To AV or Not To AV? by John Newman

That is not just the question but a series of choices apparently. If the referendum next week says Yes to AV or aka Alternative Vote, we will have to choose the candidates in order of preference. Then if the winner gets less than 50% of the vote, the candidate with the least votes is knocked out (not literally we assume) and their second preferences re-distributed. And so on till either a candidate has more than half the vote or is the only one left. The obvious flaw in this system is that if you rank every candidate in order you will potentially get several votes. However if you only vote for one person then you just get the one. Not that the current First Past the Post (which absolutely nobody calls FPTP) is perfect. Presently you can be voted in by a minority of the people in your constituency. More people will not have voted for you than did yet still you can win.


Doctor Who Instants - The Impossible Astronaut

This year, for the new Doctor Who eps we’ll be running two sets of reviews.
Doctor Who Instants will be written by me (John) after one viewing only – as the title suggests they are the initial reaction to each week’s episode.
More comprehensive and analytical reviews of each story will follow a bit later. These will be penned by different reviewer for each.
Oh and needless to say, all reviews contain those dratted SPOILERS so if you’ve not seen the ep in question yet, best not to read them till you have.

Let's Impossible!


Elisabeth Sladen

In the mid 1970’s Sarah Jane Smith lived in the road behind Woolworths. Well, to be accurate,  Elisabeth Sladen’s parents lived there, she lived in London by then. However to the young me she did live in that road, a few minutes’ walk from where I lived. Which was brilliant of course! Once upon a time, when she did actually live there she attended the Elliot Clarke School of dance and drama where sometimes my Dad played piano for dance classes she was in. When she left she presented him with a small gift. Years later, her mum came round to ours with a signed photo because word had got round that I was something of a Doctor Who fan.


Just like the real thing....

A review of the Doctor Who Experience currently open in London.
SPOILERS AHOY if you click to read more....


Top of the Pods by John Connors

It’s been said that atypical Doctor Who often works best but `Seeds of Doom` might appear superficially to be an example where the reverse is true. It shows what the series can do well and what its strengths are. It’s a variation of a story that’s been told often in the show yet something special comes together to make it a prize specimen. No doubt a modern take on this story would highlight the ecological issues but such depth is not needed for what remains at its heart an adventure yarn with a threat our confined heroes have a limited time to sort it out.  Yet within this seemingly traditional format, there is much that is atypical about the story.


A Wing and a Prayer by Richard Farrell

The early 20th century was a period of great social change in Britain which has been explored numerous times on screen. The breakdown of rigid class structure, universal suffrage and the birth of the Labour Party are all explored in series like Upstairs Downstairs, examining how the characters adapt - or not - to such changes. Wings (1977-1978), set during the First War, explores similar themes, featuring two young men from very different backgrounds as they join ‘C’ Flight of the Royal Flying Corps as pilots in France: Charles Gaylion (Michael Cochrane) joins as a Commissioned Officer by virtue of his background while Alan Farmer (Tim Woodward), originally a blacksmith, becomes an NCO down to his natural aptitude in the air.


Reflections by Chris Arnsby

As the Mara is repelled by its own reflection it seems appropriate for it to appear in two stories which are mirror images of each other. On one side Kinda where bold direction masks a script and design that are both a little rough around the edges. On the other Snakedance, a story where the direction is less inspired but the script and design more polished. Two equal and opposite stories where strengths in one story seem to become weaknesses in the other.



Before he was a celebrated window dresser (indeed before most people knew that window dresser was a job) Simon Doonan grew up in Reading in the 1960s in the midst of an eccentric family. His experiences were later novelised in `Beautiful People` which in turn provide the title and inspiration for the BBC series. Adapted and developed in 2008 by Jonathan Harvey (Gimme, Gimme, Gimme) the story was re-set to 1997 and expanded to make it fit the television format.

In the series, the Simon Doonan of now - played by History Boys alumni Samuel Barnett - bookends each episode in his job as window dresser at trendy New York store Barneys. Each display contains an item that provides the hook for the subsequent episode telling the story of how he got his Vase, Nose, Water Feature to name but three. In the second series he is back home in Reading and tells the story directly to the viewer. To describe the series as camp would be an understatement- it does after all include the Minogue sisters on the soundtrack singing `The Winner Takes It All`!  Simon only has to open a fridge door to launch into a song!! One episode describes `camp` being living life “as if...” and this reflects the glamorous fantasies the characters inhabit.


Midsomer Madness by John Connors

There are better ways for a producer to publicise their new series than by drawing attention to an aspect of it that is likely to upset people but which has gone un-noticed for fourteen years. Thus did Brian True- May seal his own fate a couple of weeks ago with ill advised comments regarding the lack of non white characters in Midsomer Murders. He was first suspended by the production company All3Media and then it was announced he’d be leaving the series he has produced from the beginning. His comments may have created a three day media storm in a Tupperware teacup but are unlikely to dent such a venerable institution. May’s mistake was to suggest that the lack of ethnic minority characters in the series emphasised the show’s quintessential Englishness which of course is nonsense. What it in fact actually emphasises is the show’s quaint mixture of the contemporary and historic.