Saturday, January 02, 2010

The End of The End of The Beginning

So what, you may well ask dear blog reader, did yer Keith Telly Topping make of David Tennant's finale in Doctor Who last night? Was he, like some malcontents, disappointed with it? Did he think it raped his Dalek-lovin' childhood? Has his entire 2010 been ruined by Russell Davies' rampant gay agenda and lack of inherent gravitas? Nah, not really. Tragically, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, Keith Telly Topping pretty much loved it - as he has just about every episode since the show's return in 2005. I'll let them off for Fear Her, everybody's allowed a bad day once in a while. I thought The End of Time had pace, action, wit, just the right amount of self-referential humour, most of all honesty and a lot of genuine love at its core. Just as you'd expect from Russell Davies, frankly. I loved Wilf's reflections on his army experiences and his confession that he would have been proud to be the Doctor's father. I loved 'Worst! Rescue! Ever!' and 'He loves playing with Earth girls!' and 'You could be so much more. You could be beautiful' and 'Get out of the way!' I loved the warmth and joy of the wrap-up sequences for all of those whose life the Doctor had touched (particularly the wholly unexpected Verity Newman one). I loved the look of rapture on Captain Jack's face at the prospect of a night of big, hot, sweaty sodomy with Alonzo. I loved Mickey's beard and Martha's new haircut. I loved seeing Rose one last time. I loved the music, the lighting, the direction, the majority of the acting (John Simm hammed it up a bit in places although given the context of The Master's psychosis, even that was understandable and, in his quieter moments, he was as good as anything on display). I loved Timothy Dalton's inability to pronounce 'Master' correctly. I loved Claire Bloom's appearance and the fact that whilst we can guess at who her character was supposed to be (Romana? Susan? The Doctor's mother?) that was one answer which we weren't spoon fed. I loved 'I'm still alive!' and then the, genuine, heartbreak of discovering what 'He will knock four times' actually did mean. And, I think, most of all, I loved 'I don't want to go.' I didn't want him to go either. But then ... 'Legs! I still have legs!' In 1966, as its aged star William Hartnell decided that he'd had enough and wanted to leave the show somebody at the BBC - possibly Sydney Newman, possibly someone else, sources vary - came up with this quite brilliant idea of 'regeneration' as a way of changing Doctor Who's lead actor but keeping the character of The Doctor alive. Forty three years and nine further Doctors later and it's still one of television's most outrageous and stunning conceits. In a flick of the switch, everything changes and only the TARDIS remains. As Ood Sigma noted, 'the song ends, but the story goes on. Forever.' Matt Smith has got an enormous void to fill when his first series kicks off in about three months time. But, yer Keith Telly Topping has total faith in Steven Moffat and his crew at Upper Boat and in Matt himself. Doctor Who. This daft little show about time travel. They tried to bin it, they tried to forget it, but it just keeps coming back. And, if you want to know what's in store for you in the Spring, check this out. I don't know about anybody else but I'm nursing a semi right about now!

David Tennant's final outing was watched by just a sliver under ten and half million viewers on BBC1, according to initial overnight figures. A further three hundred and eighty thousand viewers watched the episode on BBC HD (peaking at over four hundred thousand for the final fifteen minutes). At the climax of the episode, a total of over eleven million viewers across the two channels tuned in to see the Time Lord regenerate into his eleventh incarnation, Matt Smith. The seventy five-minute episode ended with the TARDIS in flames, plummeting towards Earth - setting up Smith's first episode, due later this Spring, which will introduce the new Doctor and his companion, Amy, played by Karen Gillan. It was the highest-rated programme in its time-slot - and, just as a little historical note, the highest rating ever for a Doctor Who regeneration story beating the ten million viewers who watched Jon Pertwee turn into Tom Baker in 1974. ITV's Coronation Street took second place, with an impressive 8.6m viewers. The most watched programmes of the day was EastEnders, which attracted a whopping audience of 11.6m at 7:55. Critics were generally appreciative of Tennant's final episode. In the Guardian, Mark Lawson likened the episode to Hamlet - a role which Tennant played with the Royal Shakespeare Company last year. 'In common with the Prince of Denmark, the Time Lord from Gallifrey agonised aloud over whether it would be right to kill a man (The Master) after a painful encounter with his mother, played by Claire Bloom, whose Shakespearean roles include Hamlet's mother, Gertrude,' he wrote. Meanwhile, in The Times, one of the series' most articulate and passionate supporters, Caitlin Moran, dissected Smith's debut. 'As if to remind us of how huge the Doctor Who Universe is, and how fast it gallops on, Smith wasted no time mourning his previous, dead self. Instead, feeling his delicately featured face, he started in alarm, and shouted: "Argh! I'm a girl!"' The preview for the new Doctor's first batch of episodes (see link above) shows Smith facing vampire-like creatures, hitting a Dalek with a hammer and shouting what seems set to become his catchphrase: 'Geronimo!' The trailer also reveals the return of Alex Kingston as River Song - the archaeologist who had appeared to have had an intimate relationship with The Doctor - and the terrifying Weeping Angels from the acclaimed episode Blink. Both the Angels and River Song were, of course, created by Steven Moffat, who has taken over from Davies as the head writer of the franchise. I must say, in addition to being delighted with Doctor Who's figures, yer Keith Telly Topping is always really happy when ITV do well and the BBC do well at the same time - it's positive for everyone. For all of the ITV bashing that occasionally goes on in this blog, from my point of view it's mainly down to an often crushing disappointment at the product they present. This is, let us remember, the network that once gave us The Avengers. Doctor Who getting ten and a half million and Corrie, opposite, getting nearly nine million is brilliant for both - two great British television institutions battling it out for the attention of viewers - that's the way it always should be. It's got to be said, though, that Doctor Who won the head-to-head between the two and that really does please a part of me. What's that sound I hear slipping through the ether from 1989? Why, it's Sylvester McCoy laughing, hysterically.

And also on the subject of ratings, a very big thumbs up to the five million audience that Qi got later in the evening on BBC1. Lovely episode, too. I wonder if somewhere within the bowels of the BBC, someone is working on a pitch for detective series in which Stephen Fry and Alan Davies travel about in "Rodney Bewes' Time Machine" solving crime? It's a definite winner, I tell you!

Newspapers reports yesterday indict that the BBC have cancelled Jam and Jerusalem and Paradox and that ITV have done the decent thing and put The Fixer out of its misery.

Mathew Horne has admitted that he was 'hurt' by the backlash he received in the press earlier this year. Tough. Get used to it, pal, there's a lot more where that came from in the coming years. Horne and his Gavin & Stacey co-star James Corden faced a frosty response from critics and allegations of overexposure in the first half of 2009 as they promoted their wretched BBC3 sketch-show Horne & Corden and their equally wretched comedy horror movie Lesbian Vampire Killers. Reflecting on their troubles, Horne told the Mirror: 'Whatever the reasons, we were ultimately responsible for the overkill during the spring/summer period. There was some mismanagement on our part. I think the flak was inevitable but it just went a bit far and that's what upset me. We had a conversation with one journalist who told us he liked our sketch show and he supported us. A week later he was writing us off. It's just made me more wary about who I speak to. But I felt in a strong position because people love Gavin & Stacey and will stand by me.' This is a wild and radical suggestion, Mathew but, do you not just think that on this occasion, everybody who didn't like your show might, just, have been right and that you and your mate were the ones who were at - quite considerably - fault in this matter?

BBC newsreader Jane Hill has come out as gay in an article in the corporation's in-house magazine. The forty-year-old, who has regular presenting duties on the BBC News channel, told Ariel that she lives with her partner of one year, Sara, in North London with their dog Mavis. 'Everyone has known for years that Jane is gay,' a colleague told the Mirror. 'She hasn't made a secret of it at the BBC and although she has had other girlfriends over the years, this one seems to be the one.'

Sky has confirmed that prices on all its TV packages will revert to previous levels today in line with the new VAT rate. The satellite firm reduced its prices earlier in the year to mirror the government's temporary reduction in VAT to fifteen per cent, which was designed to help stimulate consumer spending. However, the rate went back to 17.5 per cent on 1 January, and so Sky TV packs, including high definition and Multiroom services, will also revert to previous levels. Applying 'rounded pricing' increases to maintain simplicity, all Sky TV packages will increase by fifty pence per month, unless subscribers take both Sky Sports and Sky Movies, in which case the increase will be one pound. Sky HD and Multiroom packs will increase by twenty five pence back to the previous level of ten pound per month, with changes due to be reflected in December's bill onwards.

Alan Carr has revealed that he hates being 'forced to have fun' on New Year's Eve. Well, in that case, stay in the house and be miserable like the rest of us, you stupid bastard.

And finally, dear blog reader, as I look forward to a Saturday off for once, as promised earlier in the week here's a picture of yer Keith Telly Topping - wearing a very silly hat - with his oppo, the legend that is Alfie Joey, in the studios making some radio magic. Photo courtesy of Matty Razor Raisbeck. Welcome to 2010, dear blog reader. It's gonna be great.