Tag Archives: eggs

5 things I learned from A Town Called Mercy

1. A town called Topical

How extraordinary that the TARDIS crew should be heading off to Mexico for the Day of the Dead festival, this week of all weeks. Were they on their way to get some ideas for sugar skull tattoo designs?

2. A town called Meh

I don’t know about you, but for me cowboys and the Wild West aren’t interesting enough in themselves that you can just drop the Doctor and a Terminator into the genre and hope for the best. And sure, murky moral quandaries around war criminals can be interesting, but, you know, I’ve already seen all of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And don’t even mention the Bechdel test. No, it wasn’t for me this week. Still it was nice to hear The Stolen Earth‘s Hanging On The Tablaphone rescored for banjo.

3. A town called Dolittle

I am excited though to see we really are running with the idea first introduced a couple of years ago that the Doctor can talk to animals. Always  a much underused ability of Wonder Woman’s in her tv series I felt, and it could make Doctor Who a very different show. Talking transgender horses brings us one step closer to Tom Baker’s talking cabbage companion idea. I’m all for it.

4. A town called Narrative Distancing

Does anyone have any grasp on what Amy and Rory’s Doctor/life balance is any more? Do they go about their normal lives with the Doctor dropping in occasionally as the last two weeks have told us, or are they travelling with him so much that ‘Our friends are going to start noticing that we’re ageing faster than them’ as Amy said this week?  It’s so inconsistent that it makes it difficult to care, and caring about it right now would be good.

(More questions: Did they wave a cathartic goodbye to the ordinary world and leave Earth for good on their wedding night, or were they suddenly living at home again at the start of The Impossible Astronaut? Did the Doctor say goodbye to them so finally in The God Complex that he actively avoided bumping into them in a Colchester department store, or did he go on to pop up in their house every other week since then? All of the above adds up to none of the above, emotionally.)

5. A town called EGG!

Yes, this year’s secret recurring element was back again. Oh it’s all very well Den Of Geek coming up with clever and entirely plausible theories about flickering lightbulbs, my money’s still on the eggs. In my mind we’re now building up to a final confrontation on the Fields of Trenzalore between a horde of Tythonian ambassadors and a cluster of Chimeron babies. My mind, ladies and gentlemen. My mind.

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5 things I learned from Asylum of the Daleks

1. PUBLIC TRANSPORT OF THE DALEKS

You know when you get on a bus and everyone’s just stuck with inertia standing around near the front so that you can’t get to the stairs or the seats at the back? Or, worse, when you don’t get on a bus because it doesn’t even stop because of chumps like that blocking the downstairs, even though the upper deck is half empty? It looks like Dalek buses would be a dream. Look how neatly they’ve filed into their little rows, filling them up right to the end so there’s room for everyone. Subtract love and add anger all you like if it makes for smoother bus journeys.

2. NEW DO OF THE DALEKS

Rory’s ‘done a Professor Green’, and very nice too.

3. SKulls of the daleks

What with the Vashta Nerada, last year’s pit of flesh-eating skulls and now these animated skeletons with Dalek eyestalks it looks like Steven Moffat’s got a real boner for bone. It’s a confident series that introduces something so creepy and visually exciting and then has them on screen for less than a minute. Still, toys will be available I’m sure.

4. FETISHwear of the daleks

Seriously, where did the Daleks pick up these strapped-up, dead-eyed fellas from? I think that bus I mentioned earlier was headed to Vauxhall on a Saturday night. In Amy’s lovely Daleks-as-people delirium the collective Dalek consciousness is very vanilla – all dinner suits and little ballerina girls. So it’s interesting to think they dress up their lackeys with a view to vicarious pleasures of a stronger kind.

5. SOUFFLé OF THE DALEKS

I love that the entire dramatic denouement, and presumably Oswin’s year-long compulsive soufflé making, all hinged on a pun on the word ‘eggs’. So if an egg obsession is a sign of potential Dalek invasion from the subconscious, let’s keep a close eye on: the Great British Bake Off contestants, Edith Massey in Pink Flamingos and, er, ahem, anyone writing a blog that seems to feature them just a little too much.

YouTube Watch: Separating Eggs

The white and the yolk. They belong together, don’t they. Well not if you’re making a pâte sucrée with a meringue on top they don’t. But who dares tear them apart? I’ve checked out the best instructional videos…

How To Separate Egg Whites Our selection opens with some no-nonsense tips backed by some ominous jazz-grill background music. Don’t go driving shell fragments into the white. Keep the bowl to hand. It’s all good stuff, so let’s not be disheartened to see that the bowl looks like something surgeons would plop your organs into during an operation. The method here is Floating Yolk, Dripping White, and everything’s presented beautifully. 4/5

How to Separate Egg Whites and Egg Yokes Short and to the point, with the same ‘to me, to you’ half-shell pass in play. So what’s new? The musical intro is a bit more dramatic, and the presenter beckons us to the close-up coquettishly. But what’s that typo in the title? YOKES. It says more than it knows. Are the yolk and the white pressed into service together like oxen? Do they secretly long to be free? Practicality takes over and we have to cast such thoughts aside. 3/5

The Egg White is Separating from the Yolk Who’s this, then? Yes, it’s Almine De Villiers, The Rt. Hon. Countess of Shannon, and she’s got some inspiring thoughts to share with us. Like an egg, society has LITERALLY split into two different realities we hear – that of those who are awake and that of those who are asleep. And quite right too! Imagine if dreams and the waking world crossed over! We’ve all seen THOSE films. No, hang on, it turns out she doesn’t literally mean ‘asleep’, she literally means ‘asleep’ figuratively – it’s all about spirituality of course. A highlight is when she describes all the unenlightened people she sees in the street as ‘retarded’ and ‘drooling’. At the end she says she hopes no-one was offended. But still, we can’t allow this eggless ramble. I’ll do the badly thought-out metaphors round here thanks.  1/5

How I separate egg whites. Back to the kitchen, but oh what a spooky one. A darkened, cropped frame reveals whites and yolks all in a bowl together already. “I just play around with them,” says a deep, cracked voice, occasionally breaking off to cough. A spoon teases the yolks up and down towards the camera. It’s like Saw. “Sometimes you can’t get the white out of it, or your hand trembles…” our narrator adds. “Just move on to another one.” There’s some talk about protein and biological value while the spoon gestures violently away. Finally, suddenly, it stabs down repeatedly, mingling all the white and yellow in the bowl together whether they like it or not. The Blair Witch of instructional videos. 2/10

如何巧妙分离蛋清蛋黄 very cool way to separate yolk from egg white
And here we are. The miracle method. I saw this today thanks to Michael. It’s so simple. So sensual. They say nature abhors a vacuum – well this is proof that an egg yolk doesn’t. It fucking loves it. You hardly need any more words from me – just watch it – but look at how, after being separated in the most elegant and perfect way possible, the egg and yolk are soon reunited – separate but together. Perhaps that’s all they ever wanted  5/5

Chicken & Lantern: Series 3

Whatever happened to Chicken & Lantern? After the animated time-travelling pair’s poorly-received 1985 series producers were keen for a new direction with more focus, and with the departure of Bruce Willis (who had become too expensive for a BBC children’s show budget) Lantern was recast; Burt Kwouk inevitably taking up the part. His warmer, more reassuring Lantern allowed Prunella Scales to make Chicken more of a flighty, unpredictable character again. But crucially, the third season became defined by two things: an ongoing story with cliffhangers rather than standalone episodes, and the idea that Chicken needed a nemesis…

(If you’ve never heard of Chicken & Lantern, here’s the introduction to the first series.)

SERIES 3 EPISODE GUIDE

6 x 10 minute episodes

Transmitted on BBC1, Wednesdays at 4.35pm, 3th September – 8th October 1986

Episode 1: Cock and Conservatory

Chicken and Lantern arrive back in 1986 Basingstoke – or so they think! Passing by the window of a Radio Rentals they glance at the television and are horrified to see the band ‘Four Star’ performing their hit ‘Can’t Wait Another Second’. Lantern quickly deduces they’ve passed into a parallel universe where the band they know as Five Star only has four members!

To find out what happened to the missing Pearson sibling, the duo make haste to Romford, where they find Stedman imprisoned in a sinister conservatory. In freeing the should-have-been pop star, they’re accosted by this universe’s version of Chicken: a male fowl known as Cock who’s deliberately perverted history to take a share of Five Star’s millions for himself. With Lantern trapped in the doors of his counterpart Conservatory, and Chicken pinned down by Cock, things look grim – until all five Pearsons arrive and distract the evil pair with a slick dance routine to their hit ‘Find The Time’. Chicken & Lantern channel the power of dance to return to their own universe but their warped alter-egos pursue them…

Episode 2: Running Like Cockwork

It’s a nerve-jangling chase through time, as Chicken and Lantern try to shake off the evil Cock and Conservatory. They travel to the Ice Age, to a distant future in which everyone in the world is asleep, and finally to 1945 for a tense showdown in the New Mexico desert, minutes before the world’s first nuclear explosion. In retrospect, these abandoned locations were clearly chosen to showcase the dynamics between the new line-up of characters. Cock, a self-loathing, misanthropomorphic character whose malevolence and goals were never satisfactorily defined, was voiced with Shakespearian bile by Daniel Day-Lewis. Burt Kwouk recalls that Day-Lewis’s insistence on method acting resulted in his turning up to recording sessions coated in discarded chicken skin, seething with rage and feathers, and refers to him mildly to this day as “an unpleasant man”. Conservatory meanwhile was a less talkative presence than Lantern, more of a means of getting from time to time than a character in his own right, and his dialogue consisted mostly of a series of frustrated grunts. He was portrayed by Matthew Waterhouse.

Episode 3: Big Bang Bang Chicken

The episode 2 cliffhanger saw all the characters caught in the blast of a nuclear detonation. But long-term fans didn’t worry for our heroes’ safety, when the title sequence itself shows that exposure to fire only hastens Lantern’s ability to escape from dangerous situations. And as Conservatory only needs the warming rays of the sun on its indoor tomatoes to power its timeflights, all our protagonists find that the atomic blast propels them further through the vortex than ever before, to the beginning of the universe itself.

The primordial forces force our heroes into yet another showdown with their baleful counterparts. In abstract scenes reminiscent of the wilder excesses of Series 2, everyone discovers their archetype. Conservatory and Lantern meet the Unifying Force Of Practical Design, an avuncular demigod clearly based on Terence Conran, while Chicken and Cock face their own natures at the court of the god Gallus Galactis (the self-styled ‘Star Chicken’). It’s here we discover that Cock’s loathing for Chicken is merely the twisted product of his intense desire for her, and as all the characters head off through time again, he vows to make her his own.

Episode 4: Acockalypse Now

From the beginning of time to the end of the world! There was a popular belief in the 80s that the world would end in 2012, and the year we live in now was the setting for Episode 4’s showdown. We might laugh at some of the predictions the writers of 26 years ago made, but for fans this is a poetic and well-regarded episode. Arriving in Skegness in 2012, Chicken and Lantern discover a grey world winding down towards death – the suggestion is very much that the end will come with a whimper. Holidaymakers shuffle slowly along rusting moving pavements and communicate with each other through a network of telephone-linked Olivetti electronic typewriters slung around their necks. As the colour begins to fade from  Lantern as well as from Conservatory’s tomatoes, it seems our heroes are trapped. “What is… this… terrible place?” asks Burt Kwouk in a tearjerking speech as he flutters on a makeshift deathbed under the pier.

Ironically it’s Cock’s selfish desire to escape that reinvigorates society and saves the planet, as he’s been preserving a mystic Century Egg inside Conservatory. On breaking it open, colour is returned to the world and our leading characters are able to time travel again. But as Chicken and Lantern depart, Cock confides in Conservatory that he knows exactly where they’re headed…

Episode 5: Cock Party

“I hate the term Stag Party,” hisses Daniel Day-Lewis in this episode. “The opposite of HEN is COCK.” In an unusual move, this Cock-centric episode doesn’t feature the title characters at all. Set entirely inside Conservatory, while in pursuit of Chicken and Lantern through the time vortex, it features Cock reflecting on his recently realised love for Chicken and his plans to capture her heart. We also see flashbacks which explain his origin. A happy childhood as a family pet is marred forever when the eldest son of the family, drunk on his first taste of sherry, attempts to carry out a rough caponisation on Christmas Eve. Escaping from this terrifying ordeal, Cock swears vengeance on all humanity and stumbles into a garden centre where his partnership with Conservatory is forged.

It’s largely a monologue for Daniel Day-Lewis although Matthew Waterhouse grunts as he’s never grunted before.

Episode 6: We Are Feathered Here Today…

The final episode of the series saw Chicken and Lantern crashland in Russia, 1912 – the power of the Century Egg has allowed them to travel by exactly 100 years only. Anticipating this, Cock is already in league with Rasputin and soon brings the mystic’s hypnotic powers to bear on Chicken, resulting in Prunella Scales’s unforgettable speech. ‘I love Cock,’ she sighs. ‘No-one compares to him. So even should I never see another living soul, I’d gladly spend every waking hour of every last day of my life with my poor stunted wings wrapped around Cock.’ Delivered in a dreamy monotone, it gave a  generation of impressionable children pause for thought.

The climactic wedding scene in the Tsar’s Winter Palace was no less memorable. Just as it seems the mesmerised Chicken is about to pledge herself to Cock forever, Lantern finally escapes from Conservatory by using all his strength to smash through a double glazed window-pane. In tatters, he shines a light of truth upon Chicken, causing her to declare ‘I cock-a-doodle don’t!’ and the two dematerialise as the crowd turn upon their tormentors. The closing moments, in which the Empress hurls a shivering, plucked Cock into a large pot of boiling water along with poor Conservatory’s prize tomatoes ended the series on a disturbing note. Daniel Day Lewis’s horrible screams would echo in children’s ears until the fourth – and final – series was finally broadcast.

Chicken & Lantern: Series 2

As we have seen, the success of the first series of Chicken & Lantern was marred by the acrimonious departure of David Yip after the final episode. With a second series to be written and produced, and BBC executives pronouncing that it should be appealing to a potential North American audience, up-and-coming actor Bruce Willis was cast as Lantern. His wisecracking performance shifted the dynamic of the show entirely, forcing Prunella Scales to play Chicken as a more thoughtful, maternal character — perhaps understandable after the events at the end of the first series.

Controversially, the title sequence was reshot, and while its story of how a rotisserie chicken escapes her spit to travel through time on a Chinese lantern was much the same, it was relocated from a Basingstoke shopping precinct to Chinatown, New York City. No on-screen explanation was ever given for this contradiction, although after the show’s cancellation the continuity-heavy fan-written novels of the 90s put forward any number of wild theories to reconcile it.

SERIES 2 EPISODE GUIDE

6 x 10 minute episodes (one episode never transmitted)

Transmitted on BBC1, Mondays at 4.45pm, 7th January – 11th February 1985.

Episode 1: Whaddya Know, JCDecaux? Touching down in what they believe is present-day New York after some unseen adventures, Chicken & Lantern soon realise they are in their personal future after catching sight of a billboard featuring Chicken advertising a new egg-based easy-bake cake mix. Throughout the episode, Chicken is accosted by fans, and the contrast between her unexpected celebrity status and her insistence that she would never advertise such a product is played for full comic effect. Today this episode is generally regarded as poorly-written and an excuse for Bruce Willis to oversell his role. The fact that the events leading to future Chicken’s apparent change of principles are never explored is cited by many as the beginning of the end for the show.

Episode 2: Kentucky Fly Chicken Arriving at Knob Creek Farm in the 19th Century, the duo help to convince a young Abraham Lincoln that slavery is wrong, in an episode widely derided by TV historians for its uneasy mix of sledgehammer moralising and childish innuendo. The scene in which the boy Abraham nearly drowns in the swollen Knob Creek is thought to contain some particularly inappropriate dialogue.

Episode 3: [untitled – never broadcast] There are a lot of rumours about the banned episode of Chicken & Lantern. This is the truth. On seeing an early version of the season’s first episode in post-production, Michael Grade was furious. At a now infamous BBC drinks party, he attacked the production team for going too far to appease the hoped-for US audience and shouted “It! Should! Be! Educational!”. When challenged as to what he thought would be a good educational topic, he responded, off the cuff, “Oh, I don’t know! Do something about the chicken’s evolutionary relationship with the dinosaur.”  Skulking away furiously, the production team came up with the never-shown episode that the fans have since unofficially dubbed ‘The Partridge Family‘.

The myth goes that Prunella Scales refused to record any dialogue for the episode upon reading the script and ordered the rest of the voice cast to walk out too. Lines like “Get the cluck away from him, you motherclucker!” were quoted in fanzines. But in reality, the creative team always intended, mutinously, that it should be a dialogue-free episode.

The plot was simple: arriving in Jurassic times, Lantern is trapped in a muddy swamp and Chicken is carried off by a pterosaur. The rest of the episode follows Chicken’s epic battle with a tyrannosaurus rex and is soundtracked only by the relentless, terrifying beat of a taiko drum. Those of us who saw the pirate VHS tape that was circulated in the late 80s will never forget the sight of Chicken — her skin torn to reveal a flash of white breast meat, a flint knife tucked under her wing and a strip ripped from her pinafore to form a grim bandana around the stump of her head — emerging bloodsoaked from the prehistoric jungle. It could never have been broadcast.

Episode 4: Fowl Play With creative tensions at breaking point behind the scenes, this gentle episode was conceived as a throwback to the style of Series 1. While the idea of the adventurous pair meeting Shakespeare in a woodland glade on the banks of the Avon during the writing of As You Like It — with Lantern inspiring the character of Touchstone — was a sound one, the execution is generally considered boring. These days the episode is only really remembered for Bruce Willis’s terrible delivery of the line “Thou art damned like an ill-roasted egg,” and the audible tut from Prunella Scales that somehow remained in the final edit of the sound mix.

Episode 5: I’ll Be Beak

Chicken and Lantern arrive in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of a 21st century that they soon learn is ruled by vengeful machine overlords. They quickly head back to the present day, but a relentless cyborg goose pursues them. Lantern takes centre stage in the high-octane thrills that follow, as he darts and drifts through an abandoned foie gras factory to lead the cybernetic goose (voiced by Dolph Lundgren) to its doom. Bruce Willis often fondly recalls his performance in this episode as a career-defining highlight, claiming that he’s never grunted harder.

Episode 6: To be hidden in the face of God from the disturbance of men is to be fortified with this dark contemplation against all the chances which may come upon the soul

After the dinosaur fiasco, the creative team knew they’d never work for the BBC again. They knew that the third series of Chicken & Lantern would be put together by new blood and that this was their last chance to produce an episode that defined their era. And so the episode of C&L that ensured its lasting status as a student cult classic was born.

We see Chicken ensconced in the wimpole and habit of a Carmelite nun. She slowly paces the cloisters of a mediaeval Spanish monastery, her crispy, half-roasted skin gleaming with the secret ecstasy of mystical contemplation — the exact opposite of a headless chicken.

We see Lantern, captaining a silver rocket ship as it zips through an increasingly psychedelic landscape, dispensing bolts of red and golden light into the ether.

And we see an old man, named as ‘Qi’ in the credits, collapsed across a table in the Cantonese restaurant from the title sequence, his food-poisoning fever-dreams seeming to encompass all of Chicken and Lantern’s adventures to date.

None of these realities are presented as any more “real” than any of the others. Children everywhere were mystified and haunted by the closing sequence.  We zoom in through the window of Chicken’s monastery cell, towards her and right down her gaping neck cavity. There we find Lantern in his silver rocket ship, passing through the great red and yellow caves of her insides, before we plummet through the windows of the cockpit, right up to Lantern, and right inside him, where we see that he contains a monastery on a hillside, which we plunge towards only to find Chicken, as the sequence repeats again and again. All the while a not-quite subliminal image of Qi sweating and retching flashes on and off. After two lifelong minutes of this, the screen goes blank and we hear Prunella Scales squawk one final word before the credits roll silently. To this day the fans wage online wars as to whether her defining proclamation was “Source!” or “Sauce!”.

But of course the third series would change everything again…

Tied up with string: July

SOME ALBUMS

I didn’t even think I liked trance. But the way Tom Ewing’s Guardian article described araabMUZIK’s Electronic Dream made it sound irresistible: the sounds of the genre chopped and screwed about until they sound like a distant memory of euphoria. I’m a sucker for that sort of thing (see also: Burial; The Caretaker) and Electronic Dream doesn’t disappoint. It’s woozy and energising all at once, ideal headphone music for a cushion against the world.

Then there’s Selena Gomez & The Scene’s When The Sun Goes Down, a perfect and pristine album that I recommend to anyone not afflicted by music snobbery, and Lil B’s I’m Gay (I’m Happy) which is as rambling and melodramatic a rap album as you like. And I do.

SOME TELLY

Sometimes it’s no bad thing to give a show a go just because you fancy someone who’s in it. So if we started watching Sirens solely on the promise of staring at Kayvan Novak for an hour, we ended up finding it funny and warm and clever enough to justify a chunk of Monday night on its own terms every week. But from the reviews I’ve seen, we’re on our own in rating it. Hope it gets a second chance.

 AN ADVERT

Lurpak have pulled out all the stops with their food porn spectacular Kitchen Odyssey. Beautifully art directed and technically brilliant, it includes the most exciting slo-mo close-up egg-smash I’ve ever seen.

ANIMAL OF THE MONTH

Yes, it’s a baby pangolin. No, I don’t need a special reason. Let’s all just stop and look at its little face. There.

Celebrity Families: The Brookses

There’s a major celebration going on as I arrive at the Brooks mansion. It seems as though branches of the family from all over the world have gathered together for this special Sunday lunch. Mum Elkie is singing and playing the piano (standing up for some reason), her American cousin Avery is tossing a baseball from hand to hand and Rebekah, the woman I’m here to profile, is at the centre of it all. “What’s the special occasion?” I ask her.

“Things are just going really, really well at work,” she says, smiling tightly. “I’ve got some exciting new opportunities coming up and I’m just really happy with how everything’s turned out.”

As if by magic her dad Ray appears. I ask if he’s proud of his daughter. “She’s a terrible disappointment to be honest,” he says in a warm voice. “I used to tell her she could be anything she wanted when she grew up, but —”

“Dad you were always getting me to dress up as a knight, or a deep sea diver, or a clown!” scowls Rebekah.

“They’re good steady jobs! And I had the costumes lying around.”

“You substantially and deliberately misled me. You’re fired.”

“Big deal,” says Ray, slouching off.

Mum Elkie hands Rebekah a glass of a pale purple drink. “Never mind, love, have a swig of this. It’ll make you see what you want to see, and be what you want to be.”

“Well I don’t have any difficulty with that,” Rebekah snaps. “Things are going really well!” Just then there’s a knock at the door. It’s cousin Mehcad, back from the shops. “Have you got my shredder from Argos?” shrieks Rebekah excitedly.

“You said eggs!” smiles Mehcad handsomely, proffering a basket.

“It is inconceivable that I knew about or worse, sanctioned these appalling eggs,” snaps Rebekah in reply.

I spot great-aunt LaLa from America in the corner, sipping from a crystal goblet. I walk up to her and ask her if she wants to dance. She declines, so I ask her about Rebekah’s romantic life.

“There was a guy once,” she says. “Somebody told me that his name was Bill. They had a disagreement about her stance on domestic violence though.”

We’re interrupted as Rebekah raises a furious toast to her own success, forcing everyone to join in while glaring at them.

“What do you think the secret of your success is, Rebekah?” I ask afterwards.

“I learned everything I know from my grandad Mel,” she says proudly. I turn to the beaming old man and ask him what his story is.

“I don’t know,” he says slowly. “I had a good story once. An idea about someone who creates a piece of entertainment in the most cynical way possible, who deliberately embraces and celebrates evil, and yet somehow fools the public and their backers and ends up a great success. It was a silly idea really.”

Rebekah hands me a knife. “Time for the carve up!”

[continued on page 38]