Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Test For Everyone

Saturday saw the first of two Doctor Who concerts performed at The Royal Albert Hall as part of 2013's BBC Proms. Despite - somewhat spurious - rumours that the event would include the unveiling of the next Doctor (which, frankly, always seemed unlikely) there was no such announcement or anything even remotely like it. There was, however, the current Doctor. And an old Doctor. And companions. And monsters. The concert featured surprise appearances from fifth Doctor Peter Davison and Carole Ann Ford, who played The Doctor's first screen companion (and granddaughter), Susan, in 1963. 'Who'd have thought this celebration would be happening fifty years on?' said the seventy three-year-old actress. Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman hosted the concert alongside with a carnival of monsters from the series. Screams echoed around the auditorium as Cybermen stomped down the stairs to menace the audience with their stompy metalness. Not even the presence of an Ice Warrior helped cool the temperature inside The Albert Hall on the hottest day of the year so far. There were Daleks too, as well as Judoon, Silurians, The Silence, The Whispermen and a Weeping Angel. Massive cheers erupted for the surprise arrival of the always excellent Peter Davison, who played The Doctor from 1981 to 1984. 'What amazing memories you all have,' Peter said, surveying the thousands of fans. 'Even though most of you weren't even born.' He added: 'My era is now called the classic series, that's a bit like the Championship is to the Premier League!' Heh! Peter introduced a medley of music from the classic era, including the ground-breaking work of Delia Derbyshire and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The sequence kicked-off with the roaring sound of the TARDIS dematerialising, originally created by Brian Hodgson by scraping his mother's front-door key down a piano string. Music followed from stories across the decades such as The Tomb of the Cybermen (1967), The Sea Devils (1972), The Five Doctors (1983) and The Curse of Fenric (1989). Dudley Simpson, one of Twentieth Century Doctor Who's most prolific composers, was in the audience to hear an excerpt from his own score for the 1979 Tom Baker adventure The City of Death. As the giant screens around the hall showed the recent cliffhanger ending with John Hurt introduced as 'The Doctor,' Smudger his very self teased: 'What does it all mean, eh? Only another four months until we find out.' The Prom was broadcast live from 7:30pm on Radio 3 (with a second prom on Sunday at 10:30am), and recorded for broadcast on television at a later date. The concert featured the premiere of a 'special' song to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the show. Speaking to Mark Lawson on Radio 4's Front Row on Tuesday, series composer Murray Gold discussed writing 'Song For Fifty': 'We thought it would be appropriate to write something to commemorate the birthday, it's essentially happy birthday to a lovely television programme. It was really the fact that, because I've been in The Royal Albert Hall twice with this body of music, I know how people react, and it's a real privilege to be able to write directly for an audience you know. I wrote this - well it's effective a long song - to speak for everybody in that room.' This blogger is, of course, a major fan of Murray's work on the show but, frankly, thought the song was a bit rubbish. But, the rest of the show was, by the sound of it, a little gem. Talking about the huge success of the Doctor Who on BBC Breakfast on Tuesday, Proms presenter Katie Derham said: 'Tickets went like that - unbelievable - and the queues I know for those final thousand tickets - in fact it is so popular that we have two, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. They are just the most fun, those proms, a couple of years ago I took my kids to one and they are desperate to come to one as well because you get to see Matt Smith, you get the monsters and you get this great music.' A report from the rehearsals of the prom was broadcast on Breakfast Saturday morning, during which Smudger said: 'I love The Albert Hall, I love the Proms, I love classical music, I think it is a great thing to see, all of Murray's really brilliant score over the years come to life, it's something we're really pleased and proud to be part of.'

Earlier in the week, Murray Gold spoke about the Proms experience to Suzy Klein on Radio 3's In Tune: 'You're just talking about it and you're crystalising it in my head and I'm starting to shake ... I was about to answer "you know what, we've done it a few times now, we've played Sydney Opera House and Ben has conducted all around the world from this body of music, we've all got it down-pat now, and the National Orchestra of Wales know their stuff, and the London Symphonic Choir know their stuff." But it's so exciting, and the fact that those tickets sold out in forty five minutes and knowing how excited the audience will be and seeing families, mums and dads and children watching classical music for the first time ... when I think about just walking into that auditorium and hearing the sound of five thousand people - I love that. They start cheering and they start singing and all this stuff happens, and the it's a carnival.' The Proms isn't all about the music of Murray Gold, of course; there was a selection of other classical pieces from composers such as Bach, Bizet and Debussy, whose music has also appeared in the series, and specially composed music soundtracks created by winners of the BBC's Create a Soundtrack competition. Plus, the concert also heard music hailing back to the earlier era of the show, with David Jackson, director of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales explaining on BBC Radio Wales: 'You'll have the whole of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, a hundred players, as well as a choir, but also we've got the classic music performed on the same instruments they used in the original Radiophonic Workshop - they're basically electronic instruments that just look like a bunch of old tape recorders and something off the deck of the Starship Enterprise - it looks so old-fashioned we thought they were just props at first! [They'll be played by] people who are specially trained, who've learned how to make those work, they're not members of the orchestra, we just have them joining us, we've been very lucky to have them.' Speaking to BBC London on Thursday evening conductor Ben Foster said: 'Doctor Who fans are a unique breed as you know, and their enthusiasm and their love for the show is second to none - and the excitement in their faces and in the faces of kids who come to The Albert Hall is like nothing else I've ever done.' Next Thursday's Blue Peter on CBBC will include an item on presenter Barney Harwood's appearance at the Proms - having learned how to play the trombone in three weeks during May for a Brass Band Challenge on the show, presenter Helen Skelton then presented him with a new challenge to play with the National Orchestra of Wales during the Doctor Who Prom.

Amid scenes of high-drama and nail-biting tension at a rocking Trent Bridge in Nottingham, England narrowly edged Australia by fourteen runs in the opening test of the 2013 Ashes series. And that, dear blog reader, is why test cricket remains one of the finest spectacles in the wide, wide world of sport. Four-and-a-half-days of nerves, switching fortunes, remarkable, fascinating, often enthralling play - and, not a little controversy regarding umpiring and DRS decisions relating to both sides - the whole thing ended, somewhat inevitably, in another DRS decision. Thankfully, it was a correct one this time. Now, we've got another four of those to come this summer and then five more in the winter. 'It was a wonderful game of cricket,' said a dignified Michael Clarke, the Aussie captain after the match and it was hard not to agree. Man of the Match Jimmy Anderson was England's final-day hero as the hosts held their nerve to complete an astonishing fourteen-run victory over the Australians in an unforgettable climax to the opening Test. In midst of often unbearable tension and a pure dead big sweat-on, so it was, Australia's final pair of Brad Haddin and James Pattinson took the tourists to the brink of victory with a partnership of sixty five. But, when Anderson tempted Haddin to give him a tickled down the corridor of uncertainty, Matt Prior his very self had no trouble at all in taking Haddin round the rear. Haddin, who had scored for a faultless seventy one, gave Prior the catch off an inside edge to present Anderson his fourth wicket of the day and his tenth of the match, and England could breath again and celebrate one of the closest wins in Ashes history. The victory, which for sheer drama almost matched the legendary Edgbaston Test in the 2005 Ashes (which England won by two runs), puts England one-nil up in the five-match series going into the second test which starts at Lord's on Thursday. This time Australia started the day needing a further one hundred and thirty seven runs to win with four wickets in hand. When Anderson removed débutant Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle - all caught at slip by England's captain Alastair Cook - England looked certain to win. But that was to discount the abilities of Haddin and Pattinson, a tail-ender with a highly respectable test average of nearly twenty nine from fourteen innings going into the match. The departure of Anderson from the attack after thirteen consecutive overs presented them with an opening and they took full advantage as Haddin cracked three consecutive fours from the bowling of an off-colour Steven Finn, who conceded twenty five runs in two overs. Finn, who began the match quite well with two wickets on Wednesday, had bowled, frankly, like a bloody big soft tart's draws both at the end of the Australian's first innings (where he was mainly responsible for the teenage Agar gaining the confidence to smash the English bowling all round the park) and on Sunday morning when Finn's fielding also came under severe scrutiny. Pattinson nonchalantly lofted Graeme Swann over mid-off for six and suddenly Australia were within thirty one runs of their target. There followed a frenetic period before a delayed lunch interval as Haddin was dropped at deep square leg by the hapless Finn (who at this stage was wandering around the field resembling a chicken with its head cut off), almost run out by Jonny Bairstow and nearly played a Swann off-cutter into his own stumps. Lunch was eventually taken with Australia only twenty short of victory, giving Anderson forty minutes to shake off the bout of cramp which had forced him off the field in the latter stages of the previous session. The England seamer returned to strike the decisive blow in his second over as Haddin drove away from his body and Prior claimed a catch behind. When umpire Aleem Dar declined to raise his finger, Cook (at the behest of the bowler and wicket-keeper) sent for a review. As replays on the stadium screens revealed a faint Hotspot mark on Haddin's bat, the festivities could begin. The final wicket released the valve on the pressure that had been building since the start of the day as Australia's seventh-wicket pair survived the first fifty five of minutes of play to add thirty one runs. England needed a catalyst and they found one in the shape of the new ball, which Anderson sent down with extra pace to induce a nick from Agar, which Cook caught sharply at first slip. Starc survived just five balls before touching Anderson to Cook for one. Siddle added eleven before he, too, edged Anderson towards the slip cordon where Cook dived to his right to take a brilliant two-handed catch. With eighty runs still needed and just one wicket in hand, England seemed to be on the home straight, only for Haddin and Pattinson to give them an almighty scare. Sunday's drama provided a fitting finale to a brilliant test match which captivated its audience from the start as the balance of power shifted from one team to the other almost by the session. England, despite Australia not bowling awfully well, were bundled out for two hundred and fifteen on the first day but looked on course for a healthy first-innings lead when they reduced their opponents to one hundred and seventeen for nine early on Thursday morning, Anderson and Swann doing the bulk of the damage. Agar, however, saw things differently. The nineteen-year-old's fearless ninety eight off one hundred and one balls in a last-wicket partnership of one hundred and sixty three with Phil Hughes was the highest score by a number eleven on début in test history and catapulted Australia to a final total of two hundred and eighty, a lead of sixty five. At one hundred and seventy four for five in their second innings England were in considerable danger of defeat, but a tenacious hundred from Ian Bell in a partnership of one hundred and thirty eight with the excellent Stuart Broad (who scored a vital sixty five) dragged the match away from Australia. Still the Aussies fought hard, as you'd expect from them, and it was not until deep into the final session of day four that England took control as they followed Broad picking up the vital wicket of Michael Clarke with Swann grabbing two more (Steve Smith and Phil Hughes) to make themselves firm favourites going into Sunday's finale. Ultimately, Clarke - a great batsman and a more than capable captain - will have to accept some criticism for his team's defeat. Firstly, one of the turning points of the match came when he took the new ball in England's second innings at a time when Australia's bowlers had England in something of a stranglehold. The, harder, new ball allowed Bell and Matt Prior to add a quick fifty partnership and rest the momentum of the game back to England even though Prior was out during this period. Secondly, Clarke's use of the DRS system appeared serious flawed. From nine referrals in the match, Clarke was successful on just two occasions and twice (in England's second innings and Australia's second) he left his side without any available referrals at vital periods having used them up earlier on what appeared to be somewhat frivolous queries and fishing for wickets. This became particularly important when, for instance, on Thursday's evening Broad clearly edged a ball from Agar to slip (via the wicket keeper's gloves) but was given not out by Aleem Dar. Broad's decision not to walk (and, there's absolutely nothing in the rules of the game which says that he has to, and never has been) provoked considerable comment in the media and on the Internet, much of it from ignorant and hypocritical glakes who, frankly, haven't got a sodding clue what they're talking about. Some of them were The Usual Suspects in the media, some were daft numskulls ringing up Vaughny and Tuffers on 6-Duck-6 for a right good moan about how 'ashamed' they were. But, sadly, one or two were people whom this blogger previously had some respect for, like the BBC's Jonathan Agnew, whose embarrassing 'won't somebody think of the children' stance on 5Live left a real sour taste in the mouth. How many times in a fifteen year career for Leicestershire (not forgetting your three games for England) did you claim for a catch behind when you weren't convinced that the batsman had hit it, Aggers? Once an innings? More? England, on the other hand, as so often in the past used the DRS brilliantly although they, too, will have some serious questions about the system particularly over two incidents on day two; firstly when Agar was, seemingly, out stumped for six but was reprieved by the third umpire, Marais Erasmus, and went on to score ninety eight. Later, England were furious after Jonathan Trott had a 'not out' LBW decision from the on-field umpire early in the second innings overturned by Erasmus, despite the side-on Hotspot camera, which might have reprieved him, being temporarily unavailable. All of that was forgotten, however, as England scraped to a deserved, but nervy, victory.

The Glee actor Cory Monteith has been found dead in a Vancouver hotel, police say. The thirty one-year-old, who played Finn Hudson in the FOX TV hit series, was found dead at the Pacific Rim Hotel in the city centre on Saturday. The cause of death was not immediately apparent, but foul play has, apparently, been ruled out. Monteith, who had been in the musical comedy since it began in 2009, was treated for drug addiction in April, and had a history of substance-abuse. His body was found by Pacific Rim staff after he missed his check-out time on Saturday, said Vancouver's Deputy Police Chief Doug Lepard. Montieth had returned to his room alone early on Saturday morning having been out with friends earlier in the evening, said Deputy Police Chief Lepard. Coroner Lisa Lapointe said: 'We do not have a great deal of information as to cause of death.' Monteith had been dating Lea Michele, who played his opposite number Rachel Berry in Glee, which follows a group of American secondary school misfits in their quest for singing contest glory. Michele 'loved and supported' her long-term boyfriend and was 'proud' he was seeking help, she told People magazine at the time of his recent treatment. Calgary-born Monteith described himself on Twitter as 'tall, awkward, Canadian, actor, drummer, person.' He was treated for drug abuse aged nineteen and had been open about his battle against addiction in the years since, telling one interviewer he took 'anything and everything.'

BBC2 drama Top of the Lake began with 1.93m overnight viewers from 9.10pm on Saturday. The six-part series, created and directed by Oscar-winning film-maker Jane Campion, stars Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss as a detective who returns to New Zealand to investigate the disappearance of a twelve-year-old pregnant girl. Meanwhile, ITV's risible Your Face Sounds Familiar continued its very welcome decline with 2.87m at 7.30pm, down a further one hundred and fifty thousand punters on last week. The channel earlier showed You've Been Framed at 7pm, picking up 2.27m. All Star Family Fortunes was watched by 2.46m at 8.45pm, while The Americans was seen by nine hundred and thirty thousand at 9.45pm. So, a shockingly poor primetime for ITV, there. Over on BBC1, things were better, though not by much. The Queen's Coronation Festival Gala attracted 3.09m from 7pm, after which The National Lottery: In It to Win It retained the same figures as last week with 3.56m at 8.15pm. Casualty was watched by 4.18m at 9.15pm and Mrs Brown's Boys pulled in 4.32m at 10pm. On BBC2, Natural World aired from 7.45pm, with 1.22m tuning in. Qi XL had 1.31m at 8.30pm and Alive: Rankin Faces Death - A Culture Show Special interested five hundred thousand viewers at 10.15pm. Channel Four showed Grand Designs to four hundred and ninety thousand at 7.30pm. The Million Pound Drop Live attracted seven hundred and ninety thousand punters at 8.15pm, after which 2010 movie Repo Men took five hundred and eighty thousand at 10pm. Elsewhere, eight hundred and seventy six thousand caught the cricket highlights between 7pm and 8pm on Channel Five, while a double bill of NCIS had six hundred and sixty five thousand seven hundred and seventeen thousand viewers respectively from 8.15pm. The latest episode of Big Brother interested a million sad, crushed victims of society at 10pm. Lewis was the highest rated show on the multichannels, picking up eight hundred and thirty five thousand on ITV3 at 9pm.

A top Russian football club has amended publicity photos of its new strip after bloggers claimed that they featured a backdrop of a steam engine which had been used by the Nazis. The images showed Lokomotiv Moscow players posing in the top-flight side's new kit. And in a nod to the club's rich heritage - it was set up by railway workers in 1922 and is sponsored by Russian Railways - the background featured an imposing ash-black locomotive. But one blogger identified the engine in the pictures as a German DR-Baureihe 03, said to have been manufactured in 1937 and used as 'a Nazi workhorse.' Hours later, the locomotive disappeared from the photos on the club's website, leaving the footballers with nothing but black emptiness behind their backs. News site Lenta, which had already grabbed a screenshot, claimed that Lokomotiv's managers had launched a probe. The eagle-eyed blogger made a withering assessment, suggesting the club should buy the locomotive and launch it on Russia's railways. 'After all, it would be more fun than watching the team play,' he said. Lokomotiv weren't the only ones smoothing things over this week, pictorially-speaking, if reports in Kuwait are to be believed. Election candidates there have been hiring IT designers to 'beautify their photos for ads', using Photoshop-style editing programmes, according to the government's official news agency, Kuna. It quoted one of the computer specialists hired for the task, Mohamed Anwar, as saying Kuwaiti society had changed, with facial appearances playing an influential role in attracting people.

One in ten Britons believe that Australia is further away from the UK than the Moon, according to the results of a new survey. The poll also found that twenty five per cent think that it would be possible to get mobile phone reception whilst in orbit, Metro reports. The Moon is actually two hundred and thirty odd thousand away, which is the equivalent of twenty five one-way trips from the UK to Australia. The poll was undertaken by Lynx as part of their 'Deep Space' promotional campaign, which will give a customer the chance to be sent into space. The results also showed that forty per cent of British tourists would choose a trip into space as opposed to holidaying in Spain. Well, the sunbathing's a lot better for a kick off. The results come after it was revealed that, according to another poll, one in ten British teenagers think that Nick Knowles built the pyramids and that ten per cent believe William Shakespeare is the chairman of the BBC. If only wishing made it so.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day we've got something appropriate to both the situation and, indeed, the weather at Trent Bridge. tell 'em all about it, David.

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