The Red Lines Page

April 26, 2010

Norton virus

Filed under: drwho — Peter A @ 10:28 pm

Poor Graham Norton. He’s unwittingly inflicted two offences on Doctor Who. The first occasion was when the opening episode of Series 1 was interrupted by his voice transmitted live from the studio of Simply Dance Fever. And then last weekend his animated alter ego popped up and preened in an in-vision advert for Over The Rainbow, inexplicably played during the thrilling cliffhanger conclusion to Series 5’s The Time of Angels.

It’s like he’s the official interruption for Doctor Who, if you don’t count the week off for Eurovision. In fact, let’s blame him for that now as well. He’s practically a rash. A Norton virus.

The first occasion was an accident. But the second was a deliberate decision on prime time BBC One. Viewers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were spared this crass interruption. This must be one of the few occasions when a “regional opt-out” was preferable.

Over five and a half thousand people have complained so far. Some others have suggested it’s an overreaction, or that it’s just “fans” grumbling. I think they miss the point. If the BBC is proud of its prime time dramas, whether Doctor Who or Casualty or EastEnders, why spoil the end of any of them? In what way was the added animation in the service of the programme? How many viewers did they think might say “d’you know, I’m so glad they mentioned that. Especially now. And thank goodness they didn’t wait until the end credits before furnishing that vital intelligence.” Vital intelligence being, by an odd coincidence, what was  missing from whoever authorised the addition on this occasion.

BBC drama production teams spend plenty of time and effort on shot composition, editing, and picture grading. So slapping a distracting animation in bright colours with text to read, over the darkened final scene, and in the process obscuring the leading man’s mouth while he delivers the final lines of the episode, could hardly have been more intrusive.

It’s not the end of the world. It hasn’t brutalised a sacred object. It didn’t “Ruin Doctor Who”. But it did spoil the enjoyment of the story for lots and lots of viewers.

This isn’t the first time that the BBC has done something this stupid, though previously these thoughtless overlay interruptions seem to have been confined to dramas on BBC Three. For some reason, Spooks seemed to suffer more than most — the most egregious example being an episode in which the lead character was silently and poignantly comforting his son after the death of his mum in an affecting long-shot rendered meaningless by a bright advert for a forthcoming programme.

Doctor Who The BBC allegedly conducted a “review” of these trails five years ago, and ignored a similar but smaller rash of complaints at the time.

Their latest mealy-mouthed apology after complaints an order of magnitude greater than that merely suggests the “timing” was inappropriate. Quite what timing would have been appropriate is left to the peeved viewer’s imagination.

I especially like the GallifreyBase news story that points out how unsuccessful the animated advert was anyway:

The cartoon Graham Norton didn’t prevent over two million leaving BBC One once Doctor Who finished. The average audience for BBC One between 7.00-7.05 was 7.01 million and the average between 7.05-7.10 was 4.81 million.

The BBC’s not-quite apology is a bit of an insult, really. But not so much of an insult as suggesting that viewers are so eager to bail on a programme they’ve watched almost to the end that the BBC needs to capture their attention with something else. Or that any viewers tuning in a bit early for Over the Rainbow might think “bugger me, they’ve put Doctor Who on instead — let’s see what’s on ITV.”

In the meantime, I offer the following as further possibilities for similar “advance publicity”:

  • A fruity voice speaking sotto voce over David Archer’s discussion with Ruth about her latest meeting with Sam Batton: “Stay tuned for Front Row, in which Mark Lawson interviews Jim Carey about The Grinch!
  • A dancing animation of Jonathan Ross obscuring the “Rosebud” scene at the film’s conclusion: “From Citizen Kane to Kane and Abel — our new Jeffrey Archer miniseries is coming right up!”
  • A tannoy announcement at the RSC over Horatio’s “Now cracks a noble heart” speech, to remind patrons that tickets are on sale in the foyer for next week’s Mother Goose pantomime.
  • Interrupting the poignant dance conclusion to the drama series Casanova with a snippet of EastEnders in which brutal Phil Mitchell yells about “slaaaaaags!”

Oh no, hang on, they already did that last one. It was in 2005, and the BBC’s mealy-mouthed apology on that occasion suggested that they didn’t really think it was a problem: “We hope it did not affect anyone’s enjoyment of the final moments of this fantastic drama”.

Well, people complaining that it did affect their enjoyment might have been your first clue. And so it is again.

April 21, 2010

Covermount update

Filed under: Audios,drwho,Pest Control,writing — Peter A @ 11:15 pm

The Daily Telegraph has now provided fuller details of the audios that they are giving away free from next weekend. Details here.

Doctor Who BBC audiobooks

Saturday 24th:  The Runaway Train, read by the new Doctor, Matt Smith (and written by Oli Smith)

Sunday 25th: Part One of Pest Control, read by David Tennant

Monday 26th: Get a voucher that you can redeem in WHSmith for Part Two of Pest Control.

Tuesday 26th: Voucher for Slipback, starring Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant

Wednesday 27th: Voucher for Exploration Earth starring Tom Baker and Sarah Jane Smith

Thursday 28th: Voucher for Genesis of the Daleks, abridged novelisation narrated by  Tom Baker

Friday 29th: Voucher for Mission to the Unknown, original soundtrack with narration by Peter Purves

Doctor Who BBC audiobooks

April 15, 2010

Telegraph covermount

Filed under: drwho,Pest Control,press,writing — Peter A @ 11:20 pm

The Daily Telegraph is going to covermount a set of audios as a “Doctor Who Collection”. I’m particularly pleased, because they’re including my audio Pest Control (read by David Tennant) on Sunday 25th and Monday 26th April.

Before that, readers will be able to get new Doctor Matt Smith reading The Runaway Train, which is a bit of a scoop. After Pest Control, the Collection will contain Slipback featuring Colin Baker, Genesis of the Daleks and Exploration Earth featuring Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen, and finally Mission to the Unknown, the soundtrack recording of the single-episode Hartnell-era story that (uniquely) doesn’t feature the Doctor or any of his companions. It’s a Marc Cory Story.

Pest Control (Doctor Who) Doctor Who: Slipback (BBC Radio Collection) "Doctor Who", Genesis of the Daleks and Exploration Earth: Genesis of the Daleks AND Exploration Earth (BBC Radio Collection)

“It’s a thrilling collection of unique original audio stories, rarely-heard radio adventures and classic TV soundtracks,” says Commissioning Editor of BBC Audiobooks, Michael Stevens, “featuring the voices of much-loved Doctors, companions and monsters – including the brand new current Doctor, Matt Smith!”

Updated: corrected the dates and the reference about “Mission…” It’s the soundtrack, not the novelisation.

April 1, 2010


Filed under: April Fool,Technology — Peter A @ 12:10 am

OASIS DITA Technical Committee will today approve an interim renaming of the XML-DITA standard. “Following a successful court case brought by a fundamentalist religious group in the U.S.,” said Susan Denim of the committee, “we are obliged to accept a revision to the Darwin Information Typing Architecture nomenclature. We’ve been instructed that DITA cannot be said to have evolved in a Darwinian way. We’re frustrated, obviously, but the court ruling clearly directs us to accept that the standard is the product of intelligent design.”

“It’s obvious,” reported the plaintiff, a delighted Rev. Josie Watt-Ardeed. “XML is not an undirected series of actions, and therefore cannot uncouple itself from a creationist process. The entire terminology of the so-called XML-DITA points to a teleological argument for the existence of a central creator. I mean, it’s not called ‘single source’ for nothing. The whole Darwin thing is clearly a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. And I’m not talking about a filetype:xml clause, do you know what I’m saying?”

Not all former-DITA specialists are so phlegmatic. An unnamed high-placed IBMer wrote on a personal blog: “This wasn’t the kind of constraint I was expecting. This ruling tears apart my whole conceptual data model. If you ask me, the output is PDF — Pretty D*mn Foolish.” He was subsequently obliged to withdraw this remark for the use of an unresolved reference.

OASIS are now frantically drafting a workable alternative, expected to be published by the end of this year and formalised by 2015. The initial draft is “Architecture-proof Relationship Indication Language”, or “ApRIL (1st)“.

April 1st p.m. updated to add:  Check out some others on TechCrunch.

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