Saturday, September 20, 2014

Time Heist: You're Only Supposed To Blow The Bloody Doors Off

'This is the Bank of Karabraxos. The most dangerous bank in the galaxy. A fortress for the super-rich. If you can afford your own star system, this is where you keep it.' Welcome, dear blog readers, to the biggest guilt trip in the universe.
'It's just a phone, Clara. Nothing happens when you answer a phone.' One of the most often-quoted reasons given by both the BBC and by fans for Doctor Who's spectacular longevity and popularity across fifty years is the unlimited nature of flexibility of the series' format. When you've got a mad man in a box you can, after all, take him anywhere at any time to see anything. Over time, the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama has flirted with many different dramatic forms - from all manner of period costume drama including cod-Shakespeare and Jacobean tragedy to sitcom via the thriller, the action movie and space fantasy and numerous other genres and sub-genres too numerous to list. And, that's been an unchanging factor right up to the current series. Already this year we've seen a cross between a Victorian detective mystery and a retro-steampunk futurist allegory from the opening episode. Then, an episode which mixed and matched the SF cliché of miniaturisation with a shoot-'em-up military base-under-siege saga, a near-slapstick comedy episode set in the Twelfth Century with some surprisingly deep things to say about the nature of the difference between fact and myth and, last week, a grim, challenging, bowel-shatteringly scary dystopian nightmare about the logistics of time as an abstract and, you know, what's hiding under the bed. It has often been said before but it bears repeating, it is exactly this constant shifting to style and substance which has kept the show fresh and innovative even after nearly fifty one years. And it's also a reason why it's always so absolutely hilarious to see one of The Special People whinging that an episode 'isn't Doctor Who' when the exact nature of what is Doctor Who in the first place is so unfixed, so variable, so elastic. But, every so often, just to ram home the point, we get something completely new. Case in point; one thing Doctor Who has never tried before, is a heist caper involving a bank robbery. Unless you count something like Attack Of The Cybermen. And, frankly, let's not.

'The greatest bank in the galaxy. Our reputation must remain secure. The Director will blame us. We'll be fired. Fired with pain.' That sounds like fun.
'All the information you need is in this case. Acquire it!' Speaking about the premise for the episode, the director Doug Mackinnon said: 'What we wanted to do was a heist movie for Doctor Who. I've watched virtually every heist movie there's ever been, and it incorporates things into it, but because it's Doctor Who, time travel is involved.' Filming for the episode took place at the Hadyn Ellis Building, part of Cardiff University, on 18 March 2014 and continued at the nearby Bute Park the next day (for a sequence which, in the event, occupied about twenty seconds of screen-time). Initial media reports indicated that Peter Capaldi had suffered a head injury whilst climbing a tree during filming of the episode. However, a BBC spokesperson responded by stating that the apparent gash was, actually, make-up applied for filming. Media coverage of filming focused on a new monster - The Teller - which was spotted on location, with some calling it Doctor Who's 'strangest monster yet.'
'Excuse me, sir. I regret to say, your guilt has been detected.' The other great cause for coverage was the casting of yer actual Keeley Hawes - Tipping The Velvet, [spooks], Ashes To Ashes, Upstairs, Downstairs, Line Of Duty - as the episode's main villainess, Ms Delphox. Wearing a spectacularly cruel pair of spectacles and looking like straight a cross between Theresa May and Mistress Spanksalott, the initial release of publicity photos of Keeley (whom yer actual Keith Telly Topping is a major fan and has been since her astonishingly in-yer-face appearance in james's video for 'She's A Star' fifteen years ago) brought much Internet comment. Some of it, frankly, idiotic bordering on slanderous. Like, this one for instance, from some silly little girl of no consequence whom you've never heard of. As Steven Moffat his very self  told yer actual Keith Telly Topping at the time it appeared: 'This is a first even for me, criticised for an episode months before it's even been shown, for a character I didn't create.' You couldn't make it up, dear blog reader. Well, you probably could, after all, this is Doctor Who fandom we're talking about. In The Land of the Crassly Opinionated, one doesn't actually need to watch an episode of a television series to review it negatively and spit upon it with righteous fury if that's what your sick agenda demands. It's The Law. Or, at least it is in Doctor Who fandom, anyway. We must be quite a sight to those outside the chalk circle.
'Apologies for the disturbance. Everybody have a lovely day.' Time Heist features an intriguing and unusual hook as The Doctor, Clara and two apparent strangers, the hacker Psi and the shapeshifting mutant Saibra, wake up in a darkened room with no recollection of how they got there. Soon, they find a recording with orders from a mysterious hooded figure known only as The Architect who sounds like he's one of those contestants on The X Factor who use auto-tune. The quartet are told that they must rob what is said to be the most secure bank in the galaxy and that their survival absolutely depends on it. They are, thus, self-preservation society, if you like. Ho, yes. Better get a bloomin' move on. If you're looking at this point for a rather obvious satirical poke in the general direction of the contemporary banking industry then, clearly, you're going get it (with interest). You hardly need to be a financial expert to work that out. Coming hot on the heels of the acclaimed and, to repeat, bowel-shatteringly scary, Listen, Time Heist may, inevitably, seem somewhat lightweight by comparison, certainly in terms of dramatic clout if nothing else. Steve Thompson's previous scripts for the series - The Curse Of The Black Spot and Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS - somewhat split opinion among those who have expressed an opinion, loudly, on the Interweb (for what it's worth, broadly speaking yer actual Keith Telly Topping enjoyed both although the former did, undeniably, have more promise than plot) so it will be interesting to see if Time Hesit has less of a polarising effect on the cognoscenti. Though knowing what a contrary bunch we all are in fandom, I wouldn't bank on it. Despite the Italian Job caper-style nature of the plot (with a couple of twists worthy of the Mission: Impossible franchise at its most mind-bogglingly 'What? How? What?'), the episode takes itself far more seriously than you might expect from the premise. Nevertheless, it's not a dark episode - certainly not compared to last week. It's probably fair to say that this is also the most conventionally 'normal' episode of series eight so far - normal in Doctor Who terms anyway - and, as with Listen, there is no arc progressions featuring appearances from or references to Missy and/or Paradise. Thus, it's something of a standalone tale and with that in mind, there is little obvious character development for either The Doctor or Clara.
'Whoever planned all this, they're in the future. It's not just a bank heist, it's a time travel heist. We've been sent back in time to the exact moment of the storm, to be in exactly right place when it hits - because that's the only time the bank is vulnerable!' Continuity: There are references to, in no particular order, The Leisure Hive ('we could go to Brighton'), The Eleventh Hour ('Hardly anyone in the universe has that number'), The Bells Of St John (another allusion to the mysterious woman who gave Clara the TARDIS phone number), The Snowmen (the memory worm), KindaThe Time Of The Doctor (a hologram shell), The Mind Of EvilBlink ('Ever tried not thinking about something?'), Deep Breath ('Basically, it's the eyebrows'), The Doctor's Wife, Amy's Choice (The Doctor's self-professed hatred of The Architect), Asylum Of The Daleks ('My personal plan is, I think a thing will probably happen quite soon'), The Doctor Dances (the dimension bomb) and A Good Man Goes To War ('A good man. I left it late to meet one of those'). Among the blink-and-you'll-miss'-em infamous robbers glimpsed on the bank's security screen are a Sensorite, an Ice Warrior, The Gunslinger (from A Town Called Mercy), Torchwood's Captain John Hart (thus making James Marsters canon in the Doctor Who universe to the sound of squees of all the girls over at Cold Dead Seed. Hi girls!), a Slitheen, a Terileptil (from The Visitation) and one of the Whisperers (from The Name Of The Doctor).
Plus, to the joy of many old school fans, the briefest of glimpses of Abslom Daak The Dalek Killer from the Doctor Who Magazine comic strips. There's also a great take on a classic Eric Morecambe joke ('Got the words out. Not in the right order!') plus an 'Allo 'Allo reference ('Now pay close attention to this briefing, it will happen once') and, best of all a The Thick Of It allusion for Capaldi to bellow in full-on Malcolm Tucker mode ('shuttetty up up up!')
'There are so many memories in here, feast on them. knock yourself out! Scarf, bow tie, bit embarrassing. What do you think of the new look? I was hoping for minimalism, but I think I came back with magician! Now, last few days, there's a block - can you see the block? Tell me why I'm here! Show me why I'm here!' The dialogue: Oh yes. Yes, indeedy, dear blog reader, I'll have some of that. Yer man Thompson and Moffat his very self had a bit of fun writing this one, clerarly. 'Do I really have to touch that worm thing?' 'Yes, you do ... And change your shoes!' And: 'Why are you in charge now?' 'It's my special power. What's yours?' And: 'Question one. Robbing banks is easy if you've got a TARDIS. So why am I not using it?' 'Question two. Where is the TARDIS?' 'Okay, that probably should be question one.' And: 'Your next of kin will be informed. And incarcerated as a further inducement to honest financial transactions.' And: 'Those aren't tears, Clara. That's soup.' When Time Heist hits the funny button, for the most part, it gets it absolutely spot-on. Take, for instance: 'What if the plan is we're blowing the floor for someone else? What if we're not supposed to make it out alive?' 'Don't be so pessimistic, it'll affect team morale.' 'What, and getting us blown up won't?' 'Well only very, very briefly!' And: 'I'm an amnesiac robbing a bank, why would I be okay?' And then, there are the scenes following Saibra's apparent death when the episode gets all introspective and deep and far darker than you'd been led to believe thus far. Like the bit where Psi asks: 'Is that why you call yourself The Doctor? The professional detachment?' Wow, that came out of left field. 'Listen, when we're done here, by all means, you go and find yourself a shoulder to cry on. You'll probably need that. Till then, what you need is me.' In a script that shifts quickly from light to shade and back again, it's hard not to be impressed with something like: 'For what it's worth, - and it might not be worth much - when your whole life flashes in front of you, you see people you love. People missing you ... I see no one.' And: '... It's feeding oxygen down to the private vault. There's another for water. Your basic life support.' 'For a bank vault?' 'Someone likes to hang out with their wealth!' And: 'My clone. And yet she doesn't even protest. Pale imitation, really. I should sue!' 'She hates her own clones. She burns her own clones. Frankly, you're a career-break for the right therapist.' And: 'Calories consumed on the TARDIS have no lasting effect.' 'You're kidding?' 'Of course, I'm kidding. It's a time machine, not a miracle-worker!' Yep, funny when it needs  to be, but surprisingly outré when it needs to be. Like all good Doctor Who episodes, neither one thing nor the other but, to the benefit of the episode, a bit orf both. And how perfect is it that The Doctor celebrates a victory with Chinese food? Me too. What are the chances?
'The bank of Karabraxos is impregnable. The bank of Karabraxos has never been breached. You will rob the bank of Karabraxos.' Keeley Hawes headlines the guest cast playing a suitably archetypical villainess. The character isn't afforded all that much in the way of depth or nuance until the last couple of scene - when all bets are off - but, that said, this is Keeley Hawes after all and doing her trademark 'posh bird with a twinkle' thing which made her such a cult favourite in [spooks] and Ashes To Ashes, you get pretty much what you'd expect. Swishy, cat-like movement, saucy asides and pure atom-bombs of acidic wit lobbed in from the sidelines. And, then there's The Teller, a fearsome being which can detect guilt in all its forms. The monster itself is reasonably imposing and glowery and makes for a threatening enemy thanks to its unique ability. It's responsible for one really impressive jump out the seat and grab for a cushion moment and has its own plot twist which, although a tiny bit signposted is still well presented. Whilst the last episode was shrouded in chilling shadows, Doug Mackinnon turns his hand to something a bit lighter and much more fun here and proves he's just as capable at that style. As Doctor Who's attempt at a heist movie cover version, if you like, it's stylish with all of the standard genre clichés which you'd expect, and are mostly done with much affection for the form. All those classic Ocean's Eleven-style slow-motion group shots are complemented by an cheeky and entertaining soundtrack from Murray Gold full of witty Lalo Schifrin riffs. In short, Time Heist' delivers in terms of entertainment and it doing something that television often finds difficult to achieve these days, trying to do something a bit different from the norm. It doesn't all work, and I'm not sure I'd be happy with Doctor Who doing an episode such as this every week - essentially turning into Hustle in space. But, once in a while, it certainly ticks most of the required boxes. 'Come on then, Team Not Dead!'
The very excellent Nick Frost - a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping and probably best known to dear blog readers for his appearances in Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's 'Cornetto Trilogy' movies, Shaun Of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End - will appear in this year's Doctor Who Christmas special. Rumours of yer actual Frostie's casting had previous been circulating online, though the BBC is yet to confirm who the actor will play in the hour-long episode. Coronation Street's Natalie Gumede and Misfits actor Nathan McMullen will also make guest appearances. Completing the cast are Michael Troughton - the son of former Doctor, the late Patrick Troughton - and Glue actress Faye Marsay. Michael is, of course, the third member of his family to appear in the series as his brother, David, featured in three guest roles on the BBC's long-running family SF drama between 1969 and 2008. Michael is probably best known for his superb performance as the hapless Piers Fletcher-Dervish opposite Rik Mayall in The New Statesman between 1987 and 1992. Nick Frost said: 'I'm so thrilled to have been asked to guest in the Doctor Who Christmas special, I'm such a fan of the show. The read-through was very difficult for me; I wanted to keep stuffing my fingers into my ears and scream "No spoilers!" Every day on set I've had to silence my internal fanboy squeals!' The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat added: 'Frost at Christmas - it just makes sense! I worked with Nick on the Tintin movie many years ago and it's a real pleasure to lure him back to television for a ride on the TARDIS.' The Doctor Who Christmas special - as yet unnamed - will be broadcast on BBC1 on Christmas Day. Written by The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat and directed by Paul Wilmshurst, it is due to be filmed in Cardiff at BBC Wales Roath Lock Studios over the next couple of weeks.

The new edition of Doctor Who Magazine was published this week and features an exclusive interview with Mummy On The Orient Express guest star, comedian, writer and chat show host Frank Skinner, who discusses his role as Perkins in the episode: 'I don't know how I'll feel when they say, "And that's a wrap for Mister Skinner." I'm sure I'll go through a mix of emotions. When footballers are in cup finals, the managers always say, "Savour every moment," and that's what I'm doing. Every moment is "wowee!"'
On 23 November 2013 fans all over the world celebrated Doctor Who reaching its fiftieth anniversary, receiving a Guinness World Record as some ninety four countries were officially recorded as having shown the anniversary episode in one form or another. However, the 18 September 2014 sees another milestone celebrated as, fifty years ago, An Unearthly Child was to receive its first-ever international broadcast. The country in question was New Zealand, with The Doctor's very first appearance outside the UK to be broadcast by Christchurch's CHTV-3. The episode was shown at 7:57pm, sandwiched between news programme NZBC Reports and a documentary about Doctor Gordon Seagrave, The Burma Surgeon Today. It was introduced by the weekly magazine The New Zealand Listener as: 'The first of a new adventure series about an exile from another world and a distant future, travelling with his granddaughter and two London school teachers through time and space. Starring William Hartnell as Doctor Who [sic] and Carol Ann Ford [sic] as his granddaughter. In tonight's episode Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, two school teachers, decide to try and find out more about one of their pupils who is puzzling them.' Which is mostly aaccurate
A fraction over seven million punters (7.01 million to be exact) watched the UK transmission of Listen according to consolidated figures, which include those viewers who watched the episode live and those who recorded the programme and watched it within one week of transmission. This is an increase of more than 2.2 million viewers over the 'live' audience of 4.8 million, the fourth week in a row that Doctor Who has achieved a two million plus timeshift. The figure - which does not include those who watched the episode on iPlayer - means that none of the first four episodes of Doctor Who this year has dipped below the seven million mark on final and consolidated figures.

Meanwhile, Doctor Who's opening episode of the current series, Deep Breath, had a final 'live plus seven' audience figure of 10.76 million viewers. Or, about a sixth of the population of the United Kingdom. Just, you know, for a bit of context. The figure includes not only those who watched the BBC1 broadcast and those who timeshafted it, but also those who watched the repeats on other channels and those who viewed the programme on iPlayer. The Deep Breath figure was made up of the following:-
6.807 million watched the episode 'live' or by recording on the same day
0.456 million watched a repeat on BBC3
2.525 million watched the episode on timeshift
0.971 million watched it on iPlayer
Sixty six per cent of the audience watched the episode live and/or on the same day compared with a BBC average of eighty seven per cent. Twenty two per cent watched on timeshift where the average is six per cent, and nine per cent watched on iPlayer compared to an average for all BBC programmes of three per cent. The figure does not include those who watched Deep Breath at a cinema.
The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice continues to post very impressive figures for BBC2, with 2.57 million overnight viewers tuning in to watch Friday's episode. Ratings for the spin-off show were slightly up on last week's 2.5 million. BBC2's evening began with 1.27 million for Celebrity Antiques Road Trip at 7pm, followed by 2.01 million for Mastermind at 8pm. Lorraine Pascale: How To Be A Better Cook was watched by 1.37 million at 8.30pm, while 2.03 million watched Gardeners' World at 9.30pm. With 3.65 million viewers, BBC1's The ONE Show was Friday's highest-rated programme outside of soaps giving a good example of just how down right across the board overnights are at the moment. It was followed by 2.89 million for A Question Of Sport at 7.30pm and 3.12 million for Would I Lie To You? at 8.30pm. An average of 2.85 million watched Boomers at 9pm, while 2.57 million saw Big School immediately after. If the BBC were having a bottom-end-of-average night on ITV it was much worse. Gino's Italian Escape: A Taste Of The Sun was seen by 2.41 million viewers at 8pm, while - hilariously - Oily Twat Piers Morgan's Life Stories featuring Bear Grylls attracted a mere 2.3 million at 9pm. Channel Four's The Million Pound Drop was seen by nine hundred and forty thousand at 8pm, Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown attracted 1.65 million at 9pm, and Alan Carr: Chatty Man picked up ratings of 1.41 million. Without Celebrity Big Brother on offer, the opening episode of a new seiers of Body Of Proof was Channel Five's highest-rated show with eight hundred and ninety four thousand punters at 9pm. Storage: Flog The Lot! was seen by six hundred and twenty seven thousand while an NCIS double bill attracted five hundred and sixty one thousand and four hundred and forty two thousand respectively. BBC4's Big Hits: TOTP 1964 To 1975 was among the highest-rated multichannel shows, attracting seven hundred and seventy five thousand at 10.20pm.

Channel Four's Educating The East End appealed to 1.41 million overnight viewers on Thursday evening. It followed Location, Location, Location, which attracted 1.43m. On BBC1, DIY SOS took 4.2m from 8pm, before Martin Shaw's episode of the genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are? took 4.64m, the highest audience of the night outside of soaps. BBC2's Celebrity Antiques Road Trip scored 1.37m from 7pm. Afterwards, Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath and Penguins On A Plane: Great Animal Moves were watched by 1.67m and 1.07m punters respectively. ITV's Paul O'Grady: For The Love Of Dogs was seen by 3.5m from 8.30pm, and the crime drama Chasing Shadows continued with 2.69m from 9pm. Chances of that one getting a recommission? Not huge, I'd've said. On Channel Five, Britain's Craziest Commutes managed six hundred and nine thousand in the 8pm hour. Illegals: Breaking Into Dallas had nine hundred and eighty thousand whilst the latest episode of Dallas attracted three hundred and seventy two thousand from 10pm.

The Great British Bake Off drew 8.3 million viewers on BBC1 on Wednesday evening, according to overnight figures. The latest episode averaged 8.32m in the 8pm hour. Afterwards, Our Zoo drew an audience of 3.98m from 9pm. On BBC2, Celebrity Antiques Roadshow continued with 1.2m from 7pm. Hotel India followed with 1.15m, while This World and Some People With Jokes were watched by 1.38m and eight hundred and ninety five thousand respectively. ITV's Celebrity Squares took a very below-par 2.48m from 8pm. Later, Scott & Bailey appealed to 3.74m. On Channel Four, Sarah Beeny's Double Your House For Half The Money managed nine hundred and eighty four thousand from 8pm. Grand Designs had 1.54m and The Great British Break-Up? The Live Debate attracted six hundred and nine thousand. On Channel Five, Britain's Deadliest Roads was seen by eight hundred and eighty five thousand in the 8pm hour, before Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away secured 1.35m. On the multichannels, Sean Bean's Legends premiered to two hundred and one thousand in the 10pm hour on Sky1. The Strain kicked off with one hundred and ninety one thousand from 10pm on Watch.

The BBC and Sky News called the Scotland referendum’s 'no' result at around 5am on Friday morning, on a night when a CNN poll of polls got it extremely wrong and Mad Frankie Boyle offered a - ungracious and crude (albeit, quite funny) four-letter response to the outcome. Sky News tweeted at 5.03am that the Better Together campaign was on course to win the independence poll, forecasting fifteen minutes later that Scotland had 'rejected independence.' The BBC predicted the same result in a tweet at 5.14am, a minute after it had declared on screen that 'Scotland votes no.' The BBC enjoyed its usual ratings dominance of major live political events. BBC1's Scotland Decides – with two simulcast versions, one fronted by Glenn Campbell for BBC1 Scotland viewers and another hosted by Huw Edwards for the rest of the UK – averaged 1.7 million viewers and a twenty five per cent share from 10.35pm to 2am. ITV’s Scotland Decides averaged four hundred thousand over the same period. CNN claimed a first, although not one it will be shouting about, when its poll of polls gave fifty two per cent to the no campaign and fifty eight per cent to yes. It was corrected an hour later when somebody realised that they'd balls'd it up.
The comedian and serial recidivist Mad Frankie Boyle, who is due to front an iPlayer-only Scottish referendum show for the BBC, gave his own take on the result tweeted out on Friday.
Thanks Mad Frankie, we'll let you know about that position in the diplomatic service. Viewers who stayed up late into the night said the coverage on the BBC, Sky and STV – the ITV licensee in Scotland – took a while to get going, although that was hardly surprising in the absence of exit polls and the first declaration – Clackmannanshire – not happening until 1.30am. The result, in a district which the yes campaign had hoped to win, was fifty threeper cent in favour of no, a foretaste of what was to come. The BBC's Director General, Tony Hall, said in an e-mail to staff: 'I have been up all night and have witnessed first-hand our live coverage of the vote and had the chance to talk to and listen to staff. On television, radio and online, the superb editorial content was enhanced by the brilliant use of technology.' On Friday morning, Scotland Decides' average from 6am to 9am was 1.99m with an audience peak of 2.68m around 8.00am. That was compared with ITV's Good Morning Britain which began at 6am and could only manage seven hundred and seventeen thousand.

Pointless host Alexander Armstrong his very self will voice Danger Mouse when the much-loved cartoon hero returns to TV next year. The comic actor, also known for his double act with Ben Miller, said that voicing the character was 'about as close to a dream job as you could wish for.' Armstrong takes over from Sir David Jason, who voiced the character in ITV's original series from 1981 to 1992. Kevin Eldon will voice sidekick Penfold, Terry Scott's old character. 'When I am recording the episodes, I'll be making sure that at all times my eyebrows are at least three inches above my head,' said Eldon, known for his appearances in Big Train, Nighty Night and Hot Fuzz and his stage work with Bill bailey. Other cast members include Shauna MacDonald and Morwenna Banks, while Dave Lamb - the voice of Channel Four's Come Dine With Me - will take on Brian Trueman's original role of The Narrator. The new Danger Mouse series, which will initially run for fifty two episodes, is due to be broadcast on the CBBC channel in 2015.

Meera Syal has joined the cast of Broadchurch's upcoming second series. The writer and actress will join David Tennant and Olivia Colman in new episodes of the ITV drama, Radio Times reports. Meera has joined the cast on location in Clevedon, but details about her character have yet to be revealed. The first series two cast photo was released by ITV in May, and featured returning actors Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan and Arthur Darvill. Meanwhile, Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Eve Myles and James D'Arcy will also join the cast for the new series.
Dennis Waterman has leave New Tricks, his spokesperson has announced. Waterman is the only original cast member left on the popular BBC1 drama crime series, which is now in its eleventh series. And now, they've all been replaced - just like members of The Saturdays, if you will. Waterman agent Derek Webster told the Mirra that he will only appear in two episodes of next year's twelfth series. He said: 'Dennis has decided to quit New Tricks. There are another ten episodes that they are going to start filming in November and he will be in two of them. So he will be filming with them until the New Year, but then that will be it. Dennis misses the old crew, the original line-up. The chemistry between them on the set was remarkable. It's difficult to get chemistry like that on set and being on the show with new cast members now just isn't quite the same.' Which, one imagines, will have gone down fantastically well with his current cast mates, Tamzin Outhwaite, Denis lawson and Nicholas Lyndhurst. All of whom are far better actors than Waterman. 'I'm not saying there has been a big falling out or anything,' Webster hurriedly added (a little too hurriedly, one might suggest) 'but the original team worked together for ten years, so it was always going to be a bit strange when people started leaving. All of the other leading cast members decided the time was right for them to leave one by one, and now Dennis has decided it is his time to go.' Wall to Wall, producers of the series, thanked Waterman 'for all his years of loyal service', adding that he would remain on screen for a while yet. 'Viewers won't be saying goodbye to Dennis until Autumn 2015, so there will be plenty of time to enjoy the slightly unorthodox antics of his character Gerry Standing,' said a statement from Wall to Wall's Leanne Klein. In 2012, Waterman and his then co-stars Amanda Redman and Alun Armstrong criticised the show's writers for 'playing it too safe' and made some pretty unsubstantiated claimed about how much they, themselves, contributed to the series' scripts. 'You have to remind yourself that people aren't as stupid as writers think. But that's the way things are going in the industry,' Waterman told the Radio Times at the time. This, needless to say, brought something of an - understandably - annoyed reaction from both the show's writers themselves and from the Writers' Guild of Great Britain. General secretary Bernie Corbett said, rather sarcastically: 'It is astonishing and deeply disappointing to hear this from rich and famous celebrities who owe their careers to the scripts they have interpreted, as much as to their own talents. We regret their imminent departure, but we wish them every success in the state of Denmark, and hope that if they find anything rotten they'll acknowledge their own responsibility for it.' Whether the series will continue to use Waterman's - bloody awful - theme song for subsequent episodes after he leaves is not, at this time, known. But, hopefully not.

The BBC has lodged a formal protest with the Russian authorities after a team of journalists was attacked while investigating a story. A news team was assaulted in southern Russia while examining reports that Russian servicemen had been killed near the Ukrainian border. The team was filming in the city of Astrakhan when they were attacked. According to the BBC's Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg, who was part of the news crew, a BBC cameraman was beaten during a scuffle and a camera seized and damaged. The emergency services then took the journalists to a police station, where they were questioned for four hours. During that time, recording equipment which had been in their vehicle at the police station was electronically wiped. All members of the news team are now believed to be back in Moscow. 'The attack on our staff and the destruction of their equipment and recordings, were clearly part of a coordinated attempt to stop accredited news journalists reporting a legitimate news story,' said the corporation in a statement on Thursday. 'We deplore this act of violence against our journalists and call on the Russian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation and to condemn the assault on our staff.' A criminal investigation has been opened, according to Russian news agency Interfax. It quotes Petr Rusanov, head of press for the Astrakhan region's interior ministry, as saying that 'enquiries' had been launched after police received reports that a cameraman had been 'beaten and robbed by unidentified persons.'

Ben Whishaw, who starred in BBC2's The Hour and played Q in the last James Bond film Skyfall, has been cast in the lead role in new BBC2 drama London Spy written by best-selling novelist Tom Rob Smith. Whishaw will play Danny, described as a 'hedonistic romantic', who is drawn into the murky world of the security services when his boyfriend disappears. Rob Smith said: 'Ben Whishaw is quite simply one of the best actors in the country. It's an extraordinary privilege, as a writer, to have him play the lead.' Filming for the five-part series starts next month. Polly Hill, the BBC head of independent drama, said: 'This is a beautifully written love story, caught up in a spy thriller – a wonderfully complex and surprising story, of one man's search for the truth. It promises to be a treat for the BBC2 audience, continuing the channel's commitment to original authored drama.' Whishaw, who will also be the voice of Paddington Bear in the big screen adaptation of the marmalade-loving bear, is expected to return as Q in the latest James Bond film, next year.

On Friday evening, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping was pure dead glad, so he was, to attend the opening Uncle Scunthorpe's Record Player of the autumn season at the Tyneside.
And, a very special one it was too, featuring two repeats, but both welcome ones, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band versus Pet Sounds. It was properly tremendous to see all of the regular gang again after a three month break, listen to two great records, watch a couple of excellent slide shows (Uncle Scunthorpe's ability to time it so that poster came up just as 'Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite' started or the picture of Tara Browne's wrecked Lotus at the correct point in 'A Day In The Life' was commented upon). And, get this, yer actual and his mate Christian his very self only went and won the - extremely pure dead hard, so it was - 'take it to the bridge' quiz. So that was nice. Incidentally, dear blog reader, here's a little something for you to think about. A lot of the photos which Uncle Scunthorpe used for the slide show for Pet Sounds were from the photo session for the LPs front cover - you know the one I mean, The Beach Boys in a petting zoo with various fluffy animals. But, here's the curious thing. They were a six-piece at the time - Bruce Johnston had joined a few months earlier - and all six members were, very definitely, at said photo shoot. Only five of them were on the cover, though - probably because Bruce was still only a member of the 'live' band at that stage, having replaced Brian because of his various nervous breakdown. But, in most of the photos taken only five Beach Boys are ever present at any one time, and often Bruce is one of them. It appears to be a different one missing each time - sometimes it's Carl, sometimes it's Al Jardine, sometimes it's Brian. So, my theory is, The Beach Boys were, actually, a bunch of cheapskates who couldn't be bothered to hire a photographer and simply did the job themselves in a sort-of 'Dennis, it's your turn to take some photos now' style. These, tragically, are the sort of things that keep yer actual Keith Telly Topping awake at night, dear blog reader. Time for Keith Telly Topping's 33(s) of the Day, I suppose. Oh, all right then. This 'un.
And this 'un.
Happy? After those two, you should be. Next week - back on Thursday where it belongs, is a grunge special featuring Doolittle versus It's A Shame About Ray. Tasty.