Prisoners of Time (Prisoners of Time, IDW Comic #12).

Comics Well, this is appalling, the comics equivalent of the BBC Three After Show which even includes its own version of the sitdown game. Having not spent the whole of 2013 working my way through ten of the other issues, I can't comment on how much of an anti-climax it must have been but suffice to say it makes all the mistakes that Assimilation 2 did in having all of these amazing characters and giving them average things to do before winding down to a denouement which manages to be both routine and also really bizarre in that it tries to give a heroic death to a figure who really didn't deserve to resurrected in the first place.  SPOILER ALERT:  All the incarnations of the Doctor and most of his companions fight Adam Mitchell, the Ainley Master and some Autons and Mitchell gives his life to save the universe.  For goodness sake.  The final page is of what looks like the entire cast of Doctor Who standing around Adam's TARDIS shaped gravestone.  Troughton has his head bowed.  Christ.  The Eighth Doctor's participation is minimal.  Apart from being stuck at the back of numerous frames, he is given the initial infodump to explain why all the Doctors are there and as a brief conversation with Grace, ("And you want to give this life up?" "Call me crazy, Doctor!").  On the up side, Kelly Yate's art really is top notch, perfectly capturing the faces of everyone involved.  Placement: straight after the other issue, I expect.

Oh hello, the Omnirumour. It's been a while.



TV Despite never having seen a whole episode let alone any of the rest of it, I am aware of the sitcom Dad's Army and its many in-jokes and also how its continued existence as a piece of art runs parallel to Doctor Who in archive terms with episodes being wiped and the hunt being on.

Now we can add animations to that as some of the team responsible for the dvd versions of Who's missing episodes have recreated one of the sitcom's missing episode as a cartoon financed by BBC Store. The About The BBC blog has extensive explanation of how the project came about:
"Animators Zoran Jankovic and later Chris Bowles also joined us and we worked (entirely independently) on a short test animation, using a raw transfer of the tape. I called up the original camera script, and Radio Times historian Ralph Montagu, kindly traced some publicity images for us, that had been taken on the studio floor during the original recording session. We worked from this material over a period of months to story-board our test sequence, whilst discussing hilariously optimistic potential budgets and time-scales (and generally enjoying a luxury of time that we simply wouldn’t have once the project went into production)."
Perhaps for Who fans, the most interesting section is how the animation project was delayed and almost derailed by the discovery of The Web of Fear and Enemy of the World because the secrecy surrounding exactly what Philip Morris had found meant that it was entirely possible it included the very Dad's Army episode they were thinking about animating.  Eventually they had to call Morris and ...
"Into 2014, we still didn’t have an answer to the question of whether any Dad’s Army had been rediscovered as well. Finally, in March 2014, I phoned Philip Morris directly to ask if he was yet in a position to confirm one way or the other. There were perfectly reasonable limitations on what he felt able to talk about with regards to ongoing negotiations with other archives. However, after a short discussion of our situation, he was able to confirm that no Dad’s Army had been found in any form."
My italics. There are ongoing negotiations with other archives. Not about Dad's Army but there are ongoing negotiations with other archives.

Meanwhile the BBC's official account has been posting photos of the television series, one per day with no further information other than a number.  Yesterday it was Marco Polo.

Oh hello, the Omnirumour.  It's been a while.  How we've missed you.

The Body Politic (Prisoners of Time, IDW Comic #8).

Comics It was the very definition of the good news and the bad news when it was announced that the 50th anniversary would bring an Eighth Doctor comic featuring the first fully licensed appearance of Dr Grace Holloway in over ten years but that it would be written by the Tiptons, Scott & David. As you'll remember I wasn't much enamoured with their work on the Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover Assimilation 2 (you can survey the wreckage here) so the idea of them getting their hands on my favourite incarnation and his first companion was disappointing.  With my expectations suitably lowered, when this was finally published they were met.  Oh it feels authentic.  As with many of the installments in Prisoners of Time it's drawn by a sometime DWM artist, Roger Langridge in this case, with his customary cartoony style and to their credit, the Eighth Doctor does sound about right.  But having been gifted with Grace, she's trapped in a shockingly generic bit of regime change which, whilst thematically connected to the medical profession would have worked just as well with any of Eighth's many companions.  Indeed, despite having spent a couple of pages introducing her character (in a way which is shamelessly reminiscent to how Eleventh introduced the TARDIS to Picard in the earlier series), her characterisation feels off, not least when this millennial Earth woman is suddenly and confidently able to pilot a shuttle craft.  The story ends with a cliffhanger of her being kidnapped by a hooded figure.  Yes, I know who he is and it's certainly not the Toymaker so fuck knows why he's on the cover because he isn't in the actual issue.  If only he was.  Placement:  No clue.  I'll put it, after the Puffin novella Spore which was published the same month when the Doctor's supposed to be travelling alone anyway (unless reading Prisoner of Time's final issue brings new facts).

Tatiana Maslany at tiff.



TV A very long Q&A with Taliana about her career and mainly Orphan Black. As a bonus here's a ten minute piece in an interview too.

Inside Heaven's Gate.

Film Embedded within actor Richard Masur's Random Roles interview for AV Club is an extensive piece about what it was like to be inside the madness of Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate:
"This is all my observation and opinion: While Michael is prepping the film, he wins the Academy Award [for The Deer Hunter]. It goes from whatever it was initially, like a 15 million dollar budget, to a 35 million dollar budget because he won the Academy Award. Now it’s huge in scope and this and that. It ended up costing over 50 million. Nothing had ever come close to that prior to that. During the course of this, he did a lot of things that were incredibly indulgent. There are 49 takes of Kristofferson cracking a whip over and over."
If only the six hour television version had come to pass...

My Favourite Film of 1961.



Film Just before Christmas I was chatting electronically to a friend who is paid for his opinion about things about the crutches that we use in our writing, repeated words and phrases which crop up and we have to remember to check back through for before it's either printed in something people want to buy (in his case) or on this blog (in mine).  Turns out even professional writers suffer from the same hang-ups as people for whom such things are a fantasy, which was comforting because I'd assumed my persistent use of "clearly", "to be fair", "so" at the start of a paragraph, "what this means is" and "anyway" are what's been holding me back when it's clearly (oh god) something else entirely.

Some of my repetition is in reference, comparison and allusion.  You might have noticed that whenever I'm faced with something pop cultural which is at least vaguely challenging I'll start throwing film directors names around, notably Tarkovsky, Kieslowski, Malick, Fricke, Godart and especially Resnais, perhaps even including the odd title like "Last Year at Marienbad" for good measure.  It's where I went after seeing Gravity and Inception and There Will Be Blood.  It's how I coped with Doctor Who's Heaven Sent.  On each occasion I slightly winced as I typed the names and titles again knowing full well that I was taking short cuts.

Partly it's because these are important works within the film canon and history and little seen or cared about outside of academia and cineastes these days thanks to rarely surfacing on television or streaming services.  If film studies was more widely taught in schools and treated, as it should be now, on the same foot as literature, these are the works which kids would be shown and would potentially help them to understand where more challenging contemporary cinema comes from.  Which isn't to say a fair number of people who have seen slow cinema didn't notice that Gravity was essentially Koyaanisqatsi in space with special effects with hints towards plot and character.

Mostly it's because they're examples of directors able to create films which have transcendent moments which almost seem to exist outside their medium, in which, if you're involved to the degree in which you're supposed to, the gap between knowing that you're watching the film, appreciating its beauty and also emotionally encounter it become indivisible.  "Last Year at Marienbad" for all its frustrating obfuscation and obscurity, is unable to leave the memory once it's lodged there and in such a way that it's almost as though the protagonist X's experiences, fractured and incomplete and dreamlike have become our own through osmosis.

Except, I know this is rotten hyperbole.  I know that the first time I saw Marienbad, on a colour portable on the balcony of our flat, none of it really sunk in and I largely dismissed it as slightly pretentious and befuddled and that I didn't really understand that I wasn't supposed to understand it until the second or even third watch.  I also know I watch these kinds of challenging films out of a sense of wanting to be the kind of person who watches these kinds of challenging films.  Many, many hours spent in front of screens filled with disconsolate wretches barely tolerating their existential crisis, in black and white, in Slovakian, attempting to prove this point.

But so many of these films represent a kind of Platonic idealism and although I appreciate that film and television is a business and that for the most part it's about trying to attract as large an audience as possible and however much I'd hope it would be Marienbad is not something everyone would want to watch (see last week's discussion) whenever I see its DNA or a familial connection in a contemporary work, it should be acknowledged.  It must be, even if it has the implication that I'm only doing it in order to demonstrate that I've seen these films, which is in no way the case, at all.  Not at all.  So that's my excuse.

Which is I'm happy to notice that there's something fundamentally odd but nevertheless extraordinary that Star Wars's The FA, which seems as though it will ultimately become the new biggest film of all time, looks in places, like a Terrence Malick film, notably in the sundrenched Jakku at dusk, has a dream sequence clearly influenced by Marienbad and unlike the prequels has an almost Tarkovskian approach to exposition in the way it infers rather than explains (albeit in the way of Abrams's The Mystery Box) whilst still being a fundamentally mainstream concoction.  Same as Inception.  Same as Gravity.  Same as Boyhood.

Grease Live is on ITV2.

TV As I said yesterday, ahem, I'm not watching much television at the moment which also means I've lost track of the schedules, but luckily @illuminations drew my attention to the following this morning:


The Grease Live thing which was on FOX last night is screening on ITV2 on Wednesday 3rd at 8pm through to about 11pm. So I'll be watching television again, at least for an evening.  I've got chills.

Paul Dano's hair.



Film With three hundred odd available films to get through on my current non-blog 1001 Films To Watch Before You Die project I don't have much time for television so I've entirely missed the new adaptation of War & Peace, but will catch up some time perhaps in whole evening when I can find out exactly what Paul Dano's hair problem is (it's all people seem to talk about on Twitter).

BBC Genome has an excellent blog post about previous adaptations of Russian literature on the BBC
. Some novels do keep reappearing:
"War and Peace was first adapted for BBC TV in 1972, in a 20-episode version by Jack Pulman (who also dramatised I, Claudius in 1976, and Crime and Punishment in 1979). The lavish production was broadcast on BBC2, part of the long running strand of classic adaptations on the channel."
Could the viewers of that adaptation would be as readily available as the book forty years later?

Happy Gilmore.

TV You will have heard the exciting news that the Gilmore Girls is returning as a limited series on Netflix (which reminds me that I should get around to watching seasons four to seven which I've been saving for too long) (yes even seven) (because apparently this is going to be a sequel).

Lauren Graham has been interviewed about the scripts and is very happy. There's also an indication that Amy Sherman-Palladino is utilising a clever structure in order to maximise the amount of narrative ground covered:
"TVLINE | Have you read all four scripts?
I haven’t read the last one. We just got it. They’re looong. [Laughs] I read “Winter,” “Spring” and “Summer.”

TVLINE | Are fans going to be happy?
[Pauses, adopts a serious, thoughtful tone] For sure. For sure. I read a scene with Kelly [Bishop, who plays matriarch Emily] today… and it was just completely alive. We have some really nice story together. And there’s definitely some resolution that we didn’t get [at the end of the series’ original run].
One of my favourite elements of the show was how it dealt with seasons and celebrations so hopefully this means we'll still get the Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines and err Summer break episodes.

Behind The Sofa Archive.



TV In February 2005, I received an invite from Tachyon TV's Neil Perryman, perhaps best known now for his Adventures with the Wife in Space, to join "Waiting for Christopher", a group weblog dedicated to Doctor Who or more specifically the revival which was due to begin within a few months.

With little idea of what this would lead to I accepted and a couple of weeks later posted my first, slightly weird missive on the subject of the 60s story, still missing, Marco Polo and then persisted to post slight weird missives there for the next five years, a total, as far as I can tell of five hundred and eighteen posts.

Within a few months of show's debut it was renamed Behind The Sofa and became pretty well known around fan circles and beyond.  We were even mentioned in The Guardian's The Guide one Saturday.   The comments sections were certainly buoyant (an understatement but it will do) and a few people even mentioned reading the site to me offline.

Eventually, by 2010, most of the writers had drifted away to their own projects and although a few of us were still plugging away, it was obvious the site wasn't what it had been so Neil decided to end it with the final set of review of that year's Christmas special.  It's still there if you want to have a look.  As ever I think everyone else's writing is better than mine.

Since then I've always thought it would be a good idea to absorb my writing from there into this blog, but with so much text and slight embarrassment about a lot of the earlier stuff, I never did get around to.  But lately I've needed a project so decided to have a go and over the past few weeks, I've copy and pasted every single one of those five hundred and eighteen posts to here.

My Behind The Sofa archive is here, every review of Doctor Who and Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures I posted there across those five or six years, along with a couple of hundred news stories and other bits and bobs because I didn't know when to stop.  A lot of broken links because the web's ephemeral.  I've substituted some of the good stuff, ignored the rest.

The process of copying them over has reminded me of just how much writing I did then as the television franchise constituted three series on top of which I was review various radio broadcasts and the Eighth Doctor novels and various other freebies were being sent to the blog for the purpose of producing promotional writing.

Some of it seems pretty good.  A lot of it seems pretty bad.  There's also a lot to be embarrassed about as my opinion of various things has changed over the years or I've said something rather rash about the work of someone I'm now friendly with online, well ok, Twitter.  During these blog transfer computations, I've posted links to the odd thing on there and well, you can imagine.  Eep.

But I'm pleased that there's now another copy of all this somewhere else, especially as this blog reaches its fifteenth birthday, I'd like it to reflect my life online.  You will have noticed I've also absorbed in The Hamlet Weblog too.  Heardsaid will be next I expect, once I finally work out how to just copy over just my contributions.  Oh and completing Off The Telly and I don't even know where to begin with that.  Blimey.

And thank you to Neil for inviting me in the first place.

A Good Life.

Books Lovely. Bit dark in places, but lovely. Simon Gurrier's tale is also one of those Short Trips which is near impossible to talk about without ruining the twist, one which is actually so marvellous that it's a surprise it hasn't been utilised in a much longer story. The Doctor and Charley go on holiday by mistake and I don't think it's giving too much away, not everything in this idyllic rural sixteenth century village is as it seems.  This is a story about how the Doctor is forever jumping to conclusions and seeing the worst in people and sometimes gets it wrong.  In which case things are probably left well alone.  He won't intervene in time when he's aware of the problem, but what about those occasions when his morality is telling him that he should but the people involved, those affected, don't want him to, even if he thinks it's for their own good.  What makes him an arbiter just because he happens to gave randomly blundered in?  Placement:  No specific guidance but the author's suggested this.

"Shaznay, you worked with Mutya Keisha Siobhan on their comeback a few years ago ..."

Music The All Saints ID interview also yields this on the topic of the proper Sugababes:
Shaznay, you worked with Mutya Keisha Siobhan on their comeback a few years ago. From the outside, how did you view the dynamic of a girlband getting back together after a difficult falling out?
Shaz: I was really happy for them! Before we were even signed to London Records, when Mel and I first started All Saints, the people we initially worked with went and found those first three girls, Keisha Siobhan and Mutya. We've kind of done the same path as them so for me to work with them was lovely. Their voices together have a distinctive sound, like ours. I enjoyed seeing the three of them back together. Loved it. I champion those girls.

They'd be good to tour with.
Shaz: Yeah!
Mel: They would actually…
Sob.  Oh sob.

Never Say Never Ever.

Music The All Saints are back again and unlike the proper Sugababes actually have an album coming out which is just so typically All Saints and also so typically proper Sugababes. There's the inevitable interview, with ID (of course) which isn't just a typical fluff piece as Mel B (no not that one) goes off-piste on why it went wrong last time:
…and this was looking back on the last All Saints comeback, which you'd previously said you'd done for the right reasons. You said: "I don't think we did it for the right reasons, I did it for the money…"
Shaz: (To Mel) Did you?
Mel: Yes, because I didn't like it.
And there's more: "It wasn't like we felt we had something to give back to the world."
Shaz: No way! Well that's her own opinion.
Mel: Well that was just me. My heart wasn't really in it.
Nic: That was Mel personally, but it wasn't all of us.
Mel: But it was absolutely how I felt. Because you know what, we got signed [to Parlophone] having not made one piece of music. They signed the idea of us getting back together. I felt fraudulent from that moment on and it didn't feel like a real thing.
It goes on but that explains a lot.

  As I said at the time (ten years ago, this blog is old) the single, Rock Steady was fine but a bit inauthentically All Saints.

Listening now, it's not bad and certainly retains the London sound and does fit within previous strategies, but it doesn't splash in the way it needed to, feeling more like a third or fourth single off the album rather than "Wow, the All Saints are back, back, back!"

The problem was it turned out to be the strongest track on the subsequent album which sounded mediocre in comparison to the solo work of Mel, Shaznay and the Appletons.

The new album's called Red Flag which makes it a bit difficult to find on Amazon but I'll pre-ordered it anyway when it's made available.

... Be Forgot.

Books One of the suspensions of disbelief us fans often have to deal with when considering Doctor Who related material featuring supporting characters is why the Time Lord doesn't appear whenever they're fighting the big battles, why he wasn't there during Children of Earth or Miracle Day to save them all, a syndrome typical of shared universes narratives. Not having kept up with Professor Bernice Summerfield's adventures I'm not sure of the war that's caused the emotional scars in this intricately written Short Trip about one of her Christmases, but she asks the question we simply don't hear often enough when the lonely God finally drops in, "Where the hell were you?" Typically he doesn't have an answer. Actually he probably does. It's probably a sentence which includes the words "fixed", "point" and "time" somewhere in there which is easy to say to strangers but less justifiable to friends and family especially if it's about the people they care about.  Eighth confirms to Benny here my theory that if he's aware of the original history he simply can't go back and change it.  If he'd stumbled into whatever it was half way through it would have been fine but he heard about it retrospectively so that was that.

My Favourite Film of 1962.



Film The lyrics to Deep Blue Something's Breakfast At Tiffany's used to bother me. Actually the promo to bother me too with its literal interpretation of the title of the song but only to the point that it features the band eating a repast in front of the jewellers rather than actually having a couple of actors illustrate the lyrics instead.  This being the mid-90s, promos for guitar bands tended to be shaggy haired men only doing men things, apart from Sleeper because Louise Wener was goddess, not that I noticed at the time.

The problem with lyrics to Deep Blue Something's Breakfast At Tiffany's is that they ignore the content of the film.  Songwriter Todd Pipes has apparently said that the inspiration for the lyrics was actually Roman Holiday but that he prefered the other title.  So it's an afterthought, a case of having to find a movie title which scanned and provided a hook, something with six syllables and the stresses in the right place.  Might as well have been Battle Beyond The Stars, The Shawshank Redemption, The Silence of the Lambs, Grave of the Fireflies or The Bridge on the River Kwai (ish).

But it's the casual nature of the conversation.  "And I said, "What about Breakfast at Tiffany's?"  to which is his paramore says, "I think I remember the film / And as I recall, I think, we both kinda liked it / And I said, "Well, that's the one thing we've got".  Is it?  Is it the only film you've both liked at the same time and the only thing?  Not exactly the most solid basis for a relationship really so you're probably best shot of each other.  I appreciate that this is not a song which can really be held up to much scrutiny.

Except, it's how they treat the film.  She thinks she remembers the film.  It's Breakfast at Tiffany's.  How can you forget Breakfast at Tiffany's?  Especially the opening shot of Holly GoLightly standing in front of the retailer with coffee and croissant, its atmosphere so inviting even this cis male wished he could be a Givenchy dress wearing, pearl dangling girl about town in 60s New York.  Despiting fancying Audrey Hepburn in all her other films, this is the one in which I actually want to be Audrey Hepburn. As she says, "It's useful being top banana in the shock department."

But in the years since I've come to realise that for some people film isn't the most important thing in their lives.  They watch films, a lot of films, but once they've seen them, they're gone.  They don't have a working memory of Gwyneth Paltrow's filmography to hand, don't know which order the Fast and Furious films are supposed to be in and can't tell you which films are usually in Sight and Sound's decadal film poll.  They watch films, they enjoy them, they move on.  Breakfast at Tiffany's included.

None of which stops me from shouting at Pointless most episodes of course, wondering how anyone can not know the difference between Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton to the point of listing three of the latter's film appearance in a final round asking for examples of the former.  Or entirely failing to find the all important Pointless answer because I've assumed that someone in the hundred would have known Matt Damon was in Mystic Pizza and so dismissed it as a potential answer.  Yes, he is.  He plays Julia Roberts's boyfriend's little brother.  No I don't know that actor's name.

There is of course the music or literature version of the above paragraphs with me cast in the role of the passing interest person and I'm sure if I was on Pointless struggling to remember the titles of songs on The Smiths's Meat is Murder album (and yes I did just have to Google to find the title of a The Smiths album for the purposes of this sentence) or Bernard Cornwell's back catalogue (he's the Sharpe guy right?).  It's this reality which led me to lighten up on people who haven't seen a Tarkovsky or Whit Stillman film or not remembered even if they did.

Soup Safari #63: Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash, Tomato at the Mezzanine Café in Liverpool Cathedral.







Lunch. £5.95 (including Ham Salad Bloomer). Mezzanine Café, Liverpool Cathedral, St James Mt, Liverpool L1 7AZ. Phone: 0151 709 6271. Website.

The Elixir of Doom.

Audio The box art for The Elixir of Doom with its smiling Pertwee and younger version of Jo doesn't quite match the contents since its Eighth who's the Doctor they meet and Jo seems to hark from a time after SJA's The Death of the Doctor (according to the Wikia) which also makes this the only occasion Eighth and Iris meet in something which isn't prose (I think). It's wildly entertaining, a typically whimsical Magrsian tragicomedy about the institial gap between human and unhuman as Iris and Jo investigate why some of the creatures in various 1930s Hollywood features seem more real than they should be.  Stretching the Companion Chronicle format, it feels more like a full blooded audio play with Katy Manning magnificently playing about half a dozen parts including making Jo and Iris such distinct characters that like Tatiana Maslaney in Orphan Black, by the end, you entirely forget they're being played by the same person.  Oh and she gives us her Eighth Doctor who thanks to the script sounds incredibly in character, especially when he and Iris are bantering.  Placement:  Part of the fun of the play is discovering the placement.  Despite Big Finish having previously gone to the trouble of creating a whole new character to account for the mention of Sam Jones during Minuet in Hell, here's Paul Magrs acknowledging her meeting Iris during The Scarlett Empress.  But this also seems to be Jo's first meeting with this incarnation which messes up Paul Leonard's novel Genocide, but since The Death of the Doctor's done that too, time can be rewritten, the cracks, the Faction Paradox, take your pick.  Anyway, the author says it's set during The Scarlett Empress and who am I to disagree?

"You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"

TV Well there we go. Not much you can say about this.

Actually no. There's plenty to say about this. But let's take it a step at a time.

(1) That the next series of Doctor Who would be delayed until 2017 was obvious. No sign of writers being in place and the Doctor Who Experience running tours about the set until at least June indicated that the series would start broadcasting either late this year or next. Given the Winter series have been a ratings disaster because of dealing with Strictly on a Saturday night, delaying broadcast of the next one until Spring 2017 starting in the old Easter slot seemed the next best choice.  No new main series Doctor Who until next Christmas then.  That should make rewatching the show an interesting experience in the future with two Christmas specials next to each other.  PLUS we know the show's going to be on television until 2018.  Even if ...

(2)  Fucks sake.

The headlines are already beginning the revision.  "Broadchurch creator" they say as though the first decent season Broadchurch nullifies the litany of simply bad television Chris Chibnall's been involved in over the years.

The man who wrote Cyberwoman, Countrycide and End of Days is now in charge of Doctor Who.  Amazing.

There was a stink of inevitability though wasn't there?  With the obvious heir apparent Mark Gatiss clearly not interested, the list wasn't otherwise huge.

My preference would have been for someone who hasn't worked on the show before, for the whole thing to have an entirely fresh new direction.  But the BBC's bottled it.

Last time it felt like it was in safe hands because it was being passed on to the man who wrote Blink and Silence in the Library.  It's been a problematic run, but it's impossible to deny that there hasn't been a fair amount of entertaining and classic episodes.

Now the writer of 42, The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and The Power of Three is in charge.

This dude on the far end in the yellow tie:



Even his episodes of Life on Mars were thin.

He did also write the webisodes Pond Life which were fun and manage to transcribe Law & Order for ITV efficiently.  Oh and I did enjoy The Great Train Robbery.

(3)  Now I've got that out of my system, it is just possible with full creative control and a couple of years to think about it, Chibnall might turn out something spectacular.  All of his previous Doctor Who work has been under other showrunners and faced numerous production problems and by the time he takes over Torchwood will mostly have been ten years ago for him.  There are lots of people on the social media who seem to think this is a great idea.  Perhaps he'll cast Romola as the next Doctor and give her something interesting to say.  Perhaps.  But I can't lie about my initial reaction which was to mimic Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes.

The BBC Shakespeare Festival 2016.

TV Yesterday, the BBC launched The BBC Shakespeare Festival, another season of programmes dedicated to the man and his plays, four years on since the Cultural Olympiad. As ever there's quite a lot of contextual documentaries and the like, but I thought it would be worth filtering through the media pack to find what actual productions, what actual Shakespeare would be broadcast during the season.

The key word is "interpretation".  That's "interpretation".

 I'll utilise their subheadings:

Shakespeare Live! From The RSC

Not an actual play.
"On Shakespeare's birthday, the BBC and the Royal Shakespeare Company come together in an extravaganza, celebrating Shakespeare's words and his enduring influence on all performance art forms - from opera to jazz, dance to musicals."

"This unique event will be hosted by David Tennant, directed by Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director, and will include appearances from Dame Judi Dench, ENO, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Ian Bostridge, Joseph Fiennes and Akala."
This should be pretty special to be fair, but interpretations of the plays and text does not always constitute the plays and text.

Landmark Drama


The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses – BBC Two
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – BBC One


The rump of the plays on television. The second half of The Hollow Crown but with Henry VI playing across two rather than three films then Richard III. A Midsummer Night's Dream is the Russell T Davies produced version which should be spectacular and lets face it, actual Shakespeare on BBC One, except it's only going to be ninety minutes which means you're going to be losing at least an hour of the text. So in the end what we have is adaptations of the plays rather than the actual plays as Shakespeare intended.

Across TV

Nothing.

Two comedies, an Arena about film versions of the plays, The One Show live from Stratford, Countryfile visiting the landscapes which inspired the plays and good gracious, "From 18 to 22 April 2016, each episode of Doctors across the week will be inspired by a Shakespearian Sonnet."

On Radio

King Lear
The Winter's Tale
Julius Caesar
Hamlet

The first two are Drama on 3s. Ian McDiamond as Lear. In Scotland. But yes, Lear. Again. No word on Winter's casting. Other than that it's mainly tons of classical music inspired by Shakespeare.

Julius Caesar is split across three afternoons in the Afternoon Drama slot ala Hamlet last year, which as you can see is also getting a repeat. Tim Piggott-Smith as Caesar and Robert Glenister as Brutus. Features the words "brand new interpretation" in the synopsis.

Of the contextual programmes on radio, here's my favourite:

"Building a Library: Radio 3’s review programme will be assessing Verdi’s Falstaff in Building A Library but then in a change to usual practice, Andrew McGregor will turn to speech recordings – assessing works of Shakespeare available as CDs and downloads."

Hope he includes LibriVox.

CBBC

A drama about a the making of a production of a Midsummer Night's Dream at the Everyman in Liverpool which sounds fun. Magic Hands is offering special episodes utilising Shakespeare's poetry. iWonder are producing a series of articles which should have a lot of good archive clips.

Shakespeare Down Your Way

Shakespeare On Tour sounds like it will be a useful enthralling resource about the production of his works across the country,  Synopsis says, "iconic performances from the BBC archives".  The Best Bottoms In The Land follows the RSC as they tour a special production of the play.  Does not mention if this will include broadcasting it in full.

Across The World

Shakespeare Lives is ambiguous.  The synopsis says, it "will bring a remarkable collection of interpretations of Shakespeare’s work together in one digital space, for audiences in the UK and around the world to experience. Following the live stream on April 23 this diverse collection of work will be available internationally for six months at www.bbc.co.uk/shakespearelives."

Whole plays?  Bits of plays?  Actual productions from the companies listed?  It's intriguing to say the least.

Onward:

If all of this sounds like me being a cynical sausage well, yes it is because it's me being a cynical sausage.  To have all of this Shakespeare related material again, four years after the cultural olympiad which will no doubt also include repeats on BBC Four is nothing to be sniffed at, it really isn't.

But consider:

No full productions on television.  Adaptations, presumably because of the usual considerations of wanting to make the work accessible.  Plus A Midsummer Night's Dream again.

On the radio, Lear and Caesar again.  The Winter's Tale is welcome but why not some of the even more less well known works?  Why not a King John, Timon or even into the fringier stuff like Arden of Faversham or Edward III or Sir Thomas More (which hasn't been produced for broadcast since 1983).  Radio 3 goes out of its way to play the more obscure classical music but again falls short here.

Also, why not produce some of the plays which clearly influenced Shakespeare and by his contemporaries.  Why such stolid choices?  Why ignore all of this rich source material?

Also and this is a wider point from someone who's a fan of theatre in general as well as Shakespeare:

Why is this all about freaking Shakespeare again?

Why is it whenever theatre turns up on television it's him again?  Five hundred odd years of theatre and once again all of these people are set to one side.  He was our greatest proponent, but imagine if all of the art documentaries were about Michaelangelo.  This could have been pivoted into a festival of theatre in general, yet here we are.  Shakespeare, much as I love him, again.

Oh well.  Hopefully Radio 4 Extra will have lots of archive reruns.

A viewing order for the X-Men franchise.

Film Bryan Singer and co-screenwriter Simon Kinberg have taken some time out during the promotion for X-Men: Apocalypse to explain how time travel has fixed the X-Men universe. [link via]

I thought it was pretty well explained on the Days of Future Past Extended blu-ray but it essentially boils down to a similar approach to JJ Abrams in Star Trek except with Wolverine as the emissary between the timelines rather than Spock.

Spoiler warning for Days of Future Past.

The events of Days of Future Past have wiped out:

X-Men
X-Men 2
X-Men 3 (or whatever it's called in your end of the world)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The Wolverine

And now the official X-Men Cinematic Universe contains, in chronological order:

X-Men: First Class
X-Men: Days of Future Past
X-Men: Apocalypse
Fan4stic
Deadpool

BUT

Wolverine consciousness has passed from one timeline to the other.  So the Wolverine walking around in the future scenes in Days of Future Past is the same one who turned up at the beginning of X-Men.

Which is were it gets complicated because for him to take control of the alt.Wolverine in that future means the mind of alt.Wolverine has to be wiped over; he shows no signs of actually remembering anything that happened to this other Wolverine up until that point.

Luckily he's not apparently in Apocalypse so we won't actually see the alt.Wolverine walking around, having a life before the "real" one comes along and murders him later.

BUT it does mean that it's possible to have a chronological viewing order for the X-Men films if you want to see them from Wolverine's perspective (give or take some suspension of disbelief in regards to Sabretooth) (you could just assume them to be two different characters with the same name which does already happen a lot in comics):

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
X-Men
X-Men 2
X-Men 3 (or whatever it's called in your end of the world)
The Wolverine
X-Men: Days of Future Past

My preference is for the Extended Cut of DoFP because it nicely bookends Wolverine's friendship with Rogue.

This leaves out:

X-Men: First Class
X-Men: Apocalypse
Fan4stic
Deadpool

unless you want to sit through First Class just for his cameo.

Presumably the next Wolverine film will be set after DoFP.  As Singer says in the interview, what he's now making are prequels to the alt.future scenes in DoFP.

Of course as a result of all this, Hugh Jackman once took a break from filming DoFP to promote The Wolverine which was essentially being wiped out in franchise terms by the very film he was making.

Except if you look at the series instead from Wolverine's perspective, the closing scenes of DoFP have an even greater emotional resonance because of one of the subplots in The Wolverine.

Perfectly simple really.

The Forgotten: Revelation
(IDW Comic Issue #5).

Comics Published in 2008, this was the first rough draft of the Doctor's adventures during the Time War, before "The Moment" and definitely before the War Doctor when it was still assumed Eighth was the one who eventually destroyed Gallifrey. Again. Seven pages of the Doctor waiting in a prison cell for days with Chantir the Malmooth (the same race as Chantho from Utopia) until he can break out and use the Key of Rassilon to help end the war, it's pretty action packed with gun play and good hijinks. He's mostly in character with some business about rock, paper and scissors. The Forgotten was a six issue story arc in which a Tenth Doctor story worked as framing device for an anthology series featuring his earlier incarnations. Since IDW (like Pelican in 2013 when preparing their anniversary offering) were presumably unable to refer to Big Finish or anything else, this is what writer Tony Lee decided was the best option. I remember it being quite a big deal at the time, although now you do spend much of its duration trying to work out how it might still fit into what's been narratively established since.  "This key will help lock the Medusa Cascade forever if we need to" he says which doesn't sound incarnation sensitive.  About the only fly in the ointment is after the flashback, Tenth intimates that he spent most of the incarnation alone as though the Time War happened pretty quickly after the TV movie, which I remember seemed very mean even in the late noughties.  Lee didn't need to deny the existence of the audios, books and comics really, just not refer to them.

My Favourite Film of 1963.



Film Back in 2009, I was a Plinthian, the collective noun for the people who stood on the fourth plinth as part of artist Antony Gormley's One and Other project (which I wrote about here). Since this was the rare occasion of being in London for an extended period, around that I wanted to visit some of the "always wanted to go to too" places which were mainly Shakespeare sites: the Globe, Southwark Cathedral and the various other churches which feature in his biography either because he worshiped there or were originally the site of one of his theatres. You can still read all about the trip here.

After failed attempts to get some people I only know through the internet to meet on what would have been work nights, on both evenings I visited the BFI.  I had really always wanted to visit the BFI.  The idea of the UK having a national film theatre and one which still persisted in having a repertory approach to cinema rather than simply rolling out that week's releases is deeply appealing, as is the notion that it takes the process as serious as museums do in curating and presenting artifacts or academic libraries with their book stock.

Not that I really knew what to expect, what the auditorium would be like, how the audience would behave, how the film would be projected.  I did know that I'd be watching films I hadn't seen before, Cleopatra one night on purpose and Once Upon A Time In The West the next because even more plans fell through.  On both nights I made an event of it too, eating a meal on the premises or nearby and spending as much time as possible in and around the place, visiting the shop, whatnot.  My reaction was mostly, "posh Cornerhouse" which is ironic because Manchester has one itself now.

The ticket price was nine pounds, which at the time seemed very expensive which it was in 2009 or at least seemed so for someone living outside the M25.  Now, it's the standard ticket charge at FACT and exactly what I paid to see Star Wars's The FA just before Christmas on a Thursday afternoon.  But I didn't complain.  As often happens when you're on holiday everything just seems like the right price even though you know, as was the case in this instance, that you'd be able to buy the film to keep for an even cheaper price.

How was the experience of watching Cleopatra at the BFI?  A dream.  As I sat a few rows in from the front, the film just seemed to shimmer across the screen in its fully restored technicolor glory, in the correct aspect ratio, in a crisp print, every frame a painting.  At over four hours I was concerned that the piece might drag but at this size, it's an enthralling work, more than justifying its languorous shots of Elizabeth Taylor simply existing in these grandiose spaces.  For that single evening I felt like I'd stepped backwards into history.

Before the show, the staff handed out an introductory sheet written by a BFI curator which essentially slated the film across its two pages, denigrating the performances, the pacing, the script and everything about it.  This seemed like an odd way of drawing us towards something which we'd already paid for, but on reflection perhaps it was a case of lowering our expectations so that we'd be pleasantly surprised.  Which I was.  The film has a low reputation but even as I write, six years on, elements of it are seared on my mind.

The audience was small, but spectacularly quiet.  With refreshments banned, I think, there was silence even in the quiet scenes.  Indeed, I became the trouble maker.  Having the bladder of a child, I needed to go to the toilet at about an hour in and had to ask the person at the end of the isle to shift so I could pass through.  Not only did he shush me when I excused myself, he tutted at the interruption.  For once, I felt like the "got any killins?" kids from The League of Gentlemen disrupting the enjoyment of Gatiss's Philip French lookalike.

The intermission was observed and I spent it sat outside on a bench with a tub of ice cream watching in the Thames (the BFI is on the South Bank near the Globe and Tate Modern) (ish).  Few other cinemas have such picturesque and historic surroundings and due to modes of production there's rarely the time to take a moment in the middle of a film like this to cogitate on what's been seen and what's to come.  Not generally being someone who finds peace, this was one of those moments when I achieved it.

Radio Times Comic Strips.

Comics  Just a week after the TV movie was broadcast, the Radio Times began publication of what was to be a sixty-part comics series featuring the Eighth Doctor written by Gary Russell (for it is he) and drawn by veteran Who artist Lee Sullivan (between his work on DWM and much later Battles in Time).  The bottom half of a weekly page dedicated to sci-fi genre television it was certainly in the mix when I was slowly working towards becoming a fan (again).  Sadly after forty-odd issues the magazine decided that since the show was unlikely to return to television any time soon that it would be best to give the space over to something else and so the original narrative intention was curtailed after, wouldn't you know, forty-two episodes.  Russell would later somewhat complete the story of companions Stacy and Ssard in his EDA Placebo Effect, which I originally reviewed back in 2006.

As I said back then, what we effectively have here is an era within an era as this stories now fit snugly in the gap between The Eight Doctors and Vampire Science when Sam's been left at a Greenpeace rally and the Doctor's apparently gone off on his for three years to sort himself out.  For ages some chronologies, including the TARDIS Datacore attempted to put all of the Eighth Doctor's comic and audio adventures in here but since The Night of the Doctor's broadcast and whatever's happening at Big Finish that seems to have changed into something which resembles my chronology.  Which is a big step for the Datacore which for a while had banned edits to an order which quite incorrectly mixed and matched.  Putting the Radio Times pieces in here allows the Doctor to have some travels and so give the impression of having been away without having lived a few hundred years in the mean time.

What's most impressive about these installments is how the writer nails the Eighth Doctor in action and word.  The Altered Vistas page on the strips which proved invaluable in preparing these reviews isn't much of a fan of them and suggests that all the talk of Enid Blyton and The Famous Five is out of character when I'd disagree, I'd say they're a superb decision which fits neatly in how Eighth would develop across the novels and into the audios in which he often seems to be all to aware of being part of a fictional narrative.  Only the companion feel a little undercooked, with Stacy rarely rising above the generic for this era but you can see how Ssard would have developed in time as a relative of Ben Grimm.  Placebo Effect isn't apparently the last we see of them either judging by the spoiler I've just seen on Stacy's Datacore page....

Dreadnought

What immediately strikes you about this first story is how Russell plunges the reader into a fairly standard Cyberman assimilation story (they attack a cargo ship then become particular excited when the Doctor turns up) which won't seem that innovative to fans who've been keeping the faith for the previous seven or eight years through its various paper related off-screen formats but is being handed to readers for whom this will be their first visit with the Doctor since it went off-air if not before. The narrative is dense and ambitious in scale with a strong emotional through line as new companion Stacy copes with the loss of her shipmates and one in particular which has beats that look forwards to both Spare Parts and its new series reimaginings, the Cybermen themselves more like the versions which would be wandering through Big Finish's audios a few years later. There's also an odd moment when the Doctor's about to be turned cyber himself which feels like a precursor to Nightmare in Silver, internal dialogues ahoy.  All within ten half page strips.

Descendance

Not having an encyclopedic knowledge of the spin-off material pre-1996 I'm not sure about this, but is Lee Sullivan the first artist to render both an Ice Warrior female and an Ice Warrior outside of their armour? That's a pretty huge piece of history to be hosted in the Radio Times comic strip, even if the drawing of Queen Shssur looks like the Silurians from the television revival. Court intrigue as the Doctor must retrieve an Ice Lord who's been kidnapped. Not a lot happens but you can see Russell is slowing the pace a little knowing he has a fair amount of stories to fill which is a bold decision given the weekly drip delivery of this end of the franchise. Cheekily, the TARDIS Datacore tells me, the writer brings in some of the Martian mythology he originally authored for his first Virgin New Adventure Legacy, Ritual of Tuburr, in which an Ice Lord comes of age. Also worth noticing that Stacy hasn't really been given any of the usual introductory gubbins in relation to becoming a companion, she just sort of is, just as Ssard seems to be by the end of this too even though he's barely had much frame time, other than a hilarious shared look between the two them.

Ascendence

Essentially a continuation of the previous story, with the Doctor and the previously kidnapped Ice Lord Izaxyrl now heading into Mars to find Stacy and Ssard and investigate who's behind all the aforementioned intrigue. Pretty old school, by which I mean the 60s, with the two of them being chased through caves by a giant beastie. Much of it seems to be Russell paying homage to the TV Comics material and even if tonally it's pretty dark in places as half the guest cast is murdered by the other half and the Doctor doesn't ultimately have much to do in the denouement. The writer's clearly having much fun essentially writing his own era of Doctor Who even it's very oddly structured especially in terms of character. Izaxyrl's the character the Doctor spends most of the story with, yet it's Ssard who ultimately becomes his companion. Right at the end the real world intrudes too, with Christmas turning up in the final episode because it was published in the annual double-sized festive issue with the Doctor breaking the fourth wall as is now becoming customary on these occasions. Were parts nine and ten both published in that issue?

Perceptions

Aha, the one with the, Equinoids, talking pink and yellow pantomime horses as originally mentioned by the Doctor during Frontier in Space and as ridiculous as you might expect as sympathetic aliens. Say what you like about Gary Russell, he's nothing if not continuity sensitive, which is rather why I've always loved his work. Must get around to reading Spiral Scratch some day. Anyway, here he's having fun with perception filters and aliens lost in Victorian London and becoming part of freak shows, a premise which has been utilised with surprisingly regularity in Who, notably in one of the BBV Zygon spin-offs and experienced by Cr'zz in Other Lives. Once again pretty dark stuff given where it was originally published, including as it does the murder of a street urchin by the antagonist. Sullivan's art is especially atmospheric in its depiction of the time period and there are a couple of first rate close-up hero shots of the companions.

Coda

Boo. Originally planned as another ten parter, Deceptions, in which the antagonists were to revealed to be the Zygons and would have taken place on the home world, instead Russell's effectively forced to draw a narrative line under what was already in place and it feels like it, with a Fanthorpian lever pull and a bit of shouting at some aliens who aren't even granted a name.  At the top the final strip Radio Times warns its reads that it is so, as though the content itself wouldn't be enough of an indication.  The TARDIS Datacore has a scan of what would have been the first episode of the other story, with the Doctor and SSard going fishing which is an outrageous choice but provides a lovely moment between the two "aliens".  So, yes, boo.  On the other hand, Russell does leave it on a particularly fannish note echoing the Seventh Doctor's words at the close of Survival as he himself experiences his own cancellation crisis.