Christmas Links #6

An early Christmas present for the Eighth Doctor:
"She's back – and it's about time! India Fisher returns today for three brand-new full-cast audio dramas from Big Finish Productions."

"England’s oldest Christmas market has been scrapped after last year’s “massive success” left city leaders worrying over public safety.  A record 320,000 people visited Lincoln’s Christmas Market in 2022, the same year the event celebrated 40 years as the country’s longest-running festive market."

"What's the best Christmas gift you ever received? You probably didn't have to think about it; you knew it in your bones. Today, we're talking about the actual, tangible gift you found waiting for you under the tree and still think about it from time to time."

"The 1958 holiday classic was first released when she was just 13 years old."

"A pub has been reusing the same 77-year-old Christmas decorations in its public bar for more than 60 years."

"The festive season wasn’t always about mince pies and wanton consumerism. In fact, ancient folklore was more O Holy Fright than O Holy Night."

"This holiday season ERIKS Industrial Services is taking a step forward by foregoing the traditional indoor Christmas tree and planting a Norwegian spruce outside their Oldbury site."

"Dear Miss Manners: Over the years, I’ve maintained a special fondness for the act of writing and addressing Christmas cards to about 50 friends (old and new) and family members. I find taking a moment to think of valued relationships, even if only once a year, to be heart-warming and restorative."

"After getting loose on Sunday, the animals wandered on to the A11, forcing police to temporarily close the road in both directions for around two hours."

"In the early 1900s, Vienna-based surgical instrument maker Erwin Perzy was asked to create a bright surgical lightbulb, but instead, he invented the snow globe."

Christmas Links #5

 BBC Radio Merseyside: Sing Along with Santa:
"Fancy a little sing along with Santa this Christmas?  Then gather your loved ones for a very special event at BBC Radio Merseyside!"

"A break over the holidays is the perfect time for a lot of things: seeing your family, catching up with friends, eating a ton, reflecting. But most important of all, it’s a great time to watch a lot of TV, including the episodes made specifically for this time of year."

"Festivus is here! Which means it’s time to unbottle any pent-up anger to confront whatever or whoever has gotten under your skin this year – and later this month the Tampa Bay Times will publish these grievances."

"The Belvedere is one of the Georgian Quarter's many great pubs."

"Real talk: how does Santa get down the chimney? Mac Barnett has been wondering since he was a little kid."

"From making the perfect present to finding the cheapest way to send it, here’s how to spread festive cheer on a budget."

"A Christmas grotto that was built without planning permission could be ordered to be taken down by a council."

"'A very Mary Christmas'- Richard Slee reports on Tudor Christmas celebrations at Portsmouth's historic dockyards."

"Jen Hogan: And yet the complicated and complex operation of household appliances and in particular the lowly washing machine, remains a mystery to them."

"NI’s leading retail and leisure destination, The Junction, is on the lookout for NI’s most playful pup as it looks to appoint an official doggie toy tester in the run up to Christmas."

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1986.

If like me you're old enough to remember when your school had a single computer and it was a BBC Micro, you'll perhaps also have some memory of contributing to The Domesday Project.  There's full information below and access to a very good online emulator.  For the first time in decades I can have a look at the database and see if anything my primary school, Stockton Wood in Speke was actually included.

It was.  Most of the content is by Class 4S, the other cohort in the 4th year juniors (what's now called Year 6) who contributed the introduction, shopping survey (more seats, a sports shop, less litter) and a number of poems ("People say Speke is terrible / But I do not think so / AND I LIVE HERE!").    The section about Liverpool Airport is from "C.H. Elwood and class 4E" who also penned the entry about Speke Hall.  

Nothing I wrote has been included.  But Sonia Ely (who I only vaguely remember but recognise from her photo at Liverpool Airport) managed to get her interview with Reverend Amos from All Saints Church in and the entry about All Saint's Church is by Sharon Wycherley who I do remember (and was featured in a Liverpool Echo piece about the Fusion Festival in 2018 when she was 44 so that tracks).  We used to sit in the playground making daisy chains together.

The only photograph is the one above, of the roundabout at junction of Central Avenue and Western Avenue, which I remember well because my own house on Lovel Road was about half a kilometre directly ahead.  I'd also have to get off the bus on that corner sometimes when getting the bus back from secondary school.  I once told a girl I had a crush on that loved her standing next to that red telephone box.  She laughed in my face.  Good memories.

Here's roughly the same place, as close as I can get on Google Maps.  Some things have been renewed, the phone box has gone and you can see what the latest buses look like.  This view was taken in 2021.  Scrolling a bit further up the roads takes us unto April 2023 and even that junction box has gone.  The roundabout is still there but couldn't get a good angle.  The trees are still there too, but older.  The more the world is changing, the more it stays the same.

The only occasion I was able to use the project itself was for a limited time at Central Library, where it was hidden in a wooden television display case on the stage in the old International section (where the children's books are now).  I ventured up gingerly and sat in front of it, but was frankly too young to have the patience to navigate the various screens (something which is still cumbersome today).  Incredible achievement just slightly to early to be done justice by the technology.

The Domesday Project

"In 1986, 900 years after William the Conqueror’s original Domesday Book, the BBC published the Domesday Project. The project was probably the most ambitious attempt ever to capture the essence of life in the United Kingdom. Over a million people contributed to this digital snapshot of the country."
[Domesday Reloaded @ The National Archives]

"A segment from BBC Newsround in November 1986 about the Domesday Project. With footage from the Acorn Domesday exhibition stand."
[The Centre for Computing History]

"In addition to offering access to a number of working BBC Domesday systems here at the museum, we wanted to share a virtual method of exploring the system through an emulator that works in your browser.  You can explore the discs of the BBC Domesday system in a fully emulated BBC Master with an LVROM player."
[Centre for Computing History]

"Domesday86 is a project that aims to recreate the experience of the original BBC Domesday project using modern hardware and software. On this site you will find a growing collection of documentation for the original Acorn/BBC Domesday project as well as details of the Domesday86 project itself."

"Jeffrey Darlington, Andy Finney and Adrian Pearce describe the groundbreaking BBC Domesday Project of 1986, and explain how its unique multimedia collection has been preserved."

"The BBC Domesday Project began in 1986 when the public were invited to contribute images and text about their local areas for hosting on a leading edge technology of the day, the Advanced Interactive Video System. In 2011, the project was very successfully resurrected as the Domesday Reloaded Project with new contributions and as an online resource on the internet."
[Computer Weekly]

"The entry for Stanford in the Vale and the surrounding area, created by children at the Primary School, is repeated below. It provides a unique "snapshot" of the village as it was 38 years ago."
[Stanford in the Vale]


"This colour documentary film presented by Mark Curry from the BBC's Blue Peter programme, follows the work of the BBC Blue Peter appeal in 1986 that raised over two million pounds for the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind (Sightsavers) in Africa."
[Screen Archive South East]

"In July 1982, a 42-year-old addict in a San Jose, California jail became paralyzed--unable to move or talk. His symptoms, caused by a bad batch of synthetic heroin, were indistinguishable from those associated with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative nerve disorder that strikes the elderly."
This is a Horizon/NOVA programme with the US voiceover.

"This week's Antiques Roadshow comes from Ipswich Town Hall in Ipswich, Suffolk and features a three train musical bracket clock made by the 18th Century London clockmaker Thomas Gardner."
[BBC Rewind]

"Two series of compilations from Micro Live."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]


"Preparations underway for McGuigan boxing fight and rugby international match.  Report shows British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Outside Broadcast (OB) unit setting up satellite dishes and other television equipment."

"This is a story of treachery, death and retribution."
[Off The Telly]

"From out of an empty black screen, a solo accordion sounds a couple of chords. Then, a harmonica strikes up a wistful tune, a lilting accompaniment falls in behind, and the picture suddenly lights up to reveal the features of a gruff man buried deep in a trench coat, hat pulled down low, furtively leaning against a lamppost."
[Off The Telly]

"Paul Jackson visits the purpose-built TV studios of the longest running medical drama in the world. Born out of necessity (as a weapon in the weekly battle for audience-share on Saturday nights) "Casualty" has become one of BBC 1's most consistent performers."
[BBC Sounds]

'It has always been heavily censored. When the show started, we weren't even allowed to say the word toilet'
[The Guardian]

"Eamonn Holmes is joined live via satellite from Melbourne by the cast of Neighbours - the Australian soap opera that has rapidly become a phenomenon in the UK.  Originally broadcast 13 October, 1987."
[BBC Archive]


"In the aftermath of the recent General Election, it is worth remarking upon the increasingly symbiotic relationship between politics and the media."
[Off The Telly]

"This report is published in the 50th year of BBC Television. It is hard to equate the vitality which has produced EastEnders, Yes Minister and Crimewatch with an institution venerable enough to have been responsible for the world's first national television mission 50 years ago. Yet looked at per way, BBC Television has been td long enough to prove that today's programmes are part of a tradition of excellence on which the British public can rely, whether in drama, comedy, and factual programming or, indeed, in sport, music, entertainment, education, news or current affairs."
[World Radio History] 

Christmas Links #4

My Block, My Hood, My City lights up King Drive for the holidays
"The group "My Block, My Hood, My City" mobilized a small army of volunteers to light up King Drive for the holidays Saturday."

"NPR's Asma Khalid asks Palestinian Christians Munther Issac and Tamar Haddad about their efforts to convince American lawmakers to support a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas."

Handpicked festive music for every Christmas occasion!

"The department store boasts its own grotto for pets to have some festive face time with Santa … and business is brisk."

"Julian Pettifer reports on the Christmas angel decorations that hung in London's Regent Street in 1960, and how they found their way to Regent St, Mansfield. Introduced by Kenneth Allsop."

"People have always used the holiday season to celebrate and delight in the wonders of Christmas, from singing carols to decorating the home, to gatherings with family and friends, and drinking hot cocoa and egg nog. Most who celebrate would also add watching classic Christmas movies to that list."

"There are many ways to celebrate in the winter besides just Christmas and Hannukkah."

"When it comes to decorating for Christmas, there are no set rules - but how early - or late - do people start to trim their tree?"

"It's a fairly unremarkable station at first glance, but it's inspired a chilling Christmas tale."

Christmas Links #3


"The tree, on High Road, South Benfleet, was unveiled as part of festive celebrations throughout the town. However, it was met with ridicule by the public for its “embarrassing” appearance."

"36-minute performance is the centerpiece of upcoming The Benefit Concert Volume 20, documenting Warren Haynes' annual benefit show."

"With Christmas fast approaching, locals gather at the pub for a payout from the Christmas Club, and talk over what they plan to spend their savings on."

"From an iconic leg lamp to an antique escalator in a New York department store."

"From the perfect stocking filler to a Secret Santa surprise, our handy gift guide's got you covered. With top titles for everyone on your list, find a book they'll cherish, this Christmas and beyond."

"Another chance to listen and watch a selection of BBC Proms concerts over the festive period on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds."

"John Clague's colourful film captures those last exciting days before Christmas – with Christmas trees and Christmas lights all ready for the big switch-on."

"It’s the holiday season. A time of giving and so I thought I’d give you some fun festive activities! I loved fun little things like these as a kid it’s been a project I’ve been thinking about for ages. Well I finally did it. Here are some fun for all ages. Also if you make the decoration cube I’d love to see so please tag me if you follow me on social media.  All print offs are A4 size."

"Peterborough's Ferry Meadows is hosting its first ever Winter Festival, which will raise money for the upkeep of the park."

Christmas Links #2

BBC One Christmas Idents 2023 - Tabby McTat, Stick Man and The Gruffalo:
"The idents will be revealed on BBC One after Strictly Come Dancing on 2 December and will appear across the channel throughout the festive season."

"Mog’s Christmas is a special animated adaptation of Judith Kerr’s much-loved classic children’s book, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, produced by Lupus Films and will air on Channel 4 this Christmas."

"Eight acres (3.2 hectares) of the seasonal blooms have been growing for six months at the Uniplumo nursery, Grimes added."

"An eccentric parade of mechanical toys to tantalise 1920s kids - and to remind us that Christmas consumerism is nothing new."

"Won't You Guide My Sleigh Tonight is a family-friendly TTRPG that uses your Christmas tree!"

"For me, Christmas has always been more about the anticipation of it than the actual day. We spend so long looking forward to Christmas. But there is always at the centre of all this longing for Christmas, a heavy dose of nostalgia. We want yesterday’s Christmases, not tomorrow’s. And my Christmases past were mostly spent in that splendid city of Ilorin."

"Lincolnshire County Police run a special 'Turkey Patrol' to protect turkey farmer's turkeys from being stolen before Christmas."

"Gloria took the week after Thanksgiving off from writing the column, but she will be back next week. As her editor and a writer myself, I can attest to the rigors of writing a weekly column. She and I joke often that the best way to make a weekly fly-by is to write a weekly column!"

"Looking to hang lights around windows? With so many experts at our fingertips, we’ve got all of the information you could need to add some sparkle to your home this Christmas."

"There was trouble in the land, all on account of Christmas. Men _ stood bewildered and women were distracted, not knowing what to do. The trouble was that Christmas had become too small."

Together in Eclectic Dreams (Classic Doctors, New Monsters: The Stuff of Nightmares)

Audio  Disclosure:  when I listened to If I Should Die Before I Wake from the Classic Doctors, New Monsters: The Stuff of Nightmares boxset it was in isolation, what I mean is, I went straight to the story which had the Eighth Doctor's face on it and ignored the rest on the expectation that I'd come back to them after I'd caught up on everything else.  Then Summer came, then Autumn and with modern content consumption options which resemble the Temporal Loom exploding in Disney+'s Marvel's Loki (TM), completely forgot about it.  Until last night when I decided to do an audit of the Eighth Doctor material still to be covered and noticed he was listed as appearing in this Sixth Doctor story.  So, here we are.

Roy Gill's Together in Eclectic Dreams brings the return of the Dream Crabs from TV's Last Christmas.  The Sixth Doctor's companion Mari is experiencing nightmares, so he takes her to a monastery in the Archipelago of High Dream in the hopes they'll be able to offer some therapy.  During her first sleep observation session she finds herself inside another TARDIS and another Doctor who we know is the Eighth Doctor, sounding cantankerous and desperate because he's already well aware that he's lost in a dream and doesn't know which way to go, with Mari finally offering a lifeline.  As the story progresses, the characters find themselves slipping between various states of Inceptionesque slumber.

This is still the Sixth Doctor's story with the Eighth Doctor very much a supporting player.  But is he real or just part of the collective unconsciousness of the characters?  Sam the dream expert suggests that this "green man" changes faces and in his mental travels he's seen what sounds like the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctors too, but I think it is supposed to be Eighth, perhaps from when he's also caught up in the crab's claws in the following story If I Should Die Before I Wake.  There's a wonderful moment when their two minds contact and we're treated to the poetry of their collective history including a "terrible" great-aunt who lived in a draughty house high in the Gallifreyan mountains who would nevertheless sing him lullabies.

Last Christmas offered up what the "boards" univerally acknowledged as one of the best companions we never got in the shape of Faye Marsay's Shona and her eclectic film collection.  Coincidentally, Big Finish have achieved the same with Mari, who between Gill's script and Susan Hingley's performance manages to create a figure as richly drawn as any of the official companions, funny and clever and who you simply enjoy spending time with and wanting to hear more from.  The point was obviously to create the perfect plus one so Sixth would feel the loss when she's not there.  In my head canon, the moment after the story ends is when he hear's Charley's distress call at the beginning of The Condemned, explaining why he's so open to having this stranger on board in the ensuring episodes.

Placement:  Assuming this is a real Eighth Doctor, I'll put it in front of the next story in the boxset.

Christmas Links #1

"Make your wrapping stand out with this luxury gift wrap from Sugababes." (previously)

Tourists exploring the historic Berkshire royal residence will be able to see it transformed for the festive season.

"The 'living tree' in Hattersley, Greater Manchester, has been likened to a twig and branded a “disgrace” by disappointed locals."

"It's quite a sudden change - announced three days ago and being introduced in three days time."

"The enchanted home with halls decked out in epic Swiftie fashion is going viral for its ode to the beloved singer this holiday season."

"The internet is abuzz with the results of this year’s rundown, with Taylor Swift coming out on top as 2023’s most streamed artist."

"The Shard has had a festive makeover, with the London skyscraper fitted with 575 LED panels for a Christmas lights show."

"Last week, Christmas markets opened across Germany, and with a few weeks left until Christmas, illuminated holiday displays, parades, and colorful markets are starting to light up the night. From the Americas to Europe, Asia, and elsewhere, gathered below is a collection of holiday cheer and light, wrapped up in 25 photographs."

Till Death Us Do Part (The Paternoster Gang: Rogue's Gallery)

Audio  Ah The Paternoster Gang.  At least once a year, Big Finish have the Eighth Doctor wander into one of their spin-off series and finally, he's turned up in Victorian England and bumped into Vastra, Jenny and Strax.  With only a finite amount of money at my disposal, I avoided the previous series, only really dipping my toe in via The Eighth of March box, Once and Future and the crossover with Jago & Lightfoot.  Steven Moffat apparently pitched this spin-off when he was showrunner, with the opening half of The Crimson Horror looking for all the world like a backdoor pilot.  He was knocked back but at least thanks to our audio BF we can have some idea of what such a thing would be like.

It's fun.  Having not heard the opening box, I don't know how much this replicates the formula, but it's very much the s7/Torchwood/SJA model of an alien of the week in a Holmisan period setting usually being exploited by some local hoodlum with the gang investigating then breaking the case wide open.  The characters are the draw, the naughty interplay between Vastra and Jenny whose relationship can be explored in greater detail and the sheer brilliance of Strax, played with such determination by Dan Starkey (who also writes the second story in the series) and probably offers the most laughs across these three episodes.

Till Death Us Do Part

Vastra and Jenny are finally having a wedding but the planning and ceremony are interrupted by a series of curious events with duplicates of themselves and others, creating havoc.  There is a general sense of unease throughout as characters sound almost but not exactly like themselves and the Eighth Doctor appears all over the place but not apparently in a linear order and out of sorts.  DWM's reviewer attributes this to Paul, suggesting he sounds "distracted and possibly even a little bit confused by it all" but it's obviously because the character himself is supposed to be: he's forgetful, skittish and one minute knows who Jenny is and the next has no idea.

Placement:  Like The Truth of Peladon, he's wearing his Dark Eyes leathers on the cover even though there isn't really a gap for him to be travelling along, so I'll put it next to that for now unless something else crops up.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1985.

The "Broom Cupboard", CBBC's in-vision presentation began 9th September 1985 and in a slight break of format here's a polaroid of someone who would have been an avid viewer taken a month later on the  6th October.  That's me hunched over the Acorn Electron and judging by the finger positions probably playing Chuckie Egg.  It was always Chuckie Egg, partly because it was at the start of Beau Jolly's Ten Computer Hits compilation and a relatively fast loader from the ancient tape deck I was using.

It's a Sunday, so it's a rare privilege to be using the main television in the back living room what with the block of programmes which included Songs of Praise, Antiques Roadshow, Open All Hours and Howard's Way.  Perhaps this was the morning instead, before sunrise, or the flash has simply blown out the sunlight through the windows.  Either way, nothing much has changed.  I'm still hunched over a computer although fortunately I don't have to pack it all away every time I use it.


The Broom Cupboard Opens

"Ask anyone over the age of 20 what they think of children’s television these days and nine times out of 10 they’ll tell you it’s inane rubbish. The main reason? Those presenters!"
[Off The Telly]

"At 9pm on 22 November, 2005, former Children’s BBC presenter Andy Crane was en route to Salford Quays in Manchester, heading for the studios of Century FM where he would be hosting his evening phone-in show, Love Lines. It was while he was making this journey that he spoke to OTT about his career in children’s television, and where life had taken him since he bade farewell to Edd the Duck."
[Off The Telly]

"When I give my name to make a restaurant reservation, everyone starts singing the Dogtanian theme song at me. The same happens in Portugal, in France, in Italy. It’s unbelievable."
[The Guardian]


"A questioning, almost iconoclastic series looking critically at the claims made for computers in education and at how the reality fell short of the hype. Introduced by Tim O'Shea."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]

"Six programmes looking at the way computer based technology helped people with various kinds of disability."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]


"Here's how the legendary Keith Floyd changed cooking programmes forever."
[BBC Clips]

"BBC Northern Ireland controller James Hawthorne has withdrawn his offer to resign in protest at banning of the controversial Real Lives documentary. Report by Denis Murray."
[BBC Rewind]


"Opening ceremony today for the new £1m purpose-built Radio Foyle studios in Derry/Londonderry, performed by retiring BBC governor for Northern Ireland, Lady Lucy Faulkner."
[BBC Rewind]


"In the 1980s, the BBC devised a new weapon in its ratings battle against ITV: EastEnders. In part eight of our 13-part series on the history of the BBC, David Hendy explores how a mix of masterful publicity and melodramatic plots propelled the drama to popular success..."
[History Extra]

"I had my teeth coloured green to play Nick on heroin. Security wouldn't let me in the building."
[The Guardian]

"This third edition features Hugh Dennis and Jim Eldridge looking at radio comedy in the late 1980s."
[BBC Sounds]

"1985 was a year of relaunches for BBC One. The new globe, EastEnders and Wogan all brought a new momentum to the channel. But the revamp of the Nine o’Clock News this week in 1985 was also a key move."
[Clean Feed]

"Farewell, magnetic tape and sticky symbols! The BBC weather report is riding the winds of technological change.  Simon Groom gets a hands-on demonstration of the BBC's new computerised forecasting system, with a little help from Bill Giles, Michael Fish, Liz Jones... and something called a mouse.  This clip is from Blue Peter, originally broadcast 18 February, 1985."
[BBC Archive]Annual Report

"The BBC Symphony Orchestra comes to Belfast for first time since 1967 to appear in the Ulster Hall. Gillian Harbinson speaks to General Manager William Relton and Belfast born member Patrick Lannigan."
[BBC Rewind]


"Twenty four hour strike by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Independent Television (ITV) over the banning of BBC documentary ‘Real Lives At The Edge of The Union’ featuring Martin McGuinness."

"The past year has been a testing one for the BBC. As the licence fee debate got underway, the Corporation co- operated in two independent reviews, examining value-formoney in both the external and domestic services. A high level of press and political interest continued throughout 1984 -85, not all of it constructive. It says much for our creative staff that they did not allow those distractions to prevent them from reporting the events of a troubled political year with objectivity or from producing a distinguished range of entertaining and innovative programmes."
[World Radio History] 

Charlotte Pollard: The Further Adventuress.

  Now some elements of Audacity make sense.  For personal reasons, this has sat on my shelf for long enough to feel like I'm able to enjoy nice things again although I hadn't realised how long the gap between release (Jan 2022) and now had been.  So when interviewees refer to this being an anniversary release, they're not talking about the franchise's 60th but of the original couple of series featuring this TARDIS duo.  Script Editor Alan Barnes also says although he knows fans would like to know what happened after The Girl Who Never Was, they decided that they'd want to honour what happened all those years ago when I heard Storm Warning and my life changed forever ... sorry when Storm Warning kicked off another epoch in the life of this silly series.

The Mummy Speaks

One of those stories in which the Doctor's benevolence is turned against him.  Although the premise is similar to The Unquiet Dead, this is an incarnation who hasn't yet lived through the Time War and consequently has a moral reaction closer to Rose in that story.  As the title and cover of the whole set indicate, the stories foreground Charley a bit more and The Mummy Speaks is no exception as Alan Barnes returns to re-introduce this crew.  India Fisher is simply magnificent in the role and along with the writing, there's nothing in here to disavow her as my favourite companion of the whole franchise.  Both her and Paul's timing is superb and the whole thing is very worthy of the Pertwee logo from the TV Movie.


Shades of Avatar and The X-Files as the Doctor and Charley visit the woods after dark to discover why there's a governmental cover-up of deaths and why up until that point mostly peaceful native population of giant moths on the planet are attacking the human colonists.  Writer Lisa McMullin really captures the darker instalments of the earlier series in which nefarious people reach some absolutely horrible ends, the sound designer really going to town leaving nothing to the imagination.  It's brilliant.  Worth highlighting is Joe Kraemer's blockbuster score, full orchestral might, a little bit of Bernard Hermann, and a touch of Jerry Goldsmith.

The Slaying of the Writhing Mass

Without looking at the writing credit beforehand, I somehow knew this was Eddie Robson.  As director Ken Bentley says the supplementary features, Eddie can write what would otherwise be quite mundane characters into extraordinary circumstances.  The idea of a bottleneck of time vessels trying to visit the same moment in history is superb and all of the implications are investigated, from the merch sellers to the school coach filled with bored teenagers.  We also enjoy that rare occasion of Eighth being accompanied by a tween and it is charming to hear him patiently speaking to her as an equal in a way that he sometimes neglects with his adult travelling companions.

Heart of Orion

The easy option for Nick Briggs in writing a sequel to his seminal Sword of Orion would have been to trot out a few more Cybermen but this goes in a very different direction and is all the better for it.  The listener is kept on the back foot throughout, as the script twists our expectations, or at least suggests story elements which would be the obvious outcome elsewhere then reminds us that Doctor Who is not like other series because of the attitude of its main character especially one moment which is consistent with more recent incarnations of giving people the agency to make their own decisions, bringing an end a series which lives up to the original series.

Placement: We're told on numerous occasions in the interviews that these are supposed to be set relatively early in their adventures so I'm going to boldly put them after Minuet in Hell.  I'm still not sure about Audacity, so I'll leave that just before Invaders from Mars.  We'll see what happens with the upcoming Christmas releases.


Audio  Ha, OK.  Even before listening to this, I had the opening paragraph of a review in my head, about how this was yet another bold new era for the Doctor, presumably somewhere around the DWM comic strips judging by the costume on the cover perhaps set right at the start of the Big Finish audios before Shada, even.  Then spoiler happens and I'm of the opinion that Big Finish are just fucking with me personally.  So the "placement" section at the bottom of this will probably be longer than usual, but it might be worth staying away until you've had a chance to hear this.

Even without the costume, you can somehow tell this is a much earlier Eighth than the Lucie, Dark Eyes era (for want of a better description) and the Time War.  Having shaken off the events of both the novels and comics (in my headcanon), he's the slightly tigerish, adventurous figure who doesn't yet have the weight of the multiple deaths and estrangement that he experiences in the audio years on his shoulders and still very willing to collect passengers, especially, as Audacity is here, in dire need of saving.  It just shows you what an asset McGann is that he can recreate all of these subtly different versions of the character.

Of course, he's intrigued by Lady Audacity Montague, of course he is.  Apart from her gung-ho, fearless, feminist attitude, she's from a period before technology which means he's able to impress her with future technology and other kinds of spectacles, to impress her, as she calls him on early in their second episode together.  She's in the lineage of companions that includes River, Lady Christina, Trix and Fey, the kind who can get along perfectly well without him but take a shine to the Time Lord and his magic box for whatever reason and find a mutual understanding, if not love.

The Devouring

Follows the Rose/Storm Warning playbook of introducing the companion first and whatever madness has been let loose with the Doctor's gradual introduction.  The Devouring, an alien species obsessing over another being who happened to look in their direction is perhaps a metaphor for stalkers and how they can consume a person's whole life.  Writer Lisa McMullin has RTD's facility for sketching in but making meaningful side characters which means the scenes in the foe consumers everyone Audicity's been in contact with are even more horrible.  

The Great Cyber-War

Good, bold title as the Doctor finally visits a period which has been hinted at throughout the franchise, notably TV's Revenge of the Cybermen apparently at random (although we know it is really the TARDIS taking him where he needs to be).  Now we have an explanation for why gold of all things was so damaging to Cybermen, why they sounded so emotional in the 80s episodes despite saying that they'd drained themselves of emotion and how Voga ended up orbiting Jupiter.  It's all about as convincing as these grace notes usually are and it won't be the last time the Doctor finds himself making history.

Writer Tim Foley doesn't shortchange the action either, this is a six-episode (in old money), multi-location, cast of dozens epic with rich characterisation across the board, which also knows that all most of us really want or need from a Cyberman story is for one of the metal monsters to clench his biker-gloved fist and say "Excellent" with a mid-Atlantic accent as though they have bucket on their head and for the Doctor to shout "It's a cyber mat!" when required.  It's all good, clean tremendous, straightforward fun I'm glad we're hearing more of it in these releases.

Placement:  Ha, well.  As I said in the introduction, I was all ready to drop this before Shada, but then Charley appears at the end in Tibet, the Doctor having dropped her there for a bit, much as he did with Sam at Greenpeace and my brain turned to soup and began pouring out of my ears.  Assuming this is chronological, Charley sounds more mature than in her first season so I'm assuming this is supposed to be somewhere close to the start of the second season unless more information comes to light, like all of this is actually set after The Girl Who Never Was or the Doctor's jumped back into his own past and selfishly picked up Charley before an earlier version of himself was supposed to.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1984.

In 1984, Liverpool hosted an International Garden Festival, which the introduction to the accompanying guide book describes as "a five-month pageant of horticultural excellence and spectacular entertainment [...] the country's greatest event since the Festival of Britain."  Imagine the Chelsea Flower Show, but large enough to also include the Echo Arena, the Globe Theatre, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Ideal Home Exhibition and the sort of exhibits you'd find in the Millennium Dome.

Over the opening period, I must have visited with my parents and school around a dozen times and some of my favourite childhood memories were of exploring the parks and gardens, of watching the nightly piper on the hill, of seeing The Spinners and other groups in the "amphitheatre".  The first half hour of a programme about the gardens is on YouTubethe time when Roland Rat visitedGardeners' Worlda bootleg of a Western Promise concert which has some excellent shots of the ampitheatre and this slideshow of images.

There was also a BBC Children's Exhibition, next door to the Vine Garden and opposite the English Country Kitchen.  Given my age back then, it's impossible for me to remember anything from the display, but fortunately the guide book text lists everything.

BBC Children's Exhibition

Designed by William Gillespie & Partners.

Exhibition: Lawrence and Gerry Design Group.

Sponsored by B.B.C. 

Children’s broadcasting introduced a new and exciting element to the lives of young people.  The reassuring voices of Uncle Mac and Aunty Kathleen were as memorable to  those who grew up with them as the visual drama of Dr. Who has become to the television generation.
This exhibition commemorate sixty years of children’s broadcasting by the BBC, using photographs and videos of past programmes as well as exhibits from the productions currently on the air.
It provides a trip down memory lane for former Children’s Hour listeners, many of them now grandparents, for whom Muffin the Mule, Andy Pandy, and Mr. Turnip will evoke early television programmes.
Visitors enter this world of fantasy and fiction through pergola shaped like a television screen.  The central exhibition, in a series of colourful hexagonal marquees linked around a courtyardm is complemented by striking forms as Dr. Who’s Tardis and K9 menaced by Daleks and a Blue Peter Galleon.
There are more favourites: Postman Pat, The Magic Roundabout with Florence, Zebedee, Dougal and Ermentrude, Paddington Bear, The Wombles. Posh Paws and Humpty from Playschool.  Jackanory's old kaleidoscope machine will be on show. Visitors will also have a chance to operate video cameras and a BBC computer.
Outside broadcast to take base from time to time in a small arena which also serves as a play area with giant Play School playblocks as the centre please.
Here are some excellent shot of the Doctor Who display (are they original props?).  This video has shots of The Magic Roundabout display as well as the red dragon which was the winner of a Blue Peter competition which Biddy Baxter herself wrote about in the festival guide:

Blue Peter Competition Garden

Designed by Theodore Gayer Anderson

Sponsored by: Blue Peter - BBC. 

19,940 viewers entered Blue Peter's competition to design a special Festival Garden - with a difference.  It didn't have to be full of flowers but anything calculated to amaze, delight and intrigue the estimated three million visitors to the International Garden Festival. We were after good ideas rather than brilliant drawings and we never dreamed would receive such imaginative and well thought out suggestions. They ranged from a Bangers and Mash Garden with gigantic foam rubber sausages and a baked bean stepping stone path, to gardens, especially for the disabled including one with a class on mushrooms sheltering the displays each with two sides, one for sighted people and the other with exhibits blind people could touch.
The Design Co-ordinator, Rodney Beaumont, joined us for the judging and decided the entries were so good some of them should be displayed at the BBC Children’s Programs. Jubilee Exhibition.  They included the nine First, Second and Third prize winning designs in the competition's three age groups.
The judges were unanimous in their decision to award the Overall Top Prize to 14-year-old Theodore Gayer Anderson’s spectacular red dragon.  He's bound to give us a great deal of pleasure.  For us he’s the highlight of the festival - make sure you don’t miss the experience of walking through the dragon's head, along his back and down his right hand leg!
Biddy Baxter, Editor, Blue Peter, 10th of February. 1984.
Theodore, now Theo, went on to become a sculptor major enough to have his works listed on the Saachi Gallery website.  He seems to have been descended from Major Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, whose name lives on at a museum in Cairo which was his home there until 1942 when he was forced to leave Egypt due to ill health.  The Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me was partially shot there in the reception hall and rooftop terrace.  During earlier ownership, the building was known as House of the Cretan Woman which inspired a book of stories translated by Major Gayer-Anderson which has subsequently been restored by Theo and republished.

The site has subsequently been a contentious place with various successive councils and developers offering differing plans as to what to do with it.  Needless to say, many balls were dropped in the subsequent years and although part of the original garden has been open to visit at various times, what could have been a huge, ongoing crown jewel for Liverpool is now largely hidden behind a large wooden wall, barbed wire and menacing security signs.  As of last September the council were seeking a new developer for the site but if history has taught us locals anything, it's unlikely that anything as glorious as the original festival will be its replacement.

Anyway, now for something a bit more positive ...


"It was not the most comfortable of parts. I’m vegetarian, so the scene where we ate a sheep raw was pretty yuck."
[The Guardian]

"At the height of the Cold War, the BBC devised a programme schedule to be transmitted from the bunker in the event of a nuclear attack."
[BBC Sounds]

"Threads first aired on September 1984 on BBC2."
[Off The Telly]

"Given what we know about the life expectancy of human beings, it is entirely likely that the Queen Mother will snuff it within the next few years."
[side eye emoji]
[Off The Telly]


"Ian McNaught Davis examines and explains the changing world of the office and shows how new technology is altering how people work."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]

"This series examined one important aspect of computing - robotics - in other words how the computer can monitor and control things. Again there was a mix of real world examples - many from America, practical demonstrations and a "hands on" approach to coding."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]

"Following the two successful Making the Most of the Micro - Live! 'specials' in 1983, BBC2 transmitted MicoLive, a regular magazine series to keep people up to date with technological developments. Fronted by Ian McNaught Davis, Lesley Judd and Fred Harris, MicroLive ran for three years."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]

"BBC Radio 4 programme entitled 'The Paper Clip Spirit' in which Murdoch McPherson looks at resistance to the Nazi occupation in Norway, 1940-1945."
[Imperial War Museum]

"BBC Radio 4 programme entitled 'Bandits-The Anti-terrorist War in the Malayan Jungle' in which Charles Allen recalls the period of the Malayan emergency, 1948-1956."
[Imperial War Museum]


Elstree – ATV & BBC
"Thorough history of the studio, which the BBC took control of in 1984, with plenty of archival photographs and plans."
[TV Studio History]

"Special luncheon in Broadcasting House, Belfast, last weekend for veteran broadcasters from here, as part of celebrations to mark 60th anniversary of BBC Northern Ireland. Attended by WD Flackes, Eric Waugh, James Johnston (tenor), Malcolm Kellard, Cecil Taylor (HPNI) and Joseph Tomelty (actor)."
[BBC Rewind]


"Sarah Greene interviews Mike Ellis of the BBC Special Effects Team (and the father of Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis) about some of the enormous practical special effects used in the show. Simon Groom interviews some of the programme's young human stars, John Shackley, Jim Baker and Ceri Seed."
[BBC Archive]

"It is almost thirty years since we made the BBC adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s books Coot Club and The Big Six on the Norfolk Broads."
[Sophie Neville]

"Oh, hello there. Now where were we?"
[Dirty Feed]

"It’s the 6th February 1984 in studio TC4, and Rik Mayall is having a circular saw aimed at his knackers."
[Dirty Feed]

"Two episodes of Star Trek were shown in 1982; Operation -- Annihilate! and an unscheduled showing of The Savage Curtain. Apart from that the series had been off the air since May 1981. The longest gap since the BBC began showing Star Trek in 1969."
[Space Doubt]

"Composer Elizabeth Parker demonstrates some of the techniques she used to create the memorable soundscapes, effects and theme music for David Attenborough's natural history series The Living Planet, at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.  This clip is from General Studies, originally broadcast 23 May, 1984."
[BBC Archive]

"The BBC Radiophonic Workshop creates music and sound effects for over 200 BBC programmes each year.  Brian Hodgson explains how new technology has enabled the studio to cope with the extraordinary demand for its services.  Composer Malcolm Clarke demonstrates how essential sound effects to Doctor Who, and how quickly they can be added. Elizabeth Parker discusses working for an entire year to create over 5 hours of sound effects and music for the David Attenborough series, The Living Planet."
[BBC Archive]

"We used real wolves for the Roman camp part. They were meant to be attacking – but they kept running away with their tails between their legs."
[The Guardian]


"On the 8th May 1984, at 9:15pm1, something very odd happened on BBC2. As Mike The-Cool-Person sat at the kitchen table, discussing the gang’s laundry situation, The Young Ones briefly flashed to the end caption of Carry on Cowboy. It then flashed back as though nothing had happened. “Dirty duvet, dirty mind.”, says an oblivious Mike."
About a freeze frame controversy related to The Young Ones.
[Dirty Feed]

"This is my first foreword to a BBC Handbook. It has been a year when the need for decision about new technology and the pattern of broadcasting in the future has been insistent and dominant. In television, satellites will provide the opportunity te offer additional channels to the nation overnight; whilst cable favours the development of specialised and local services. In radio, we have to consider how best to use the resources and frequencies likely to be available in the 1990s to strengthen national and international services as well as local and community radio."
[World Radio History]

Doctor Who Children in Need Special 2023.

TV  Hello and here we are, the first four minutes and fifty seconds of proper television Doctor Who in over a year, a tiny hors d'oeuvre before the three-course meal soon to be delivered later in the month.  As such it comes with a weight of expectation that anyone would find difficult to carry no matter how many manual handling courses they've used as an excuse to get out of a day's work and still be paid.  Like its predecessor the Pudsey Cutaway, it's the first chance (ish) (we'll get to that) to see this new incarnation of the Doctor in action and how different he is from his predecessors, both the"really brilliant woman" and "the old face he's got back again".  Not to mention whether he'll be wandering about in a post-regenerative torpor mumbling about P'Tings and wondering how Nardol is doing.

When the Pudsey Cutaway was broadcast back in (Christ!) 2005 (yes, that's right, Pudsey Cutaway, don't come round here with your Born Again), it was preceded by then-husband and wife team Peter Andre and Katie Price singing an excruciating cover of A Whole New World, or the thing I had to keep fast-forwarding through when watching my off-air copy (something which we still had to do even after the commercial release in region 2, when they accidentally included the rough cut with its lack of cloister bell and temp music).  This was not apparently corrected for subsequent Blu-ray releases in the UK.  Hopefully, they will have gotten around to it with the new-new-release with the newest attempt at upscaling the 00s SD.  I'll report back. 

My point is, that Russell T Davies the Second wasn't going to make this appetiser too filling and given that this is a Children in Need "sketch" create something which has to fit within the comedy-tragedy-appeal- comedy-tragedy-appeal-music-tragedy-appeal structure.  No one wants a downer.  In the event, the TARDIS landed in the studio with Jason Manford and Mel Giedroyc departing dressed as Tooth and Curls and Sheffield Steel.  Mercifully they didn't sing, the former dropping a bunch of placeholder jokes about 2063 instead.  Could have been worse.  Even Time Crash had Myleene ‘full of’ Klass and John ‘full of’ Barrowman with a cover of Your Song (which has also been archived on YouTube).  Mercifully, the commercial release of the one with the decorative vegetable didn't have any problems.

Doctor Who Children in Need Special 2023 as the iPlayer has titled it (so mote it be) fulfils its anniversary promise and takes us back to a crucial moment in Doctor Who history, the Genesis of the Daleks or rather, the Genesis of the Plunger, which is just the sort of cheekiness we've not really seen since Moffat left.  Davros, played superbly straight by a returning Julian Beech wearing an authentic Kaleds' Military Elite uniform surveying his new creation and chatting with a Mr Nominative Determanism, sorry, Mr Castervillian about what to call the thing (but let us not fetishise the space Nazis too much, we'll leave that to Star Wars fans, who curiously haven't adopted a collective name like Warsian or whatever).

As the flunky, Mawaan Rizwan catches the tone just right and we'll probably appreciate his role a lot more on the hundredth viewing but many viewers on first seeing this will have spent his opening two and a half minutes wondering where the Doctor is.  Then the TARDIS crashes into the back of the set, the door bursts open and who should blunder out, David Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor with a minute or so's hijinks backed by a curious musak jazz soundtrack which sounds like something from an 80s sketch show joke montage.  So far there's not much to say on the personality front.  From what we see here, and much like the "degenerative" process in Big Finish's anniversary festival Once and Future, the sense of self comes with the face and so we have the Tenth Doctor looking a couple of decades older.

Fourteenth says on realising he's giving the pepperpots both their name and catchphrase, "the timelines of canon are rupturing" and they certainly are.  As the boss explains in Confidential's replacement Unleashed, Davros, as he's been depicted over the past fifty years, is immensely problematic in 2023 and he couldn't in all conscience show a wheelchair user as a villain, especially on Children In Need and so this is how Davros will appear going forward.  Which honestly is quite right, especially if you're a child who is a wheelchair user and might have to deal with the discriminatory fallout and I'm embarrassed myself that I'd never considered that before.  But in keeping Beech as the character, continuity is maintained.

How does this square with previous fictional depictions?  Well, because everyone has wanted to have a crack at writing the creator of the Daleks, Davros's origin story on the TARDIS Wiki page is a mess anyway and it's entirely possible that due to Amy's Crack, the Faction Paradox or the Time War in general, the creation myth of the Daleks is in constant flux and the Doctor's just stumbled into yet another iteration of however it's supposed to have happened.  History's changed so that Davros never had the accident and in this iteration of the timeline it's this space Gru and his army of murderous minions, part of the military rather than science elite (hence the uniform) with whom the Fourth Doctor did battle.  In Dr Who, everything and nothing is canonical really.  No Lucasfilm Story Group for us.

Casuals might wonder why, unlike the Pudsey Cutaway, we're not seeing the moments directly after the regeneration on the cliff.  Apart from not wanting to attract the ire of the Durdle Door people again (the location of the cliff in Dorset was photographed without Cardiff telling the owners it was for the regeneration scene which led to fears that Whovians might fall off the edge like lemmings), RTD2's also left room for the adventure which has played out in the parish circular's comic strip for the past fourteenth months.  I won't completely spoil the immensely fun Liberation of the Daleks in case you're waiting for the graphic novel but it ends with the Doctor fearing that the malfunctioning TARDIS might return him to Skaro.  And here he is, looking a bit knackered after all of those shenanigans. 

As a bonus, the iPlayer also contains a preview of Confidential's replacement, Unleashed, presented by the effervescent Steffan Powell meandering around the set, nabbing people for a chat and giving proceedings a bit more personality than the old B-roll with Simon Pegg voiceover.  But these are still intercut with old school producer interviews during which it's revealed by Vicki Delow that this was all shot a whole year after the specials, with David Tennant (presumably unexpectedly) playing the Fourteenth Doctor again and the interview with Russell in which he explains the change to Davros's character mentioned above.  After the relative BTS drought of the past few years, it's fun seeing Barnaby Edwards crouched inside the Dalek casing again explaining how he wiggles the weapons.

Where does this leave us?  With five minutes of fun, something to entice kids to watch Genesis of the Daleks on the iPlayer and keep us going for another week and a day.  With due respect to Mr Chibnall for keeping all of this on-air even during the pandemic, ever since Mr Davies has returned, there's been a general feeling of "we're back", of there being excitement around the series again, from the revitalised Doctor Who Magazine, to most of Doctor Who turning up on the iPlayer (which feels like would have happened even if this wasn't an anniversary year) to this Doctor Who Children in Need Special 2023 which exists purely because Russell T Davies decided that they traditionally make something for Children in Need and so here we are.  Roll on the 25th of November.

Cinematic Shakespeare.

Film  Recently, in the lead-up to the 400th anniversary of the publication of the First Folio, the BBC has broadcast a series of archive Shakespeare productions including a Hamlet double bill on one Sunday night, which would have tested the metal of even his biggest fan (and I speak as someone who once listened to three full-text audio versions in a day).  

Sadly it hasn't been the complete canon - showing versions of all 36 plays was probably a big ask in 2023.  But this will have been the first opportunity some viewers will have had to see Peter Hall's The Wars of the Roses or Hamlet at Elsinore (incorrectly labelled as part of "The BBC Television Shakespeare" on the iPlayer which was at least a decade and a half later).

Nevertheless, this has provoked me to finally get around to a series of occasional blog posts I've been thinking about for a few years of putting together various Shakespeare collections or "festivals" with productions which share a format or media.  Until now, that's always felt pretty tricky because not all of the plays have been available in all the formats or media I've wanted to cover.  

We're in a time when most of the plays are at the most accessible they've ever been, between physical formats and streaming services and so I thought it would be fun to finally create such lists in case anyone is interested in watching their way through the plays and would quite like some recommendations.  Up first, Cinematic Shakespeare or how I'm going to spend December.

*    *    *    *    *

Of all the plays you would think might be the first to survive on film, it wouldn't be King John.  But there he is, actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree playing the doomed monarch in poisonous, fearful death, silently intoning Shakespeare's words back in 1899.  The Folger Shakespeare Library has a lengthy article about this which explains that it was shot on stage at the Palace Theatre on September 20th, the same night Tree's own stage production began its sun at Her Majesty's Theatre.  

Shakespeare has flourished in film since with hundreds of productions across most of the rest of the canon.  What we're concerning ourselves with here are those which as projects were originated and shot on film (so no direct stage transfers) or HD in a so-called "classical Hollywood" style with all the visual tricks that entail.  The text could be cut or rearranged, but the words coming out of the actor's mouths are Shakespeare's.  

Here is my curated list in First Folio order.  As you'll see I've tried to pay respect to both theatrical and cinematic history (Ken, Larry, Orson etc).  It's also fair to say that some of the choices are by default because they're the only version of the play to fit the criteria.  We still await the retro-noir version of Measure for Measure I've had in my head for decades (and just turning the colour off on the BBC 1994 Performance version isn't quite the same).  Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.


Propero's Books (1991)  After numerous attempts with various directors, John Gielgud finally played the title character of The Tempest in Peter Greenaway's eclectic, avant-garde visually stunning treatment.  Greenaway plays with the notion of Prospero as Shakespeare's avatar and the popular belief that in writing the text and the sorcerer's words he was bidding farewell to his life's work.  If you are treating this as the opening film of a festival, it's a great introduction.

Two Gentlemen of Verona  There have been no cinematic versions.

The Merry Wives of Windsor  There have (mostly) been no cinematic versions.  See Chimes at Midnight.

Measure for Measure   There have been no cinematic versions.

The Comedy of Errors  There have been no cinematic versions.

Much Ado About Nothing (1991)  There's not much of a contest here, this has Ken and Em at their zenith shot beneath the golden Tuscan sky in a rendering of the play which makes sense of the comedic scenes as well as the tragic.  More than most of Branagh's films, this has him clashing Hollywood and UK theatrical royalty together, with Denzel meeting Briersley and BRIAN BLESSED and Ben Elton playing sidekick to Michael Keaton.  Also the first major screen role for Kate Beckinsale.

Love's Labour's Lost (2000)  Ken's version of this prequel to a lost play drew criticism from some for cutting almost three-quarters of the play and turning the whole thing into a 1930s musical (especially with this being the only film version of the play available) but the result is so adorable I'll forgive everything.  The cuts are also immensely clever.  In its complete form, LLL can be difficult to follow in places, but through production design and costume, everything here is perfectly clear.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)  The apogee of the 90s Shakespeare film cycle, this Branagh-influenced version returns to a Tuscan setting (still referred to as Greece in the text) and has John Sessions as Philostrate.  The magic of the forest is given the full special effects treatment and the whole of the cast is just so gosh-darn adorable, with Michelle Pfeiffer at her imperious best as Titannia and Kevin Kline offering his thoroughly cute Bottom.

The Merchant of Venice (2004)  The casting of the Sicilian Italian-American Al Pacino as Shylock looks pretty dated in retrospect, but Michael Radford's production does at least notice that this isn't a particularly funny play, cutting most of the box-checking scenes and highlighting the animosity between the ethnic and religious groups in Venice.  It's also notable for its location shooting in Venice and doesn't downplay the homo-erotic aspects of some relationships.

As You Like It (2006)  Back to Branagh for his final Shakespeare production on film (so far) which transposes the play to a late 19th-century European colony in Japan after the Meiji Restoration amongst the English traders who were fascinated by the local culture.  Future Doctor Who Romola Garai plays Celia, with most of his usual repertory appearing and Kevin Kline joining as Jaques.  Theatrically released in the UK, it was produced for HBO back when they did this sort of thing.

The Taming of the Shrew (1967)  Taylor and Burton bouncing off the walls of Cineceta and each other.  Unlike her husband, Liz hadn't acted Shakespeare before and after much persistence, she was able to lobby director Franco Zeffrelli to redo the first week's shooting at the end once she'd got the hang of the iambic pentameter.  Cuts include the induction with Christopher Sly and most of the Lucentio and Bianca subplot.  Michael Hordern is delightful as Kate's father  

All's Well That Ends Well   There have been no cinematic versions.

Twelfth Night (1996)  Considering its popularity, it's surprising that Adrian Noble's country house take is the only version of the play on film.  It's perfectly fine with a strong cast led by Imogen Stubbs and Helena Bonham Carter with Ben Kingsley as Feste, REG as Aguecheek, Mel Smith as Toby Belch and Nigel Hawthorne as Malvolio.  Once again it feels of a piece with Ken's style but he'd already produced a TV version for Channel 4 in 1988 with Briesley in the yellow britches.

The Winter's Tale   There have been no cinematic versions (in 1968, Frank Dunlop adapted his Edinburgh Festival stage production but even that isn't available).


King John  There have been no cinematic versions (apart from the 1899 version which wouldn't count anyway).

The Hollow Crown (2012-2016)  For the tetralogies, you've two choices.  The Hollow Crown allows you to follow the whole damn story with shared casts, all of the best actors of the period reading Shakespeare's words in a style which is essentially Game of Thrones without the dragons, with Henry VI is heavily cut and runs across two episodes.  Or you can treat some of the plays individually and take a more eclectic approach.  See below:

Richard II  There have been no other cinematic versions.

Chimes at Midnight (1966)  Out of circulation until recently due to licensing issues, Orson Welles's labour of love essentially pulls all of the Falstaff scenes from the various plays including The Merry Wives of Windsor and spins them into a relatively coherent screenplay.  The director makes for a rambunctious lead character and the eclectic cast includes Gielgud and Jeane Moreau as Doll Tearsheet.  

Henry V (1944)  To ease us out of the Welles, it's back to one of the grandparents of Shakespeare on film.  Opening in a recreation of an Elizabethan theatre to underscore the artifice of what's ahead, like a backstage musical the stage becomes a near-infinite space across which the battle of Agincourt and everything else in Larry's interpretation takes place.  Sacred enough that when Ken wanted to make his version, the effort was branded as precocious.

Richard III (1955)  Olivier played Richard on stage, but his film version is a different entity with a new cast and production design.  Apparently, it wasn't well received by critics at the time but the opening monologue has become iconic and it's said many actors work hard not to play it like Olivier (Ken parodies this during the audition scene of In The Bleak Midwinter).  The late, lamented Network released a wonderfully crisp restoration of this which is worth tracking down.

Henry VIII (1979)  Director Kevin Billington, in an effort to shift the play away from its usual presentation as a pageant, shot this on location at Leeds Castle, Penshurst Place and Hever Castle, often in the rooms where the historical action is presumed to take place.  As a result, it looks more "cinematic" than a lot of the films on this list not least because everyone looks absolutely freezing, their breath steaming throughout.  The DVD transfer is pin-sharp.


Troilus and Cressida (1981)   There have been no cinematic versions.

Coriolanus (2011)  In this modern dress adaptation, director Ralph Feinnes transfers ancient Rome to the Balkans during a pseudo-Yugoslave war, with the actual Jon Snow offering backstory at the beginning in the style of a newscast.  Rattles through a cut text in a couple of hours, Fiennes cuts a commanding, bloodthirsty figure as the title character, nevertheless crumbling in the face of Vanessa Redgrave's Volumnia.  Mother knows best.

Titus (1999)  Like Coriolanus, Julie Taymor's film refuses to accept the play's original setting, instead clashing together designs from various periods of history, from ancient Rome to Mussolini's Italy through the eyes of the contemporary small boy introduced at the beginning who enters the production as young Lucius is really just messing about with toy soldiers.  Which doesn't make it any less gruesome, Tony Hopkins serving revenge with Lectorish glee.

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996)  Could it be anything other than Baz Luhrmann?  Few productions have convincingly suggested these two could fall in love overnight, but when Leo and Claire furtively gaze at one another through the fish tank you're sold.  Also manages to make you forget this is a play you've seen a dozen times before, with the various contrivances absolutely heart-sucking.  One for the ages.

Timon of Athens (1981)   There have been no cinematic versions.

Julius Caesar (1953)  Developed in reaction to Olivier's Henry V, this full-tilt classical Hollywood production re-uses sets from Quo Vadis and was shot in black and white so as not to draw comparison and to suggest contemporary film reels reflecting the still evident fascist movements in Europe.  Features James Mason and Gielgud as Brutus and Cassius, Marlon Brando as Mark Anthony and a host of recognisable character actors from that period.  

Macbeth (1948) Orson Welles: "I thought I was making what might be a good film, and what, if the 23-day shoot schedule came off, might encourage other filmmakers to tackle difficult subjects at greater speed. Unfortunately, not one critic in any part of the world chose to compliment me on the speed. They thought it was a scandal that it should only take 23 days. Of course, they were right, but I could not write to every one of them and explain that no one would give me any money for a further day's shooting . . . However, I am not ashamed of the limitations of the picture."

Hamlet (1996)  Branagh's magnum opus, a four-hour production of a conflated text collecting as much Hamlet as Shakespeare wrote, including some odds and sods from Q1.  As with 99% of productions, Ken and his cohorts are too old for their parts (is everyone in court a mature student?) but this is Shakespeare rendered in 70mm with more stars than a Record Breakers Christmas Special.  Briersley's spymaster Polonius steals the show.

King Lear (1970)  Pitch dark Bergmanesque production from Peter Brook with Paul Schofield's Lear against a blasted wilderness, shot in the wintery dune country of Denmark's Jutland Peninsula.  Visually it's absolutely extraordinary, the grain of the 16mm creating the impression that we're watching action filmed in a documentary style in the deep past.  Probably in my top three favourite Lears, along with Kurosawa's Ran and the RSC production with Romola Garai amongst others.

Othello (1995)  Although there had been earlier indie productions starring Ted Lange and Yaphet Kotto, this was the first mainstream production to feature a black actor in the lead role, the fantastic Laurence Fishburne.  It's adapted and directed by Oliver Parker and Ken only plays Iago, but manages to feature some of his usual ensembles, Michael Maloney and Nicholas Farrell.  Shot on location in Venice and Cyprus, David Johnson's cinematography gives it an erotic thriller feel.

Antony and Cleopatra (1972)  Having yet to have the chance to see this, here's a take from the BFI's old ScreenOnline website:  "Emphasising spectacle at the expense of subtlety (even to the point of recycling shots from the 1959 Ben-Hur, in which Heston had starred some thirteen years earlier!), this adaptation shows little feeling for the emotions at the core of the story, and is torpedoed by the lack of chemistry between Heston and South African actress Hildegard Neil, who is arguably miscast as Cleopatra."

Cymbeline   There have been no cinematic versions.

Up next:
Shakespeare Adaptations.