All entries for Monday 25 April 2005

April 25, 2005

Feeble cliffhangers

I'm enjoying the new series of Dr Who, but I was surprised by the incompetence of the editing recently. They're including a trailer for next week at the end of every episode, and the last story was a two-parter in which part 1 ended with a cliffhanger in which everyone is in mortal danger. So you might think that showing a trailer immediately after the cliffhanger which clearly shows everyone alive and well slightly undercuts your narrative arc. But apparently this wasn't an oversight; here's an email from the BBC (via YakYak ):-

We're sorry that your enjoyment of the new "Doctor Who" series on BBC One has been marred by the trailers for the following episode. The aim of these short trailers is to demonstrate the range and tone of storytelling on offer week by week and we believe it's always important to tease the audience with details of the next adventure. Having said that, we appreciate that a trail that comes midway in a two-part story needs to be handled especially carefully. With hindsight, the BBC agrees that we probably did give too much away within the content of the trail for episode 5. The reason we did this is that we didn't want to leave our very young audience anxious for a whole week about the safety of the Doctor. In future we will take more care to find a balance between not spoiling the impact of the cliffhanger while leaving children thrilled but without anxiety.

It's nice, I suppose, that someone at the BBC is thinking about the anxiety levels of their very young audience, but isn't the whole point of cliffhangers that they should induce, well, anxiety? I remember Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee (the Doctors I watched when younger) routinely being choked, shot, zapped, exploded and lord knows what else at the end of the episode, and I survived without trailers showing them alive and well next week.

Mind you, Doctor Who has some way to go to beat Dragonball Z in the undercutting-your-own-narrative stakes. Also from YakYak, PurpleChair writes:-

"At the end of one episode, Goku (the main character) was poisoned by some kind of space virus that was going to kill him, and no-one knew the cure. There followed a trailer for the next episode, in which the other characters search for some magic bean that they think will cure him. The excited voiceover concluded thusly:



Lecturers bored by lessons in teaching

… is the headline on the front cover of the Times Higher Education Supplement last week (April 22nd 2005).

Some young academics are so unimpressed by universities' attempts to teach them how to lecture that they are dismissing their training as a waste of time.

Fortunately, Warwick isn't one of the institutions cited as suffering from this particular malaise, but still, it raises interesting questions:-

  • Do young academics need training to teach?
  • Has the range of skills required changed much over the last few decades?
  • If so, has the training changed accordingly?
  • If training is a good idea, why do (some) young academics seem to resent it?

As is so often the case, I don't know the answer to any of those questions, but they interest me nonetheless. When I (briefly) taught a little bit of Comp Sci, I didn't find it difficult in the sense of requiring skills which I didn't have, but it was tremendously hard work – the preparation, the physical effort of the lectures, the setting of coursework and exams, and oh god, the marking. Not in a hurry to do that again. But I can't think of a way in which training would have helped any of that.

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