On-page link, opens in this window 06/06/29 Crisis? What crisis?
On-page link, opens in this window 06/06/27 Doctor Who: Spearhead from space
On-page link, opens in this window 06/06/26 Doctor Who: The tomb of the cybermen
On-page link, opens in this window 06/06/25 Doctor Who: The Dalek invasion of earth


Today: the fall of the Dutch government.

Crisis? What crisis?

The latest news: at around 20:30 tonight, Prime-Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende's second government has fallen. This was a direct result of a debate in Parliament that started early last night and ended at around 5:30 this morning.

The whole thing started in May, when Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk announced that MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali had never legally been a Dutch citizen, and was forced by Parliament to reconsider. More background at - with my apologies for the self-link:
On-site link, opens in this window 06/05/21

I'm somewhat hazy on what exactly happened during the past couple of days, but to the best of my knowledge it's as follows. Earlier this week, Verdonk announced that exculpating evidence had come to light and that Hirsi Ali had been a Dutch citizen all along. She also did something that would prove fatal in the end: she negotiated with Hirsi Ali and her lawyers to have Hirsi Ali issue a statement that provided proof for her claims to the Dutch citizenship, but that also stated that Hirsi Ali had provided incorrect information to Verdonk so that Verdonk couldn't be blamed for initially coming to the wrong conclusions.

Last night's long and complicated debate seemed to focus on two issues: had Verdonk acted rashly by going public with the issues surrounding Hirsi Ali's citizenship without giving her the chance to explain herself (Parliament's verdict: yes she had) and had Verdonk abused her power by having Hirsi Ali issue a statement that, along with providing some necessary legal information, exculpated Verdonk for having initially made the wrong decision (once again, Parliament's verdict was that yes, she had). What decided Verdonk's fate may have been PM Jan-Peter Balkenende's slip-of-the-tongue that, in the negotiations about the text of Hirsi Ali's statement, one issue was that it had to be 'acceptable' to Verdonk, which seemed to indicate that one purpose of the statement had been to save Verdonk's political skin.

In the early hours of this morning the D66 political reform party, who form a small faction in Parliament but are represented in the Cabinet because without it the coalition wouldn't have a Parliament majority, proposed a vote of non-approval (marginally less damaging than a vote of no confidence) against Verdonk. This had the support of the opposition but was rejected by 79 against 64 votes. The D66 faction voted in favour, which essentially meant that they would no longer support a Cabinet that included Rita Verdonk. By then it was around 5:30 in the morning, and PM Jan-Peter Balkenende asked to adjourn the meeting to 14:00 to give him time to discuss things with the Cabinet, and so it was decided.

During the day Balkenende announced that Verdonk wouldn't resign and the Cabinet intended to continue until next year's general elections. The 14:00 Parliament meeting was an open-and-shut affair: the Chairman asked the PM to return at 16:00 to inform Parliament about the political consequences of what happened, and then closed the meeting.

Eventually, tonight at 20:30 the two D66 Cabinet Ministers announced that they were resigning. Balkenende then announced that, effectively, the Cabinet had fallen and that he intended to discuss the situation with the queen on Friday.

More Dutch politics and current events:
On-site link, opens in this window Dutch politics in 2006


Today: Spearhead from space, yet another Doctor Who review.

Doctor Who: Spearhead from space

This is a four-part series, first broadcast between 3rd - 24th January 1970. A very brief (and somewhat spoiler-ish) summary of the plot: aliens invade earth and set up shop in a plastics factory, creepy killer mannequins roam the countryside, and the third doctor comes tumbling out of the Tardis and has his first adventure.

Coming only three years after 'Tomb of the Cybermen', it's remarkable how much more modern this series feels. This is partly because it is in colour (a conscious decision by the BBC) and filmed on location (apparently necessitated by 'industrial problems') but mainly because the pacing has increased and much of the story is 'shown' rather than 'told'.

It's interesting to see what Jon Pertwee does with the part. The Doctor must be a tricky character to play - on the one hand, he needs to be a believable hero, a centuries-old alien who is vastly more intelligent than everyone around him; on the other hand he's a comical outsider and something of a trickster. The fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, did the best job integrating the two into an organic whole, I think. In a way Pertwee's performance is more extreme than Baker's: his Doctor can be pretty silly, as can be seen in this episode, but over the years he also grew quite pompous.

As mentioned before the story is set on earth and was filmed on location, which means that we're spared the usual low-budget studio sets that fans have grown to love. The special effects that are there were well within the reach of what was technically possible at the time which means that the whole thing still looks pretty good, with something of the look and feel of an 'Avengers' episode from the Emma Peel era.

My verdict - well, what the hell:


It's highly entertaining. The Doctor singing in the shower cracked me up. And he has a tattoo. And chest hair. Mmmmm, chest hair...

Related links:
Off-site link, opens in new window Outpost Gallifrey: episode review
Off-site link, opens in new window Outpost Gallifrey: DVD review

More Doctor Who reviews:
On-site link, opens in this window Doctor Who reviews


Today: another Doctor Who review.

Doctor Who: The tomb of the cybermen

This is a four-part series starring the second Doctor Who, Patrick Troughton. It was first broadcast between 2-23 September 1967.

The good news:

The not so good news:

My verdict:


For an introduction to classic Doctor Who, even The invasion of the Daleks might be better than this. It is excellent fun, though, and of interest to fans of the show and of science fiction in general.

Related links:
Off-site link, opens in new window Wikipedia: Cyborg
Off-site link, opens in new window Wikipedia: Kit Pedler
Off-site link, opens in new window Wikipedia: Cyberman
Off-site link, opens in new window Outpost Gallifrey: episode review
Off-site link, opens in new window Outpost Gallifrey: DVD review

More Doctor Who reviews:
On-site link, opens in this window Doctor Who reviews


Confession: I'm beginning to become something of a Doctor Who fan.

I saw some Doctor Who as a kid (I seem to recall that was in the Tom Baker era) but if I remember correctly the series was taken off Dutch television because it was considered to be too disturbing for younger children, much to my indignation.

A few weeks ago I bought three Doctor Who DVDs at a bargain sale and since then I've become hooked, spending a rather embarrassing amount of time (and money) on mostly classic Doctor Who. I'm now watching the DVDs that I have in sequence and, well, I might as well take some notes along the way.

Doctor Who: The Dalek invasion of earth

This was my first exposure to the William Hartnell era of the early 1960s, and I enjoyed it more than I expected to.

I don't have the DVD at hand right now, and for any specific information I refer you to the excellent reviews on Outpost Gallifrey that are linked below. One thing that struck me was how some things have changed very much since the time this was made, while other things haven't.

One area where we've progressed by leaps and bounds was special effects, and audio-visual quality in general. It has to be said that this series has some seriously bad special effects (though I have no doubt that they were damned good considering the budget and the technical tools available). It's in black and white, and the BBC Restoration team have done such a great job on it that, now on DVD, it probably looks and sounds much better than it did when it was first broadcast.

What's changed somewhat: the pacing and the acting. In my (very subjective) view the series has much of the pacing and the acting style of stage drama, and pacing and acting styles have changed since it was made. I suppose since television (and movies) came along audiences have grown used to following stories in audio-visual media and need fewer clues to understand what's going on, allowing for faster pacing. Then again, while in the 1960s people tended to sit down to watch television, today's audiences often have the TV on in the background while they're doing other things. (This was mentioned on the DVDs of the 'Millennium' TV series - people complained that they didn't understand what was going on because they were basically listening to the programme rather than watching it.) As for the acting, changes may have been accommodated by the availability of better microphones that allowed actors to speak softly while still being understood.

What hasn't changed, really: the storytelling and the music. It's a story that's still fully accessible to today's audience - even if, particularly, the final episode has plot holes that Barbara could drive a truck through - and the theme music and the score could have been composed today. What did change, however, was the historical context, as the story draws parallels between the Daleks and the Nazis, and World War II was not even twenty years ago when the series was broadcast.

Among the extras - excellent as usual on these DVDs - one stood out for me: a short film of a rehearsal, made by one of the lead actors. It's on a piece of film that had been previously exposed and, apart from being interesting, it's strangely beautiful.

My verdict:

Quite good, actually

This isn't a great introduction to classic Doctor Who - for that, you'd be better off with something that has Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee or one of the later doctors in the title role. It is pretty good, though, and a must-have for fans of the show. It's also an interesting bit of television history.

Related links:
Off-site link, opens in new window Outpost Gallifrey: episode review
Off-site link, opens in new window Outpost Gallifrey: DVD review
Off-site link, opens in new window BBC Shop
Off-site link, opens in new window The Restoration Team

More Doctor Who reviews:
On-site link, opens in this window Doctor Who reviews

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