It’s a week on, but still the Rose of Tralee is the TV gift that keeps on giving, the annual event that can generate news, views and plenty of water-cooler discussion over the following days. This year’s worthy winner was the Philadelphia Rose, Maria Walsh who hails from our neck of the woods, Shrule. So even though the first Rose to represent Galway in ten years didn’t come out on top we Galwegians can claim Maria – tentatively – as our own, seeing as she declared that half of her bedroom is in Co. Galway. Although she did come out in support of Mayo at last Sunday’s Football Semi-Final. Well, we all have our faults. Anyway, despite being the penultimate lovely girl to be “interviewed” by Daithi, she was immediately every Twitterer’s pick to take home the tiara. Her dress was the best, her hair was the best, and she had the best ladybird tattoo honouring her cousin. And, as was reported during the weekend, she became the first (openly) gay Rose of Tralee in history. Go Maria!
But even though we have a fresh new Rose who is sure to represent the title beautifully, the rest of the show was the same old exercise in awkward cringe. Host Daithi O’Shea hightailed it The Dome on Monday evening to kick off two nights of entertainment largely in the form of song murdering and self-penned poem mauling. There was an Irish dance; there was an interpretive dance. The women were a largely lovely bunch, as always, and (again, as always) the Newbridge Silverware jewelery they’re required to wear did nothing for the 90s Debs frocks most were dressed in.
Anyone who has ever been to the festival in the capital of Kerry has nothing but good things to say about it – the craic, the atmosphere, the general feeling of fun. The live show is actually the end of a weeklong celebration, so God knows some of the Roses will be the worse for wear by the time their turn on stage is up. At the end of night one we were treated to the barely contained mania of the Dallas Rose, whose one-liners were delivered with the over-confidence of an American not used to our self-deprecating ways. Likewise on Tuesday night, when the Kentucky Rose faced backlash when she fired out one too many zingers for the general audience to laugh along with. With no unexpected on-stage proposal this year the quirky bit was handled by Daithi who accepted his Ice Bucket challenge, and in turn nominated three past presenters. Ray D’Arcy and Marty Whelan duly obliged and in doing so reminded this cynic that while the annual competition has its lows, its heart is forever in the right place.
Another slightly more far-reaching television event occurred on Saturday with the return of Doctor Who in his new Peter Capaldi shaped regeneration. Much has been made of his new face – the actor has actually appeared on the show before, back in 2008, as an official from Roman era Pompeii – but also because the programme had previously gained a whole new fan base in teenage girls with, at first the convincing romantically charged rapport between David Tennant’s Doctor and his companion Rose (Billie Piper) and later when the Doctor was played by dreamy Matt Smith, the youngest actor to take on the role. At 55 Capaldi is joint oldest, alongside William Hartnell, and efforts are being made to take the show in a decidedly less flirty, more platonic direction with current assistant Clara. If the first episode is to be any indication though, the teenage girls who were drawn in by the heart-throbs will stay for this compelling and complicated new incarnation.
And so it began, with an agitated dinosaur roaming Victorian London and coughing up a time-machine masquerading as a police telephone box. Series regulars Madame Vastra, the ancient lizard-like detective, her wife Jenny and servant Strax were on hand to ease the Doctor, shaken and stirred from his regeneration, not to mention his encounter with the prehistoric mammal, and Clara, beside herself with the loss of ‘her’ Doctor and struggling to adapt to this new version.
Jenna Louise Coleman has divided fans and critics in her portrayal of Clara, and the character itself has come under fire for being inconsistent and somewhat bland. In this first episode of the new series however, she certainly displayed her acting chops, while the character began to take on a new and much more interesting shape. A meeting in a restaurant revealed the villain of the hour, a pre-history robot (yes, really) who kept himself alive by constantly updating his body parts stolen from unfortunate and unsuspecting innocent bystanders, and a thrilling scene saw Clara try to escape his lair by desperately holding her breath in an effort to remain undetected as she maneuvered through underground tunnels.
As with each renewal it took a while for the Doctor to adapt to his new self – looking in a mirror he exclaimed that he looked familiar and wondered where he’d seen his face before. It was in Pompeii, good Doctor! This acknowledgment both successfully explained his previous appearance in the franchise and stirred up intriguing questions as to how each Doctor comes to be. While the last Doctor was young and hyper, this one is more mature and seemingly more worldly somehow, and the darker side hinted at in the last series, particularly the 50th Anniversary special, is becoming more apparent. The Half-Faced Man collecting body parts was all set to escape in a hot air balloon made of human skin before being impaled on a church spire – whether he jumped or the Doctor pushed him is a slightly unsettling question yet to be answered.
The twelve part series continues on BBC 1 next Saturday and is sure to attract even more of an audience keen to see the follow up to what was an exciting, unexpected and rollicking ride of an opener.
– Aoife B. Burke
First Published in The Tuam Herald on 27.08.14