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Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Doctor Who - The Snowmen (First Thoughts)

The Snowmen is the best Christmas Special since Steven Moffat took over, without a doubt. And, for such a complex and busy event, it keeps confusing exposition monologues or wispy godlike prophecy right out of the equation. It is many things and all of them work. Here's how:

Firstly, it's a rip-roaring adventure story. A classic Base Under Siege tale that managed to pull the Doctor from a grief-induced retirement and into a Christmassy yet Chilling alien invasion story. Details and motive are brushed over to make room for scary monsters and creepy villains. 

It has humour and jeopardy but never veers too far into slapstick or unbelievable doom. We meet new friends and old friends and there's even a little nod to an enemy of old that most won't know but fans can pat themselves on the back for knowing. Moffat knows his audience, too - we get the best returning characters, Sherlock Holmes references and enough wink-wink innuendo to keep Tumblr bubbling.

Secondly, this is an introduction to our new companion. And it's done well. There's no big drama, no prophecy or centre-of-the-universeness (yet). Just a capable, intelligent girl who catches the Doctor's eye by asking the right questions and having the same thirst for rule-breaking. Clara Oswin Oswald (for that is the name on her gravestone) is set to be great fun! I just wish I had the first clue as to what she's all about! I wouldn't expect this all cleared up in 8 episodes this year if I were you. As we have been told, this gets more complicated before it gets clearer.

And then, shrouding all this, The Snowmen is a Christmas Special! Big names, snowy Victoriana, action, sadness, a bit of heart-string-tugging emotion and lots of snarling Doctor Who Monsters made this something special. And on top of a cracker of an episode, a new companion, a new mystery, an old villain, a star-studded cast and THAT trailer, we also got a new TARDIS interior (lovely!) and a brand new title sequence and theme arrangement (including a blink and you'll miss it face in the titles). Christmas afternoon telly at its best and 100 times more enjoyable than the too-clever-and-too-busy effort we were given last year. Great fun. Not just a lovely Christmas special ep, but a pretty decent episode full stop!

So, what of our new girl? Well, she's fabulous. And we met two of her... Which means we've not met "Clara Oswin Oswald" three times in all and she STILL hasn't joined as companion! Her story promises to be one hell of a mystery. I hope Moffat knows what he's doing. I suppose only time will tell! I'm excited. That 7b trailer has me bouncing impatiently on my chair. I think I'm most intrigued about the episode featuring our heroes on an aeroplane! Not long to wait now. Another few months... And the wait for Christmas wasn't too bad, was it? Was it? It was, wasn't it. Bugger.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

If I Ruled The X Factor...

So that's another year's X Factor over with, almost. And I've watched roughly an hour and a half of this whole series. I've done my best to keep up with the buzz on Twitter but I really couldn't be arsed to give up my entire weekend for a show I cannot help but think is deeply flawed.

So, as I've probably done before but am too lazy to check on, I shall tell you how I would do The X Factor if I was in charge.

First off, I'd scrap the Theme Of The Week. There's no use giving an awesome RnB singer Dancing Queen to sing on ABBA week. They'd be voted out because that's not their thang! So many great, talented acts have been lost mid-series thanks to their inability to adapt to some Theme that really isn't their thing. All this bollocks about "going out of your comfort zone" is bullshit. Eminem wouldn't throw a Beatles cover on his album, but he's a marvellous rapper! Nobody wants to make (or buy) an album consisting of two ABBA covers, a Christmas song, something to do with love, something that's thought of as a "guilty pleasure" (don't even get me fucking started on that term!) and a frigging unknown 80's power ballad that was No1 in Azerbaijan for a week.

Next, reduce the number of contestants, the number of weeks the show runs for and the number of auditions shown. Sure, it's great to see the funny auditions, but they could throw a couple of episodes on ITV2 showing nothing but shit acts. A week of decent auditions, a week of Boot Camp, the Judges Houses selection weekend and then on to the live shows where ten acts, not bloody twenty and a "wild card" or whatever, sing one song each for the first three weeks (with an elimination each week) and then two each until the final week where the top three acts sing three songs (of their choice and their style) until a winner is crowned. The Mentor system remains, but there are no categories; simply a few acts each, randomly assigned.

Then, instead of giving the winner a shitty cover or an "uplifting ballad that retells their X Factor journey" have them spend a while in the studio, with a few writers and musicians, where they'll come up with a single that matches their talents and style. The songs they've chosen to sing all series (covers) will still be available to download from iTunes or wherever. No need to rush out a shit song; spend some time on a decent single that the winning artist can proudly put on their album.

And then the name "The X Factor" will seem less pretentious and less contradictory, frankly. I don't think that ANY of the X Factor winners have what I think The X Factor means. They're all carbon copies of Robbie, Will Young,  Beyonce, Whitney, Britney and bloody McFly or [insert teeny boyband here].

See? Telly magic.