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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Bootleg Corner

One of the bootleg Eleventh Hour boxed sets has come my way. I won’t say how – it’s not a trade I’m here to encourage – but it wasn’t difficult to get hold of. At first glance the Chinese DVD packaging is way more attractive than the 'official' version, though on closer inspection it's hilarious. There are logos for CBS, Paramount Studios and the Showtime cable network, a long rambling blurb than conflates the stories from three different episodes, small print in Engrish, and a copyright notice that reads DEXTER (TM). They just cut and paste this stuff so it looks right from a distance, the way that the aliens put together Dave Bowman’s apartment in Arthur C Clarke’s 2001 novel.

(In the novel, Bowman takes down a book from the shelf and the pages are all slightly out of focus. Brilliant detail.)

When I put any one of the discs in my player, it rattles like a saucepan lid. Still works, though. After two separate copyright theft warnings, from Interpol and the FBI (nice touch!), up comes... the Twentieth Century Fox movie logo and fanfare.

Which means that one way or another they seem to name-check almost every random studio except for Warner Bros, the studio that actually made the show.

The box, which has a nice matt finish with classy part-laminated images, also promises Dolby sound (no) and a Spanish language track (there isn’t). The menus on the discs have a home-made look, but they’re kind of pleasing.

And what of the episodes? I assumed that they’d be ripped and stolen from the Warner Archive release, but they aren’t. All the shows are recorded straight from TV.

In fact they’re probably the torrented versions that appeared online within hours of the original broadcasts. They’re widescreen but they’re heavily compressed and nowhere near Hi Def. When you play an episode, it has the CBS ‘eye’ logo in the corner of the screen – the ad breaks have been cut out but midway through you get flashed-up promos for other shows. Someone’s added switchable subtitle tracks in English and two forms of Chinese.

Worth having? Nah. Keep your money and stay legal. It’s barely a step up from a movie stolen by camcorder and if you’re stupid enough to sit through one of those, consider yourself banned from the blog. You probably think that date-expired seafood is a great bargain. I inadvertently bought something like this once before, when I bid on the first season of Carnivale on eBay, thinking it was the real thing. All it did was persuade me to go to Amazon and pay all over again.

But that box, though – love that box.

6 comments:

Scott Harrison said...

Hi Stephen,

I'm still waiting for the British version to be released. I know it wasn't a particularly pleasant experience for you, but it did turn out to be quite a good TV show.

I was fortunate to chat with you about this and your Doctor Who contributions at an Alt.Fiction meeting in Derby.

I'm currently editing an issue of Hub Magazine and have been interviewing some of my friends who are connected with Doctor Who, such as Simon Clark, Mark Morris and Paul Magrs. I would love to interview you too.

I'd appreciate it if you could find the time to take a look at my blog.

Stephen Gallagher said...

I'm only sorry I couldn't make it to the second Alt.fiction event the following year - it was a day with the atmosphere of a mini-convention.

Drop me a line via webguy(at)stephengallagher.com

Gail Renard said...

The great thing about shoddy illegal goods is they do our anti-piracy campaigns the world of good. Pirates will never prosper if first class, legal and cheap downloads are easily available. But I love all the logos on your boxed set, though they forgot the Privy Seal and waxed impression of Del Boy's signet ring.

Kirby said...

I have always enjoyed your contributions to the Doctor Who series "The Warrior's Gate" and "Terminus." Your stories were multi-layered with a lot of intricate ideas going... I'm always picking up new things when I rewatch "Doctor Who."

Have you ever been asked to contribute a script to the new Doctor Who series? I imagine your scripts would be complex enough to fit into the new Doctor Who series. Did you enjoy the series itself?

I write tons of fiction myself including mystery, horror and thrillers along with science fiction blogs for the newspaper I work for. But I can't write science fiction. So I'm always impressed with what the new writers can come up with on Doctor Who.

Stephen Gallagher said...

Thanks for the kind words... I've never been asked to contribute to 'new Who' but they seem to be getting on pretty well without me.

Even if the opportunity came, I suspect that taking it would be an unwise move. The show's in a different place now, and so am I.

Kirby said...

I can see your point very much. Though Graham Harper, one of the old Doctor Who directors, has contributed the series over the last few years. And with very good results.
But I can understand what you're saying. Sometimes a writer have to fit into the pace of the show. For example, I don't write much Doctor Who because science fiction isn't my pace. But I can write well for the Christopher Eccleston Doctor. I can never understand why. Though it's not often I do fan fiction anyway. I prefer doing original fiction.
I really did wish more shows were made of your 11th Hour series with Patrick Stewart. Those were pretty good.