Second Chances (Short Trips: How the Doctor Changed My Life).

Prose  What happens to a megalomaniac after their dastardly scheme's been defeated by the Doctor?  How do they pick up the pieces once the Time Lord and his plus one have left the scene?  Where do they go?  In Krellig's case, it's back to live with his parents and find a job.  There are lots of lovely writing in Bernard O'Toole's story, like the scene featuring the villain's emotionally staccato pigeon fancying father and how the thrilling details of the Doctor Who portion of the story crash against the mundanity of the job centre.  The Eighth Doctor and Charley are present and correct although most other combination would have done the trick.  But it's not about them.  It's about the aftershocks of their presence on this one man's life, the kind of story for which the short form is perfect.

Placement:  In the gap between With Charley Seasons One and Two I should think.

Alistair Cooke's Letter From America: A Chronology.

Radio  Letter From America was a weekly series on Radio 4 which ran from the mid-1940 to the mid-2000s in which the broadcaster and journalist Alistair Cooke commented on the week's news from the United States in a fifteen minute essay.  Documenting the history of the country over the past five decades, every episode of filled with contemporary details often glossed over in hindsight.

Across its 58 year history, 2869 episodes were broadcast of which about 1,550 survive, 900 in the BBC's own archives and another 650 previously thought lost until they were revealed by two listeners who'd been diligently recording ever episode for decades.  Home taping might have been killing music but it was saving this precious speech radio.  

Every extant episode is now available on the BBC website.  Unfortunately, like In Our Time, they're locked into a programme page format which isn't easily navigable when that many episodes are involved and so I decided to create the following chronology to make them more accessible and create the ability to easily skip to a particular year and re-experience that history through the words of Alistair Cooke.

To that end, I've also augmented the radio episodes with transcripts of lost episodes from elsewhere as well as Cooke's US-related journalism from other outlets, notably The Guardian where he was a foreign correspondent from 1947 to 1972 and which led him to be on the ground during these historic moments, like the Montgomery bus boycott and RFK's assassination.  Those entries will be marked with their source and in italics.  Enjoy.


Navigating Glastonbury 2022.


Music  Hope you've all been enjoying Glastonbury this weekend, even from your armchair.  Having come to terms with not seeing the Sugababes set in clips longer than 20 seconds via Twitter, I've been diving into some sets on the iPlayer.  Except the navigation isn't particularly ideal.  Unlike previous years when the line-up was structured around stages, this year, there are some murky "genre" headings like "pop perfection" and "top of your lungs".

There is a line-up page on the BBC Glastonbury site with does break the acts down into stages but it requires at least a couple of clicks to get anywhere and even then, it's not to the iPlayer, it's to an extended clip which is embedded into the BBC Music website rather than the iPlayer, which doesn't matter exactly, but it's still a lot of effort.  Plus it's sometimes difficult on the iPlayer to see the difference between a broadcast highlights show and a full set.

So during BBC Four's repeat of the JARV IS set tonight, I've created a breakdown of Glastonbury by stage with links to the full sets (give or take a Fuck You).  Most stages it's every act apart from the first few (sorry fans of The Libertines).  The links below should be valid for a month so you have until the end of July to catch up.  Obviously this is only helpful if you're watching things on a tablet or PC.  You could always try casting them I suppose.  Anyway, on with the show.

PYRAMID STAGE

LORDE
ELBOW
DIANA ROSS
HERBIE HANCOCK
DAKHABRAKHA
BLACK DYKE BAND


OTHER STAGE

FRIDAY
FOALS

WEST HOLTS STAGE

SUNDAY
BICEP
ANGELIQUE KIDJO
KOFFEE
SNARKY PUPPY
NUBYA GARCIA
NIGHTMARES ON WAX
EMMA-JEAN THACKRAY
ISHMAEL ENSEMBLE


JOHN PEEL STAGE


THE PARK STAGE

Inevitable Sugababes post.

 

Music Find above the Sugababes on This Morning on the occasion of the announcement of their UK tour. It's a lovely interview. Doesn't cover much new ground but the fact that it's the three of them on a sofa on morning television doing this sort of thing and looking so relaxed with one another, well, it's lovely. 

They will be playing Liverpool, the 02 Academy just off London Road. Will I go? I don't know. You would think, but it depends on the price of the ticket and whether I feel like I can stand in a large crowd amid my anxiety. It's over ten years since I've been to any concert. 

One mitigating factor might be that the BBC aren't televising their Glastonbury set because it's on the Avalon stage and it's not one of the five venues they'll be covering so I'll be unable to see whether they do an acoustic version of Get Sexy or have a less dodgy recording than this of Siobhan singing Heidi's bits from Push The Button.

On the upside, MKS's Flatline has been uploaded to the official Sugababes YouTube channel after ten years which is also kind of wonderful.

 

Classical Hollywood and where to watch it (in the UK).

Film  We're constantly being warned now about the death of physical media and it's true that a swathe of new films are no longer receiving timely shiny disc releases if at all.  MARVEL have already announced that none of their Disney+ shows are going to disc (which means our MCU collections will be forever incomplete).  But it's fine, we're told, streaming services have such depth of content it won't matter.

Except, that's not true, at least in the UK and especially for those of us who're interested in Hollywood cinema made in the classical era during the first wave of vertical integration, when the "content stream" went from sound stage to studio owned theatres rather than streaming services because what are Disney+, Paramount+ and Netflix if not that?

As you'll see below from the survey I've made, the back catalogue or archive of the major studios during the studio era is all but absent from the major subscription streaming services apart from the most popular titles.  There isn't a streaming equivalent of the 20th Century Fox Studio Classics collection and the Criterion Channel hasn't launched here.

Which isn't to say there aren't ways of seeing these films.  As I advertise every day on Twitter, Cinema Paradiso has in its collection every dvd or blu-ray released in this country going right back to the early noughties (you can sign up here and get a free month to try it out).  Pretty much the whole of Cary Grant's career is available for example.

If you just want to watch the occasional thing you can also rent most titles through Amazon Video although at up to £3.50 a pop that could get expensive if you're on a Ginger Rogers binge, for example.  There are also nefarious uploads to YouTube or the Internet Archive which in some cases is the only way of getting hold of some material in the UK.

British cinema on the other hand is pretty well served by boutique UK streamers.  Between Britbox, the BFI Player and TPTV EncoreNetwork on Air is also slowly coming on stream.  Between them there's probably a couple of hundred titles which is remarkable in comparison to what's elsewhere.  Between the BFI Player and MUBI, European cinema is also impressively covered.

But in the main, no matter who has the rights to this stuff, none of the UK streaming services with the exception of Disney are interested in exploiting pre-60s US film.  Perhaps they're afraid of cannibalising the dvd back listings.  If only films were treated in the same way as Spotify and there was a single place you could go to watch everything in film history for a single subscription price.

Columbia Pictures

In deep archive terms in the UK, Columbia Pictures doesn't exist.  At time of writing has two films from the studio era, Amazon Prime has another two and All4 has a couple for catch-up purposes.  Plex has a smattering of westerns.

20th Century Fox

Disney don't seem to have any interest in exploiting the Fox catalogue before the 1970s and even then only films "of note".  The only two studio area films on Disney+ are An Affair to Remember and Journey to the Centre of the Earth and they're both from the late 50s.

MGM

Nothing.  Much like Fox, when Amazon took control of MGM's assets it seemed as though uploading MGM's back catalogue would be one of the priorities, especially from the studio system era, but nope.

Paramount

Before the UK launch of Paramount+ I was salivating at the sheer amount of classic Hollywood material available on the US version.  But sadly none of that has transferred over.  Yet.  As it stands we find the contents of the Audrey Hepburn boxed set which always seems to be perpetually on sale at Fopp and a couple of westerns.  There's also the weirdness of seeing Miramax films in the mix here instead of Disney+, the parent company Viacom having bought the company recently but that's a discussion for another time.

RKO Radio Pictures

Back in the mid-50s, the BBC signed an incredible deal which means they have the rights to show a core set about about a hundred RKO titles in perpetuity.  This still seems to be in abeyance and so we find forty-odd movies on the BBC iPlayer.  Plex GB has another dozen.

Samuel Goldwyn Productions

Due to the slightly chaotic approach to how films appear on its service it's impossible to know if this is due to rights or an uploader, but thirty-eight films from the Sam Goldwyn Company are on Amazon Prime with prints of varying quality.  Compared to the output list on Wikipedia, its by no means everything there's a fair spread across the United Artists and RKO distribution eras.

United Artists

Twenty films on Amazon Prime.  Sixteen on Plex GB.  Four on Pluto GB.  Although this is one of the messier studios to investigate because they were mainly a distributor for productions from major studios and minors.  Often "United Artists" films were actually produced by a much smaller company then branded as such.  The Netflix of their day.

Universal Pictures

Nope.  Even assets like the monsters sequence.

Walt Disney Studios

Disney+ of course.  Although the studio's entire history isn't quite available, all of the important releases are, across animated and live action.  The standard.

Warner Brothers

Nothing from the studio era on any service.  Perhaps that will change when HBO Max launches in (checks notes) 2025.

Suns and Mothers (Short Trips: How the Doctor Changed My Life).

Prose  A simple story that echoes the TV Movie, this has a teenager borrow the TARDIS key from an unconscious Doctor, stumble into the blue box and find himself possessed by aliens which initially manifest as a pair of glowing eyes.  The How the Doctor Changed my Life anthology was the result of a Big Finish competition for new writers and Einar Olgeirsson (who shares his name with an old Icelandic socialist politician) seems like a worthy choice.  His Eighth Doctor is spot on and he more than fulfils the brief.  Olgeirsson later self published a couple of books on Amazon although I can't find any other online activity (across his blog, Twitter and Facebook) since 2018.  I hope he's OK.  He's a good writer.

Placement: The Puccini reference probably drops this early into the Greenpeace gap.  

The Wickerwork Man (Short Trips: Farewells).

Prose  It's Summerisle in suburbia, as the Doctor investigates an alien infiltration in Levenshulme in a story which ends, and I don't think this is a spoiler given the title, with a giant wooden effigy being torched.  In someone's back garden.  I've said this before, but god I love Paul Magrs version of Doctor Who, that sweet spot between folk horror, parochialism and camp in which haunted dolls infested with alien hornets terrorise a pier in Cromer or as this the case here an apocalyptic evil attempts to conquer the Earth through the medium of patio furniture.   

The story shares many structural similarities to Rose which premiered a year before this was published, although its not clear how deliberate that is.  Told in the first person through the eyes of twenty-two year old Peter, the Doctor slowly encroaching on his otherwise boring life, meeting his parents and introducing him to the TARDIS.  But this Eighth Doctor seems more absent minded than guarded and unafraid of domestic.  But you could imagine this being a jumping off point for a whole series of stories in a similar vein as Peter becomes more sure of himself and his sexuality while fighting monsters across space and time.  

Placement:  In the chaos of the Greenpeace gap.  The Doctor mentions he has a few irons in the fire which would fit with the version who's buzzing around the universe right then.

The Sotheby's Folio.

Books  Perhaps the biggest surprise about Sotheby's, the auction house with branches throughout the world is that you can, at least at their New Bond Street outpost, just wander in off the street.  The job of the impeccably dressed security person on the door would seem to be to stop someone in a crumpled t-shirt and ill fitting jeans, sweating profusely having walked further than he needed to in attempting to find the place, from entering.  But he ignored me as I stepped through the doorway past the diamond tiara twinkling in a display case and into the part reception area, part restaurant filled with people eating gnocchi which looked like they cost as much as my daily salary.

Still feeling as though someone would halt my progress at any moment, I cautiously  followed the signs to the darkened gallery area and towards a room which looked like it might house the treasure which I'd come to see.  At which point a hand was immediately unfurled by a security person to bar my way.  Here we go.  But I looked properly and saw I was about the stray into the jewellery section and for obvious reasons backpacks are prohibited.  So I asked instead where the thing I'd come to see, the Shakespeare First Folio, was as the guard duly gave me directions through another couple of rooms and I relaxed.  This was all fine.  As is so often the case in London, nobody cares.

Sure enough, in one of the larger rooms in the gallery area, on the far wall in the wooden cabinet (as you can see in the accompanying photograph was a Shakespeare First Folio).  I feel comfortable talking about it in the past tense because by now it is already being prepared for its flight to New York, where, as this Guardian article from last week describes, it'll be up for auction.  The price tag in the label indicates that its valued between $1.5m and $2.5m which made it (having glanced at some other labels in the same room) by far the most expensive item on display but there it sat unnoticed amongst the much lesser valued Henry Moores, Bridget Rileys and Ben Nicholsons.

The cabinet and accompanying wall carving go unexplained.  Do they come with the book or have these been added by Sotheby's to add a bit of drama to the display?  Perhaps they were created by one of the previous owners as a form of reverence of the kind usually reserved for religious texts.  Much as a devout person might open a family bible on special occasions, might there have been a Shakespeare fan who would reverently unlock the case now and then to flick through the pages and gaze on his words before shutting the lid and return to the Penguin paperbacks they use on a daily basis.  Like the Bible, Shakespeare's Folio seems to have as much power as an object as the words it contains.

The reason for making this pilgrimage was because this is one of the rarest of the Folios, being one of only twenty or so which are still in private hands.  With a provenance which stretches back to the early 17th century (as outlined in the article) and sure to end up in a vault somewhere, this would be my only chance to see it.  Of course, all of the folios look roughly the same.  Sotheby's opened this edition to the first page of Twelfth Night, perhaps because on the opposite side after the conclusion of All's Well That Ends Well, there are some illegible handwritten notes which help to identify this particular copy from the others.  But these books were designed to be identical (despite typesetting errors) and I've already seen a few.

Nevertheless, I have a list and with so few on public display in the UK anyway, it's always worth having a look, if only for the surrounding experiences.  Had it not been for this book, I might never have been to Sotheby's and realised that apart from the book, that its possible to gaze at various museum level paintings and sculpture by the likes of Henry Moore, Bridget Riley and Ben Nicholson that most likely will never be available again to the general public (outside of exhibition loans).  Perhaps in the next few years I should make an effort to see more of them and hopefully somewhere were I won't feel quite so out of place.  Which proverbially says more about me than it probably does about them.

A viewing order for all of Star Wars.

Film  Yes, I know.  The web is littered with articles listing "the best order to watch Star Wars" or some such, but so, so many of them get it wrong.  Apart from ignoring the chronological viewing order of The Clone Wars and how the final season works in relation to Revenge of the Sith and The Bad Batch, they're rarely itemised by the episode, mention Forces of Destiny or include still blatantly canonical nonsense like the Ewok movies (no matter what Lucasfilm says).  So modelled on my viewing order for the Whoniverse, here's some click bait which some of you might nevertheless find useful.

Some notes.  It's up to you on which order you decide to watch the episodes of The Clone Wars and Resistance which take place simultaneously with a film.  I've put them after each film as a kind of "meanwhile" but this viewing order isn't really for people who haven't watched most of this before.  This chronology also focuses TV and film because they're traditionally considered to be the most canonical (although I'm tempted to include the adaptations of lost stories from The Clone Wars at some point).  I will keep this updated as each new series or film is released.

The shorts are the biggest problem because they weren't really designed to be watched in sequence (and the Star Wars website offers few answers) so any kind of attempt to find a logic placement is fruitless.  Forces of Destiny episodes have been grouped together under the relevant years for ease of watch, although suggestions welcome, especially in relation to The Clone Wars and Rebels tie-ins.  The Resistance shorts have been timed to fit between the two episodes of the Season One mid-season break when they were uploaded to YouTube.

For an explanation of how calendars work in Star Wars visit the Wookiepedia, which was the source for much of the dating here.  Basically BBY is Before Battle of Yavin and ABY is After Battle of Yavin, which obviously made sense when that was the great victory which brought down the Empire.

[Key: VIS=Visions, FOD=Forces of Destiny, TCW=The Clone Wars, TBB=The Bad Batch, OBI=Obi-Wan Kenobi, REB=Rebels, MAN=The Mandalorian, BOB=The Book of Boba-Fett, RES=Resistance, RSS=Resistance Shorts, MOV=Films.]

Cultural Vandalism.

Theatre The New Yorker has an interview with director Robert Icke on the occasion of his new production of Hamlet at the Armory in New York City. We could have a discussion about the writer's slightly dated assumption as to how Q1 was written (which has pretty much been disowned in most of the latest editions of the play I've read) but it's this section about how they're going to restructure the play which I'm here to repost a twitter thread about. The section starts reasonably enough talking about being mentored by Anne Barton then goes off the rails pretty quickly:
Among the plays he and Barton discussed was “Hamlet.” Barton, he learned, was impatient with the character of Ophelia: in her introduction to the Penguin edition of the play, she called Ophelia “na├»ve, passive and dependent.” Icke told me, “We talked about ‘Why isn’t Ophelia’s story moving? Why do you never care? Why do you never follow that story—and why is it never clear why she’s mad?’ I always feel like Ophelia is sidelined in productions, and even in the text.” Icke proposed a dramaturgical solution, arguing that the play would work much better if two early scenes were transposed, and Polonius and his two children—Laertes and Ophelia—were introduced before Hamlet is told by his friend Horatio of the sighting of his father’s spirit. “I always felt that you were getting Part Two of the more important story before you were getting Part One of the less important story, and that made the less important story feel genuinely irrelevant,” Icke explained. “It was always, like, ‘That guy’s going to see a ghost! And, by the way, here’s some advice about your trip to France.’ And you think, I don’t care about that—there’s a ghost!”

Icke’s Almeida production contains this structural change, so that Hamlet’s complex relationship with Ophelia is introduced—in the form of Laertes warning her to deflect any advances from the Prince—before Horatio informs him of the appearance of the Ghost. “I think it makes a huge difference as to how you are invited to take seriously the Ophelia bit of the story—and it gives me a hugely valued excuse to get Hamlet and Ophelia together alone onstage for a moment,” Icke said. The revision not only enriches the emotional dynamic between Hamlet and Ophelia; it frames Ophelia’s tragedy-within-a-tragedy as the story of a young woman whose family is so uncertain of its social position that it cannot allow her to pursue her own desires. In this context, it becomes piercing when, after Ophelia’s suicide, Gertrude expresses a belated wish that Ophelia had been her son’s bride. “You’re, like—what? Gertrude was fine with it? Everyone was fine with it?” Icke said. “That was something Anne Barton said that was really helpful to me—that all the ingredients are there for the match to proceed, and what happens is just about insecurity, and that Ophelia doesn’t believe in herself enough. There’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. So much of the play is like that.”
Apart from it messing up the time scheme of the play, the whole point of Hamlet and Ophelia's relationship is that it exists through third party reaction and report. Like much of Hamlet, we're supposed to use our imaginations to fill in the blanks.  It is fair to say Ophelia isn't one of Shakespeare's richest female roles but given that he'd already written some of his great comedies with their strong female leads, As You Like It and Love's Labour's Lost. I take it in good faith that the reason he wrote Ophelia in this way is because she's a reflection of what the male characters perceive her to be.  She's not a complete character on purpose, for better or worse.

That's the problem with so many Hamlets - and Shakespeare productions in general.  The director thinks its their job to explain inconsistencies or have a "take" on the thing.  But its up to the audience, us, to fill in the blanks.  They might ask, where's the creativity?  It's in the sets and costumes.  It's in the casting.  You'll find nuance and variation from how the show looks and how they play the roles.  Doing ridiculous things like changing the structure and interpolating text from elsewhere as seems to be the norm at the Globe of all places right now, is cultural vandalism, just as it was in the restoration period.  I thought we'd gone past that.

It's interesting how much more orthodox I've become about such things over the years.  Perhaps its my age.  Note I'm less bothered about this happening on film because that rarely pretends to be anything other than an adaptation of the play (even if in some cases the cuts are so severe as to lose the sense of thing).  No, it's stage productions, which give off the vibes of somehow getting to the heart of the play, whilst cutting an hour out of it or putting the scenes in a different order or selling themselves as a modernisation of a play which largely works because of its historical nature.  

Be Good for Goodness's Sake (Short Trips: The History of Christmas).

Prose  A short but sweet entry from one of the annual seasonal anthologies.  A burglar is beaten by kindness from the Doctor.  The Time Lord doesn't want to spoil a nice family's Christmas.  It's about six pages and told from the point of view of the "hoodlum" breaking into the house.  Demonstrates that Eighth is one of the few incarnations who can slip into a domestic situation without bringing too much attention to himself.

Placement:  He's travelling with Charley who he refers to as a teenager so I'll put it in the section before Stones of Venice.

Best Seller (Short Trips: Monsters)

Prose  In an unexpected move, here's Big Finish with a story promoting the piracy of copyrighted material, especially if it has a limited print run and of high demand.  In a Short Trips anthology.  Is this what writers Ian Mond and Danny Oz intended?  Either way, there's a lot going on in Best Seller, from a group of literary fiction readers plotting to assassinate a popular fiction author, to the riotous destruction of a Melbourne bookshop which actually exists in the real world (and happens to be situated in somewhere called Fitzroy), to a conclusion which references the impending return of the television series (this was published in 2004).  In the midst of all that Charley does something immensely out of character (although there is a handwavy explanation) and the Doctor manages to solve the issue in a way which doesn't result in the genocide of an alien species for once (despite them causing the death of an old friend).

Placement:  In between With Charley Seasons One and Two.

Empire of the Wolf (Titan Comics).

Comics  Empire of the Wolf is a Decide Your Destiny novel starring him, Amy, Rory and a host of were-people.  It's now also a four part comics series published by Titan starting last November starring the Eleventh Doctor, two Rose Tylers and the Eighth Doctor which is why we're here.  What with one thing and another, the publication of the first standard issue passed me by so I decided to wait for this reprint as a graphic novel because ultimately it would also be slightly cheaper and glossier and have nice brand new book smell.

Despite the cover art, this is another of a series of increasingly contradictory stories which catches up with Rose on "Pete's World" as she navigates life with the human Doctor.  She's having dreams of a version of herself who's a military dictator and the thrust of the story is about them meeting and comparing notes, with the latter, who exists in yet another dimension the result of a time paradox from an earlier story in the Titan Comics series, being reminded of the fundamentals of who she is what it is to be the Doctor's friend and that invasion is not really peacekeeping.

As such both Doctor's are pretty superfluous to the story, with the Eighth Doctor in particular acting as more of taxi service to get Rose from Whoniverse Prime to the planet were her Empress counterpart lives.  Empire of the Wolf was apparently publicised as celebrating the 25th anniversary of the TV Movie but apart from him being here, there's nothing carried over from that film or most of anything of his succeeding years worth of mythology, presumably for licensing reasons.  It's one of those generic 2013 stories all over again.

Writer Jody Houser does capture his voice and insights.  As he says to Rose at one point, "The universe is full of mysteries, but friends, good friends, are a far rarer and more precious thing.  Strange disappearing armies can wait."  You can just hear Paul's emphasising the words "good" and "wait".  But he mainly ends up being the Eleventh Doctor's straight man, the writer clearly more comfortable enunciating Matt Smith's eccentricities.  He also has a lovely moment when he notices the Eleventh's in pain after having recently lost Amy and Rory.

The artist Roberta Ingranata has worked on the other Titan comics which led up to this mini-series and her Eighth Doctor is fine although there's a heavy reliance on publicity shots.  Compared to the other likenesses his face doesn't move much and is usually shown in profile, like a more detailed version of his image in Comics Creator.  One curiosity is we don't see much of his TARDIS interior.  When he's travelling its usually replaced by a starfield or a kind of blue glow even though Eleventh's TARDIS control room is given the full works.

What we're left with is something which as a story is enjoyable but as an Eighth Doctor story lacks bite.  The problem with having so many multi-Doctor stories, and this true across media, is that they lose their novelty especially when you're not hearing the original actors bantering.  Not to mention because Eighth usually can't carry his story across licenses, he loses some vital context especially when, as is made abundantly clear here, he's not even going to remember this adventure even happening once he leaves.

Placement: He's wearing his Time War costume but the implication seems to be that it hasn't started properly yet for him, so I'll put this just before Titan's previous mini-series 

"Considering he said he didn't want to go ..."

TV  So yes, the least kept secret in fandom has now been confirmed, David Tennant is back again for the 60th anniversary although the news that Catherine Tate will also be along with him which is fantastic news.  On the instas, RTD2 says:

"THEY’RE BACK! The Doctor and Donna! But… how?! He wiped her memory! If she remembers, she’ll die! But, but… is it a flashback? A dream sequence? A lie? A fantasy? A parallel universe?! Alt Doctor? The Land of Fiction?! You’ll find out in 2023 as Doctor Who hits its 60th - diamond! - anniversary!"

Which is basically him telling us to wait and see.  I think this has partly been announced now because David was seen in Cardiff recently or some such.  Considering he said he didn't want to go ...

The 60th anniversary was always going to be a complicated construction once Jodie and CC decided to leave.  How to you introduce a new Doctor in the 60th anniversary special and pay off the show's legacy without one becoming undermined by the other?

I think it would be wrong for Ncuti’s new incarnation to have to deal with a series of flashbacks to earlier Doctors while he's finding his feet.  But I also can't imagine them making a big announcement about the return of the Doctor Donna without their participation being substantial.

My theory?  That we'll be getting a short anthology type series featuring earlier Doctors or adjacent characters which lead into Ncuti’s first episode, the 60th in which he'll have the chance to find his feet and that this won't be the last of the Sunday announcements.  I'll squee myself silly if the Eighth Doctor returns.

Either that or the 60th is going to be some mad regeneration crisis thing where earlier incarnations show up and then Ncuti wanders in at the end.  In which case how does Donna figure into that?  Whatever happens I hope RTD2 gets a proper sleep pattern this time and isn't desperately filling ashtrays at 3am again.

It's interesting that he reminds us the Donna's memory was wiped.  I get the feeling he's always somewhat regretted that.  Maybe, just maybe, in the meantime he's worked out a mechanism for her to gain those memories back.  Anyway, if we thought the 50th was wild, this is going be something else.

What The Holographic Slides Say.

TV  Just a brief round up of some of the commentary about Ncuti's casting as the Doctor.

Firstly, James Cooray Smith has his first column in The Guardian and does an excellent job of putting this casting in the cultural context of those who've played the part before:

"Gatwa is the first black actor to play the role as a series lead. The black British actor Jo Martin has played the part, but not as the lead. Further back, Tom Baker’s father was a Jewish seaman, Davison’s a Guyanese engineer turned grocer. Interestingly, the role has been disproportionately played by Catholics, to the extent that Baker and Sylvester McCoy (1987-89) both trained for life within the church before becoming actors."

Writing for The New Statesman, Jonn Elledge captures pretty much beat for beat what my reaction to the casting was.  I too had hoped for another female Doctor for many of the reasons he lists, but swiftly realised that I shouldn't really give a fuck what misogynistic non-fans think:

"I had, if I’m honest, been hoping another woman would take the role next: Whittaker has not been well-served by the lead writer Chris Chibnall, ratings are down, and there is a danger her casting – like the absolutely brilliant but commercially lacklustre gender-swapped Ghostbusters movie – will come to look like an aberration, or even a mistake. I didn’t want anything to happen that might suggest the awful pink-faced men who sit on Twitter all day using hashtags like “#NotMyDoctor” had even the vaguest semblance of a point. And yet it took all of half a second for my reaction to the announcement that the next actor to play the Doctor would be Ncuti Gatwa to cycle from, “Oh” to, “Who?” to, “Oh my f***ing god.”"

Of course as Lola Christina Alao points out in The Independent, its unfair to pit people of different identities against one another:

"When I heard the news, I was really happy for Ncuti. I loved him in Sex Education and I can’t wait to see what he brings to his new role in Doctor Who. As a Black woman, representation and diversity in TV and film are, of course, important to me. And one thing I didn’t want to do was take this moment away from Ncuti by saying “this is great but I wish the new Doctor had been a Black woman”. (Jo Martin made a guest appearance as a fugitive Doctor back in 2020, but Ncuti will become the first Black actor to play the titular role full-time.)"

David Chipakupaku in the Metro notices that the casting may bring in new audiences:

"So as you can imagine, Sunday was a very exciting day for me. But online, my eyes were drawn to a particular type of tweet that kept appearing. These comments came from other Black and Black-origin users, and made me just as happy, if not more so, as the announcement of our new Time Lord.

"One of those tweets belonged to the TV writer Tianna Johnson, who tweeted: ‘LMAOOO they know our asses are gonna flock to watch that blue phone box show now. They’ve got us.’

"A new arrival in the TARDIS always provides a stepping-on point for many."

On Twitter, Mags L Halliday talks about the intelligence of the announcement methodology was:

"So an Insta that instantly sets a buzz going, followed by a trad press release, all timed so it creates a BAFTA red carpet hot topic tonight (thus generating immediate short video clips). That’s smart marketing if you want to engage new fans as well as reengage long time fans."

Let's end on an wide-ranging interview Tcuti gave to The Guardian back in January 2020 publicising the second series of Sex Education.  I'm struck by this anecdote about being recognised in the street:

"It isn’t just kids who come up to him in the street. He was at a station recently when a woman and her granddaughter stopped him. “The nan was the effusive one. She said: ‘I wish I had a show like that when I was young, I thought you were brilliant.’ And the granddaughter was just looking at me, like…” He pulls a bored, distant, unimpressed face."

Hopefully kids will be embracing him too now.

“Life depends on change, and renewal.”

 TV  Evening all.  Scott Bryan is a TV critic and broadcaster and if you don't already follow his twitter feed, you really should.  If there's an entertainment story brewing, especially about UK TV he'll be waaay ahead of most sources, even our lord Lizo Mzimba.  At just before noon today he posted this for those of us who avoid Instagram because we're too old to understand it:

Frankly initially, I didn't understand that either.  Who was @ncutigatwa and what did this code mean?  But that's how the new Doctor was announced, via emojis two hearts and a blue box on the actor's Instagram page.  Welcome to 2022, where the news goes first to the people that matter with the kind of cryptic messaging beloved of hard core Swifties.

We have been delivered of a new Doctor who is Ncuti Gatwa, best known for Netflix's Sex Education, which I have not seen but all of the people who's opinion I admire indicate is excellent and he's excellent within.  This is one of the images the official website ran to publicise the announcement, taken (I think) just before tonight's red carpet at the Baftas:


Amazing.

Lizo interviewed him and RTD2 on that red carpet:

Firstly, who's the new Ken Campbell?  Next of all, it's refreshing to have a showrunner who seems genuinely excited to be in the role again and wants to be right in the thick of publicity, so much so that it's through him that we know Jodie's send off will be 90mins long and broadcast in October (Halloween weekend perhaps?).

My only brush with Gatwa is in the absolutely fine The Last Letter from Your Lover as Felicity Jones's friend from the magazine office and although he doesn't have much to do other than be squeezed next to her in a meeting, he plays his discomfort very well.  I also like his round glasses.  Perhaps they'll use those in the new series, although they do dampen his dynamism a bit.

But that's all to the good.  My first though was that it means that unlike some previous Doctors I'll be able watch his interpretation fresh and without any preconceived notions.  But even when Jodie, Peter C, Matt, David and Chris were announced we won't really know how they were going to interpret the role and it's the same for Ncuti.

[Quick sidebar:  Above, I've linked to the posts where I write about the announcements for all of the most recent Doctors but I can't find anything for Chris.  There was a time I barely mentioned Doctor Who on this blog and the return of a show I'd been a fan of for at least five years didn't seem to be worth a mention.  It's been a weird journey.]

Will there be a whole series as well as a 50th anniversary special in 2023?  The announcement of a new Doctor usually coincides with the start of production and it would be strange if they begin filming something which won't be seen until for eighteen months now and then a bunch of episodes for 2024?  The press releases say:

"Russell T Davies will make an explosive return to screens to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who in 2023, and series beyond."

Which has a little bit of wiggle room - "celebrate the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who" needn't mean "with a single episode in November".  Wouldn't a whole new series also be a celebration?

Just so long as they don't change the logo.

Mark Shepherd on Doctor Who.

 

TV Inside of You is a podcast in which Michael Rosenbaum interviews actors and actresses who've tended to appear in cult television and film about their time on the shows and the business. Some of the chats are remarkably raw and candid. Rosenbaum is an attentive interviewer who speaks from a position of know having been Lex Luthor on Smallville for many, many years. The Mark Shepherd interview (in full here) goes into some detail about his time on Supernatural and why he left, but for a few minutes he talks about the casting process for Doctor Who which is clipped above.