Commentary tracks over films or television programmes are hit-and-miss things; sometimes fascinating insights into the writing, filming and/or acting process, sometimes lengthy awkward pauses interspersed with “uh… yeah… it was really cold that day”. I don’t often get around to them on DVDs, but the ever-splendid BBC offer Doctor Who commentaries as podcasts, and I can quite happily listen to them while wandering around doing other stuff. Very occasionally they don’t work too well without the accompanying visuals (“ah, now *that’s* very significant later!”), but so long as you can remember the episode reasonably well they’re mostly just fine in isolation.
There are a good mix of people involved in the podcast: writers (including the sporktastic James Moran), actors (David Tenant, Catherine Tate, the lovely Freema Agyeman), members of the production team, regular monsters (the actors who regularly play monsters, that is, not the monsters themselves; you couldn’t let a Sontaran loose in the commentary booth). I guess it’s still generally the preserve of somewhat-more-dedicated-than-is-normal (or healthy, for that matter) Doctor Who fans, but the latest commentary, for The Forest of the Dead, is well worth a listen. It’s Steven Moffat, David Tennant and Russell T Davies, not long after the announcement that Moffat is to take over from Davies as lead writer and executive producer for the fifth series, and there’s a lot of excellent banter between the three, with an occasional digression to talk about the episode.
Another pointer for a BBC programme while it’s still available on iPlayer. The title’s a bit of a give-away, it’s all about the Gutenberg Press, and is presented by Stephen Fry; over the course of it, he and a team build a replica of the original press (probably), make the paper, and cast at least one of the letters of movable type. Wonderful stuff.
I quite enjoyed Sky’s adaptation of The Colour of Magic. It’s not my favourite of the Discworld books, I didn’t come to it steeped in the works of Leiber, McCaffrey, Howard and the like that it frequently parodies so missed out on much of that side of it. I think the adaptation benefited from combining it with The Light Fantastic, which has a bit more of a plot to string the vignettes together. I’m not the greatest fan of Rincewind either, so don’t hold any great religious convictions about how he should be portrayed, and I thought David Jason worked very well in that role. Sean Astin wasn’t bad as Twoflower, if not spectacular, Tim Curry made a splendidly villainous Trymon, Christopher Lee was a suitably portentous replacement for Ian Richardson as the Voice of Death, James Cosmo was a fine Archchancellor, Karen David was a rather striking Liessa… in fact the cast as a whole worked well. It’s been a long time since I read either of the two source books, so I couldn’t say how closely it stuck to them, and wasn’t exactly laugh-out-loud funny for the most part, inevitably losing some of Pratchett’s word-play and references in the transition, but it passed the time nicely enough as a way to unwind.
The BBC have been doing a series, Worlds of Fantasy, about… err… Worlds. Of Fantasy, strangely enough. Unfortunately they stuck them on at the same time as Torchwood, and I never got organised enough to record the repeats, but huzzah! for iPlayer. The first was fairly so-so, looking at child heroes. The second was better, devoted to Tolkien and Peake with contributors including the incomparably magnificent Joe Abercrombie. The third I found most interesting of all, what with goodly chunks of, amongst others, Pratchett (I thought Hugh Jackman’s rig in Swordfish was ludicrous Hollywood invention, turns out they just got PTerry’s actual setup and scaled it down a bit), Moorcock, Lemmy, Richard Bartle, World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, and Neil Gaiman (I’d like to withdraw the previous labelling of Joe Abercrombie, he’s in fact comparably magnificent to the comparable magnificence of Neil Gaiman). Anyway, I’d entirely forgotten about it as per usual until Melmoth mentioned it, and I just caught it before its seven days on iPlayer expired. If you happen to be reading this within about 24 hours of the posting date, you’ll be just in time, otherwise sorry! It was good, though.