eyes very well - whilst this could be deemed annoying if overused, it was very appropriate in the scene where she discovered the "extra" bedroom in her house and the revelation that something nasty was hiding inside.


I also loved the look on her face as the Dr stripped off in the hospital corridor and her response to Rory's question: "Aren't you going to turn your back?": "Nope".

I did find older Amy ever so slightly up herself though - a bit too self-assured and self-reliant to the point where she sometimes came across as contemptuous of others. But as I recall reading somewhere else, I guess you've got to take into account the traumatising effect of a) meeting a strange man from outer space who then promptly buggers off for 12 years b) having no-one believe you regarding a) - which has presumably made Amy into the defensive and rather guarded young lady she now is. Hopefully we'll see the ice on "the Pond" start to thaw over the resultant weeks and the ginger one showing a few more vulnerabilities.

The English village setting was also nicely used (as others have observed, shades of the Pertwee era), the guest cast also put in some nice turns, especially Annette Crosbie and the handsome young fella playing Jeff (damn, why can't he be the new "half-companion" instead of the rather dull Rory? Erm, presumably cos if he was Amy's boyfriend, she's have less reason to stay on Earth and forgo the excitement of travelling with the Dr for another kind of excitement ... )

Nasty lady

Also good to see actress Olivia Colman (of Mitchell and Webb fame / other comedies) as a nasty alien Mum.

New console room

Old typewriter

And I like the newly designed TARDIS - after blowing up at the end of the last story, the reborn space/time machine is definitely futuristic but this time round with more retro and antique touches (the typewriter on the keyboard, the "ding ding" bell, the 80s style trim phone ... the Time Lords are a kitsch old bunch really aren't they?) One thing that bothered me prior to seeing this episode were the rumours I'd heard that the Dr would be given a "more modern", "replacement" TARDIS for this series only because the old one was such a write-off - which didn't really ring true - where would he get it from? So to have the same craft literally regenerating like the Dr himself made more sense.

The not so good

That was a long enough "good" list, wasn't it? I'm pleased to report there was far less "not so good" about this episode. Only:

As mentioned Rory isn't a desperately exciting character - somewhat bland and dull. And we're gonna get some more of him later on this season. Ho hum.

Hello love! I won't bite, I'm CGI ...

Prisoner O, though a frightening proposition when in the form of a barking man and dog, or a mother and two little girlies (liked the stretched n' fanged teeth) was less so when in alien form - looked like a plastic/airfix worm and you could tell it wasn't really there. Presumably the Beeb are saving the really good special effects, not to mention the budget, for the remainder of the season (and if you look at the Star Wars style spaceship battles in the trailer you can kind of see why...)

And that is that. Until next week (although I suspect I'll have less time on my hands then owing to the fact that it's now Easter and I've had time off work...) One other quick observation to make (which should really go in the "good" list): under the new regime of Steven Moffat, Dr Who already feels different to the Russell T Davies era - whilst still recognisably DW, the show seems to be moving in a maturer, more quirky direction, which was sometimes lacking during RTD's reign. The jarring "soap opera" elements - e.g. the Tyler family and their bust ups and all of the self-conscious pop cultural references - are largely gone. And I'm not particularly sorry about that.

4 out of 5 btw. A tip top start to a tip top show!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

RIP Blake Carrington

Farewell, then, actor John Forsythe aka Blake Carrington.

Oddly enough, I've just started watching Season Four of Dynasty on DVD, so I'll have to watch some more episodes very soon by way of tribute. No disrespect to the deceased John F, but Blake's blue rinse, cardies and fatherly concern were what made the man so great.* ** Not to mention his all-consuming love for walking clothes horse wife Krystle and unbridled hatred for ex-from-hell Alexis, which collectively all made for great melodrama. Mr Carrington: you were the stuff of legend.

*I'm only being slightly ironic here.
** Okay, so I couldn't exactly condone Blake's narrow-minded stance on homosexuality and consequent bad treatment of gay son Steven, but I guess no-one's perfect. And by the time of the final Dynasty instalment, The Reunion, he'd come to accept his son's orientation and welcomed him and his lover into the family! Proof that even the most prejudiced of patriarchs can see the error of their ways.

Only a few hours to go ...

... until the return of a certain sci-fi television programme ... Yay! Yay! And yaaaay again!!

I still can't quite believe it.

But I've bought my Radio Times Dr Who special with it's preview of the new series and lots of other good stuff.

And for anyone who fancies a birrova preview, here's what we've got to look forward to ... SPOILER ALERT!! - don't read any further if you want to be kept entirely in the dark!

Episode 1 - The Eleventh Hour by Steve Moffat. In which the new Dr meets new Earth companion Amy Pond by crash-landing in her back garden. She's got a crack (say nothing) in her bedroom wall which is far more dangerous than she could ever realise ... Amy also sports a rather fetching policewoman's uniform in this episode, but the shortness of her skirt has led to speculation that it's a fancy dress outfit rather than the uniform of her true profession i.e. she works as a kissogram. Mmm a bit trivial and daft for an assistant, anyone?

Episode 2 - The Beast Below by Steven Moffat. The Dr takes Amy to the far future - where British people are adrift among the stars on board a giant spaceship, Starship UK (sounds like a 1970s style dance troupe - will Sarah Brightman be there??). Features some new creatures called the Smilers whose image belies their true intentions ... Moffat likes coming up with seemingly innocuous but nasty aliens - remember the clockwork dolls in "The Girl in the Fireplace"?

Episode 3 - Victory of the Daleks by Mark Gattis. I've got to say, I wish they'd knock the Daleks on the head once and for all - it's been serious overkill as far as the evil pepper pots are concerned, with them springing up in every single season of the nu-Who so far. Give it a rest, dudes! However the fact that Mark Gattis has penned this episode bodes well - he wrote what were for me two of the best episodes from previous seasons - "The Unquiet Dead" (Charles Dickens in Cardiff and body-possessing gaseous aliens) and "The Idiot's Lantern" (Maureen Lipman as a 1950s upper crust television continuity announcer, in reality an alien that sucks the life force of human beings through the telly) so I hope this provides more of the same. Set in World War 2 Britain (the obligatory historical story then) and featuring none other than Sir Winston Churchill. Apparently it gives a new slant to the Daleks by having them as "goodies"! Patriotic pepper pots, then?

Episodes 4 and 5 - The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone by Steven Moffat. Featuring the return of those nastily effective stone monsters from "Blink", the Weeping Angels - except this time, there's only one of their number left, but it's still wreaking havoc. Expect more "Don't blink" stuff on the card then, plus, the return of .... Professor River Song, played by the gorgeous Alex Kingston and first seen in last season's "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead". This should make for very interesting stuff indeed, not least the Dr-River reunion. In the previous story, the Dr met River for the very first time, whereas she already knew him, having encountered him in his future! Oh, and apparently they also got married. So it looks as though the up-and-coming episodes are going to feature this first meeting ... and romance?? ... Can't wait.

Episode 6 - Vampires in Venice by Toby Whithouse. Featuring some young girlies who are also blood-sucking vampires. Why is it that Venice is always the setting for nasty stuff? (See films like "Don't Look Now", etc) "School Reunion", the Sarah-Jane and K9 return story of Season 3, and one of my personal faves, was also penned by Whithouse, so with a decent writer at the helm, this one looks promising.

Episode 7 - Amy's Choice by Simon's Nye. Is that anything like "Sophie's Choice" then? In this one, it's five years on from when Amy travelled with the Doc, and she's now preggers. Apparently she is faced with "a heartbreaking choice that will change her life forever". Mmm, I wonder what that could be?

Episodes 8 and 9 - As yet untitled - by Chris Chibnall. Mr Chibnal was actually responsible for what I thought were some of the worst episodes of "Torchwood", so I hope he fares better here. Set on Earth of 2015, not very far into our future then ... and an ambitious drilling project is under way. Dr Nasreen Chaudry (played by Meera Syall) and her team have reached 21 kilometres into the Earth's crust - but something is stirring far below. Could it be the Silurians?? Or even the Sea Devils?? Yes rumour strongly has it that these creatures of yore are back, and if you watch one of the new season trailers, there's a glimpse of some monsters in there that look remarkably similar ...

Episode 10 - As yet untitled - by Richard Curtis. Yes, the writer of "Blackadder" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral" contributes an episode. Featuring none other than oddball Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh and set in Provence! The obligatory "Dr meets famous historical figure from the past" story - in addition to Winston C's appearance in Episode 3, of course. Will Vincent cut off his ear to save the human race?

Episode 11 - Untitled again! - by Gareth Roberts.
Featuring man of the moment, James Corden. Erm, this one is about a flat share - I kid you not. Apparently people on Aickman Road are vanishing and there's a staircase that people walk up but never down! Sounds a bit silly, but let's wait and see ... could this be the "Dr Lite episode" we usually get once a season?

Episodes 12 and 13 - Untitled again - by Steven Moffat. Just as Russell T Davies used to do, the Moffster has penned the season finale. The Radio Times blurb reads: "A message on the oldest cliff face in the universe, a puzzle box opening from the inside and a love that lasts thousands of years. The fates are drawing close around the Tardis - is this the day the Doctor falls?" Mmm, quite intriguing sounding. Not sure who the villains will be in this one, but I can reveal it includes Stonehenge and also that River Song pops up again!

And that's it ... all very exciting stuff!

Erm, a few other fings to mention:

- The Dr gets a new TARDIS this season, owing to the fact that the old one is well and truly wrecked (remember it blowing up in "The End of Time"?) This includes a brand new console room complete with walkway, console, etc.

- Looks like the Cybermen are back too, owing to some glimpses we got of the metal men in another trailer.

Finally, after all previous moans about RTD, it's going to be very interesting indeed to see the new direction Who takes under Steven Moffat. We're very shortly going to find out ... !!