Category Archives: General

Doctor Who – 50th Anniversary


I’m getting a little tired of shouting at a government of fools who won’t listen so, just by way of a change, and notwithstanding my ongoing criticism of the BBC of late, I thought I’d make a more light-hearted post!

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Ghosts of Doctors Past!

The Tardis has had many passengers

The Tardis has had many passengers

On November 23rd 1963, just after 5:15pm, a strange new sound came from the little black & white television in front of which I was sat. The picture was just as strange, and both heralded the beginning of what has become a culturally iconic television series.

Apart from those opening credits, my strongest memory of watching that story, as a 6 year old boy, was of a scene in which the Tardis crew were sitting around a fire cooking meat. So atmospheric was the programme that I was sure I could smell the meat cooking!

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The first appearance of the Daleks, on Skaro

I remember the first appearance of the Daleks, of course, and the second one where a lone Dalek rose from the murky water of the River Thames.

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The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964)

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Daleks in Trafalgar Square, from the same story.

Then there was the first regeneration, from William Hartnell into Patrick Troughton.

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A scene from Patrick Troughton’s debut story, “The Power of the Daleks”.

If the Daleks guaranteed the programme’s longevity, that regeneration extended it. Troughton’s tenure was impeded by rising costs and a reduction in production quality with, for example, extensive use of photographic blowups for the Tardis interior walls, yet the quality of writing and acting kept viewers hooked.

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The Web of Fear (1968) – Yetis in the London Underground

The quality of the show was always a bit variable, but even at times of financial strife it could still often deliver the goods, as when London Underground officials complained angrily about the BBC’s use of their tunnels in the second Doctor story, “The Web of Fear”, even though that story was made in studio sets!

There were also stories set mainly on location, which always improved the production values, such as “The Enemy of the World”, broadcast immediately before “The Web of Fear”, which had location filming, an exploding helicopter and an extra helping of Patrick Troughton, who played both the Doctor and the villain, Salamander.

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Salamander, the Doctor’s doppelgänger in “The Enemy of the World”.

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The next regeneration, into Jon Pertwee, saw the show move from black & white into colour. The added expense of this was reflected by another drop in picture quality, although it was mitigated by Pertwee’s first story being shot on film rather than video, due to a strike.

Almost every clip that is used to show the poor quality of Doctor Who over the years has been the result of innovation. Barry Letts, the producer for almost all of Pertwee’s run, was a pioneer of Colour Separation Overlay, aka Chromakey and a forerunner of the “green screen” process still used today. At the time, there was often a great deal of “fringing” which, to be fair, is much more noticeable now than when first broadcast, as audience expectations have become more sophisticated. (I’ve often noticed,however, that children are as captivated by old episodes as by new ones.)

The Tardis.

The Tardis exterior has remained almost the same for 50 years, of course, but the interior has changed quite a bit, though the basic shape of the central console is unchanged.

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In Jon Pertwee’s first season, the old console from 1963 was still in use, albeit outside the Tardis. It was still painted green, which showed as bright white in a black and white picture.

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Eventually a new console was made, much like the old one, but now gleaming white and metallic.

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That design lasted until 1983, apart from  a wood panelled secondary console room, used for a short time by the fourth Doctor.

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The next significant upgrade was in 1983, for the 20th anniversary story, “The Five Doctors”. This design lasted until the series was cancelled in 1989

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The biggest change was in the Paul McGann TV Movie, in 1996.
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Then, in 2005, Doctor Who returned to our screens with a new Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, and another new console room…
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…which remained until Matt Smith took over from David Tennant.
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Then, on Christmas Day 2012, another new console room was unveiled, one that harked back to the original, with its clean lines, but keeping the much bigger space that the TV Movie and the new series brought.
At the same time, the Doctor’s costume reverted to the vaguely Victorian/Edwardian frock coat which, as it’s already dated at the time of transmission, becomes timeless upon repeated viewings.

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A publicity shot for the Christmas 2012 episode, “The Snowmen”.

The 50th anniversary episode, “The Day of the Doctor”, is planned to be broadcast simultaneously around the world on November 23rd. The production team have kept most of the details secret, quite rightly, but allowed some teasers to escape, most of which can be found in the picture below.

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The next episode after this, the Christmas one, promises to be a bit special too. Matt Smith is leaving the role, and will regenerate into Peter Capaldi.

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I don’t have a favourite Doctor. I’m with the Brig on this – “Splendid chap, all of them!” Even that most derided of actors to take the role, Sylvester McCoy (who takes too much of the blame for his first series’ poor quality on himself, in my opinion), when given the chance to shine, did so.
Since 2005, though money is still tight and the technology is still improving, it has been easier, it seems, to maintain a consistency that the original series couldn’t. No more embarrassing special effects ruining an otherwise flawless production, but still with the heart of the show intact.
Long may it continue.

Click here for the Wikipaedia page on the anniversary special.

Updates:

I’ve been making small updates, as and when new information comes out about the anniversary special, or when I’ve found photos suitable for colourising, but there’s just been a huge announcement about the discovery of previously missing episodes from “The Web of Fear” and “The Enemy of the World”, which deserves a paragraph of its own. The former is now missing only episode 3, and the latter is complete. Before the titles were announced, some people managed to guess one of them, based on the fact that Deborah Watling and Frazer Hines would be making the announcement, and the use of the Great Intelligence in the recent Christmas episode.

“The Web of Fear” episodes are particularly interesting, as they mark the first appearance of Colonel, later Brigadier, Lethbridge- Stewart, as played by Nicholas Courtney. His feet were seen in Episode 1, which the BBC already had,  but they were played by a different actor’s feet. In Episode 2 we see  the character properly for the first time.

Col Lethbridge Stewart

I’m an Electronic Cigarette “Smoker” – 2 Years On (almost)


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The ecig community is growing!

Strictly speaking, my 2 year anniversary of switching to electronic cigarettes isn’t until next month, but so much has happened since my last post on the subject, I couldn’t wail until then.
When I switched, the only source for ecigs where I live, Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, was on-line or mail order (and finding an address or phone number was difficult, so on-line it was!)
A few months ago, not only did some tobacco outlets start selling ecigs, albeit in a limited way, but two dedicated ecig vendors set up their stalls.
The first one sells “ Crystal Clear Vapours” products, and this is the system I’ve settled on. It is the “eGo” battery, with a “Clearomiser” which you fill with the e-liquid that they also sell. The first ecigs I bought came from Mirage, an excellent company with good customer service which I still recommend, and this system is compatible to their “Eros” range.

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A few weeks later, another vendor set up, selling “JAC Vapour” cigarettes, a product that looks much like a real cigarette, and which works automatically without having to press a button, as the other one does. For some people, a “cigalike” can help overcome an initial psychological hurdle. I no longer need that, but the JAC stystem is also refillable, as opposed to requiring the purchase of new cartridges so, had I not already decided on the “eGo” system, I probably would have gone for this one. For some people, a “cigalike” can help overcome an initial psychological hurdle.
(They have also now started selling the eGo cigarettes with the clearomiser.)

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Both these vendors will let potential customers give their product a try, and neither tries to push anyone into buying, so if you are a smoker in the area, I can heartily recommend a visit to both.

It’s not just locally that the profile of ecigs has been raised. Here’s a television advertisement, for an ecig I’ve not tried, so I can’t comment on its quality. It’s good news, nevertheless, that more people will be made aware of a real alternative to smoking.

Eye Eye! What’s Going On?


Regular and observant readers of this blog might have noticed a few posts in recent months without pictures, or with pictures recycled from earlier posts, and I think I should explain, now that (I hope!) the drama is over.

I mentioned in October that I had been rushed to hospital with acute glaucoma, but that I had got there in time to save my eyesight in my left eye. Alas, though my sight was no longer in danger, because I was regularly attending hospital for check-ups, the pressure in my eye wouldn’t stay down, and the consultant decided I needed an operation to remove the lens and replace it with an artificial one.

This was all very alarming, and the discomfort was such that looking at a computer monitor for long enough to do one of my pictures was painful.

I’m not, however, writing this to garner sympathy.

I was nervous about the operation because, well, it’s THE EYE! The mere thought of being prodded in the eye with surgical instruments made me queasy, and I can’t imagine that I’m alone in that.

So, in the unlikely event that one of my readers has to have a similar operation, let me just say what an absolute piece of cake it was. The reassuring noises made by the medical staff could, after all, be believed. (You only have to be fooled once by the words “this won’t hurt a bit” to be distrustful!) The most painful part was the anaesthetic injection in the cheek just below the eye, but that was far less painful that the needle at the dentist. By the end of the operation I was on the verge of falling asleep.

The first night trying to sleep was a bit uncomfortable, like having conjunctivitis, but that soon passed.

There’s a possibility that I might have to have another operation but, if I do, I won’t be as scared. I’ll just be disappointed that I won’t be able to do many pictures for a while.

And all this care is on the NHS! Without it I would probably be blind by now.

2012 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 16,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

 

Food, Glorious Food!


 

Enough, for the moment, of battling AtheistPlus, Pharyngula, Christianity, Islam and other dogmas!

Time to ponder the Epicurean delights to be found at the blog of a friend from across the pond.
 Click on the picture on the left (which can also be found in the blogroll on the right), and you will be transported to a cornucopia of recipes, with a soupçon of jokes and assorted nonsense.

The only problem you might encounter is the American style measurements. If you live outside the USA you may find the following table useful:

Equivalent
ingredient  1 cup 1 tablespoon 1 teaspoon
 White flour  125 gm  7.8 gm  2.6 gm
 Whole-wheat flour  120 gm  7.5 gm  2.5 gm
 Strong white flour  140 gm  8.75 gm  2.9 gm
 Rye flour  100 gm  6.25 gm  2.1 gm
 White granulated sugar  200 gm  12.5 gm  4.2 gm
 Brown sugar  220 gm  13.75 gm  4.6 gm
 Icing sugar  120 gm  7.5 gm  2.5 gm
 Long-grain rice  185 gm  11.5 gm  3.9 gm
 Short-grain rice  200 gm  12.5 gm  4.2 gm
 Wild rice  160 gm  10 gm  3.3 gm
 Egg noodles (dried)  38 gm  2.4 gm  0.8 gm
 Peas (frozen & fresh)  144 gm  9 gm  3 gm
 Table salt  290 gm  18 gm  6 gm

 

About Time For A Post


I haven’t posted here for a while. I blame Richard Dawkins’ ancestors.

The only known photo of an uncle who died years before I was born.

If they hadn’t kept slaves, a Telegraph hack wouldn’t have scribbled that ridiculous story intended to embarrass him, and I wouldn’t have decided, on a whim, to look into my own family tree.

And that’s why I haven’t been here for a while; genealogy is very addictive!

At first, I tried to get back as far as I could. I got back to the early seventeenth century easily enough, and may even have a line I can trace to 1240, if I can resolve a problem with one generation in the eighteenth century, but I soon became more interested with recent generations. All those conversations that went right over my head when I was a child are now ringing some bells, as I begin to put life stories, and even faces, to the names my mother and grandmother gossipped about as I played with my toys.

Me with my mum, when I was 7 months old. I can scarcely believe it's me, so imagining my older ancestors is even more difficult..

My great grandmother. I knew her name, and I even met her when I was very young, but I'd never seen a picture of her before I started my family tree.

I had tried to research my family tree  a few years ago, but couldn’t get further back than 1888. The rising popularity of genealogy has made it much easier to share results online, and there’s more opportunity to cross-check. You can also get quite a long way just using free accounts on various genealogy sites, so it’s worth having a go.

One side effect I’ve noticed is a greater appreciation of time. I have long been of the opinion that many people who don’t accept the fact of evolution are simply overwhelmed by the huge numbers involved. I  can understand the scale of evolutionary time, and even geological time, intellectually. I can’t really envisage that amount of time instinctively, however. It just wasn’t necessary for humans to deal with such big numbers until recently, so we haven’t evolved to do so.

Of course, evolutionary time doesn’t compare with the few hundred years in by family tree, but it’s also difficult to understand the passing of centuries, since no human has lasted much more than a hundred years, and most don’t even get that far. A few real stories about real lives can help understand time.

That won’t persuade dyed-in-the-wool creationists though, unless I can trace my ancestry, precisely, further back than the age they think the universe is!

I’m an Electronic Cigarette “Smoker” – 1st Anniversary



It is now a year (give or take a couple of days or so) since I switched from tobacco cigarettes to electronic ones. Apart from one occasion, when I left the house with the wrong (uncharged) batteries, I haven’t smoked at all (and on that one occasion I hated the taste).
I’ve changed the kind of ecig I use, from cartridges to the tank system. This involves refilling a small plastic tank, the size of a cartridge, with nicotine liquid, but there is no wadding, so each refill lasts longer than a cartridge. You can also see how much liquid is left, as the tank is clear.
The biggest change, however, is the way I “smoke”. When I first switched, I was using the ecig as if it was a real one; that is, I was trying to finish the cigarette, and had to make a conscious effort to stop before using up the equivalent of 20 cigarettes in one go!
Now, though, I can happily go without for longer, knowing that I don’t have to take every opportunity of being outside to smoke, whether or not I’m running low on my nicotine fix. Providing I use a little discretion, I can use the ecig pretty much anywhere.
As I get older, and this carcase of mine gradually falls apart, at least I can breathe more easily than I used to.