Christian Marclay's The Clock.

Film Yesterday I fulfilled a decade long dream and finally saw a section of Christian Marclay's The Clock, which is currently on display at Tate Modern.  The supercut of supercuts, it's a twenty-four hour video piece in which the artist stitches together thousands of shots from movies featuring clocks which runs parallel to the actual time.  So if you're watching at about twenty past two in the afternoon, you can see Peter Parker being fired from his job in Sam Raimi's Spider-man 2 which gives way to shots of Fox Mulder in The X-Files under clock which tells a similar time.  It was first introduced to me on The Culture Show in 2010 when it was first released on the occasion of its premiere at the White Cube Gallery.

Judging by that piece, the presentation room is just as much a part of the installation as the film itself.  Just as back then, Tate Modern have created a luxurious screening space with pitch black walls and over a hundred IKEA Klippan sofa in white fabric (which I recognised almost immediately because we have one in our living room), just bright enough in the space so that you're able to find a seat without falling over, aided by an invigilator with a torch.  On entering I asked if there were any spaces at the front and on spotting half a sofa free up there I made my way over there and sat down, sharing the furniture with a slightly older man of which I can tell you very little else due to the darkness.

By that time it was about twenty to twelve, so I arrived just in time to see Robert Powell hanging from the hands of the Westminster Clock in The 39 Steps, of which extended clips are employed presumably because this is such an iconic shot of a time piece.  From that moment on I was enthralled.  There are plenty of illicit shots of the piece on YouTube shot with camera phones at weird angles, but none of them quite prepared me for the sheer range of movies and shots and how they intertwine and play off each other, music and sound effects drawing scenes featuring actors and settings originally recorded with decades between, mixing diverse sources, some VHS, mainly DVD, rarely respecting aspect ratio as to make the cuts between less jarring.

With the 2010 release and the artist's background and presumably access to sources, despite the number of films and television programmes included, there is nevertheless a certain limit to the sources.  Much of the material is from English language sources although there is some French material.  No, I did not see anything from Doctor Who, although my hope is that at midnight during the period which few viewers have seen, the TV Movie's millennium celebration is featured.  Plus it's necessarily populist.  There was an audible guffaw from the packed room when The Gold Watch sequence from Pulp Fiction emerged and was played almost entirely (it's still probably Tarantino's greatest work).

Something which had been of interest beforehand was how Marclay would deal with the moments when the history of film or at least the parts he research didn't deliver a particular time.  Often he simply extends the length of the clip.  But more often he takes the opportunity to include a time related moment which doesn't actually feature a clock, a character looks at their watch or there's some dialogue about time itself.  There are also shots from an earlier part of a scene which are intercut with other material which pay off later.  Or at is the case with Nick of Time we're offered a staccato version of the film as we keep returning to the action at key moments to check in on how the character is doing.

Later in the day, I added the film to my Letterboxd diary.  Usually I don't include anything which I haven't seen in its entirety, but since that's near impossible, I made an exception.  In the review section, there's an extended comment from someone who claims to have seen all twenty-four hours which I urge you to read.  As he notices that these short clips are merciless against the only ok actors in comparison to those who're able to communicate a character's whole being in just a few seconds.  He also notes how montage sequences in some films are edited so that they appear in real time, like the aforementioned pizza delivery scene in Spider-man which is reduced to the initial warning that he has to deliver them on time, then the late delivery and then later his firing.

My original plan was to spend the whole day in front of the film, but as the clips continued some interesting things started to happen.  After the first hour, my mind began to almost glaze as the clips began to topple onto one another as similar tricks by the artist were being repeated albeit with different footage from other films to the previous hour.  I've forgotten almost as many films included as I remember.  Plus I can't not admit to dozing slightly here and there, partly because the couch was so comfy.  I kept myself awake by guessing the film sources in my head and marveling at actually just how many of these films I'd seen.  Plus I felt quite happy about getting up now and then to go to the bathroom, even though I'd be missing something.

Which meant that after about three hours, I felt like I'd seen enough and left.  Although I've seen reports online of people watching this continuously for twelve hours, I don't think that's what the artist was expecting.  The piece is clearly constructed to be dipped in and out of for various stretches, the viewer visiting the venue at various points in the day and that's certainly how I would have approached The Clock had Tate Modern been more accessible to me.  With the show on until January 20th there would be plenty of time.  On my way out of the door, I indicated to the invigilator that three hours seemed like long enough (to which he agreed) and wondered if the piece, this copy of which is part owned by Tate might visit Liverpool.  Wouldn't that be ironic.

Demons of the Punjab.



TV For quite some time I've had an idea for how contemporary Doctor Who on television would handle the old stick of the pure historical. The Doctor plus companion(s) would land at some pivotal point in the past and as the tension rises and whatever tragedy they've stumbled into consumes them, there'd be an ongoing discussion about when the monsters would inevitably reveal themselves. Except they don't and it becomes apparent that we're watching nothing less than real history unfolding, untainted by any outside influences apart from what's stumbled out of the TARDIS.  How quickly the Doctor understood this to be an all human shit show was something I hadn't quite decided upon, but I thought it would be a great way of introducing the genre to newer viewers.

Demons of the Punjab, like Rosa before it, is as close as odds as we've had in a long while to being a pure historical and yet it still features "monsters" whom the Doctor and we assume must be up to mischief because of their transmatting and gothic appearance.  Except, it emerges, they're really not demons, at least not any more.  Initially seeming like Tim Shaw knock offs, it's powerfully revealed that due to the destruction of their home world, they've renounced violence and instead travel the universe remembering those who die alone and commemorating them.  As well as communicating the message that appearances can be deceptive, it also shows that people can change, that their fate isn't predetermined.  In times like these, this is just the sort of hope we all need.

Could you have written the story without them?  Sure.  A bit of expositional jiggery pokery perhaps via another character at the house to explain how the Doctor knows everyone's fate.  But I also think that over the short format, having these extra science fiction elements allows for this richer discussion of the themes.  That they often work best when they're not foregrounded as was the case here.  Indeed so focused was I on the raw drama of the Doctor and her friends being unable to intervene in Prem's death (cf, Father's Day) that when Kisar and Almak reappeared at the end, I'd almost forgotten they were abiding nearby.  Yet the closing moment, when Prem's face joined a thousand others was one of the post powerful images in the franchise's history.

This is a version of the show in which the edginess comes from the choice of story rather than the actions of its main characters.  Surprisingly Partitian hasn't been investigated much by Doctor Who.  Mark Morris's novel Ghosts of India had 10th and Donna pitch up in Calcutta during the riots and bumping into Gandhi, who we've also been told Clara Oswald had an argument with (according to Under The Flood).  Perhaps it was always felt to be too complex, too difficult to really enunciate to a family audience.  But as Gurinda Chadha's underrated docudrama Viceroy's House demonstrates, it is possible to cover this period of history within the limits of a 12A and that's also true of tonight's episode.

Vinay Patel's script is able to provide much nuance despite the limited locale and small number of characters.  Perhaps best known for writing BBC Three's Murdered by my Father, Patel puts the politics of the partition directly within the heart of the family, showing also how propaganda can warp a person's views to such a degree that they don't even notice that they've become racist and  even see their own sibling as the enemy.  That provides a grim reversal of the change in the assassin's creed, that an otherwise sweet person can become the opposite when their ideology is twisted.  Perhaps there'll be people watching this episode who see a similar change in those they know.  One could argue this is about Brexit.  Or perhaps it's just that these a universal themes.

Like Rosa, with which this shares many similarities, the story is about attempting to preserve history, but whereas that was about taking action to that ed, Demons of the Punjab is about inaction.  Which isn't to say the Doctor and her friends don't intervene, but we're very much in the realm of having them become part of a history which is already known in the future as per The Fires of Pompei (although it's odd that grandma doesn't remember seeing someone who looks exactly like her granddaughter on her first tragic wedding day).  It doesn't overplay this and we're once again offered a contrast to previous TARDIS teamers in that unlike Rose or Donna, when it comes to it, Yaz et al don't break the Doctor's wishes, that they absolutely understand why Prem must die.  The Aztecs argument is sidelined quickly.  Cue more Bradley tears.

Every element of the episode makes a statement, from Segun Akinola's superb score which avoided the kinds of geographical cliches that dramas set in India rarely do (please can we have the complete version of this title music on the soundtrack please?) to the absolutely gorgeous visuals.  But primarily its that we have this cast, telling this story, in prime time.  Even Viceroy's House offers a colonial perspective on these events.  This is purely from the point of view of those who were affected.  Notice too how in following the precedent of the TARDIS translation circuits rearranging accents, the Indian characters aren't forced to speak in a faux geographical accent, adopting a Yorkshire twang, increasing the immediacy of the drama, at least for those of us in the UK.

Good show all round and judging by the social media very well received.  At the risk of sounding like a scratched time-space visualiser, this really is turning out to be a vintage run of stories anchored by an incredibly strong central performance.  Although Jodie still doesn't look entirely convinced by the technobabble, she makes up for it with her sheer strength of personality, the wedding scene at the apogee of her ability.  Most Doctors ultimately become defined by their speeches and Thirteenth's words about her faith that "love in all its forms is the most powerful weapon that we have".  Too true.

"Arriva bus's Click service"

Life For the past couple of weeks my foot's been aching which curtailed somewhat my important walks to work and back with all of their exercise potential. The other morning I realised why this was the case as I once again bashed the back of my heal on the underneath of my wooden bed frame as I stumbled out from under my duvet.  The other evening after walking around work all day, my right foot was hurting so much I had a pronounced limp.  I was lolloping.

Which seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out Arriva bus's Click service which launched at the end of August and is currently piloting in the South Liverpool area.  In their words "a flexible minibus service that takes multiple passengers all heading in the same direction", it's essentially a shared Uber or Lyft that starts and stops along adhoc routes governed by the onboard satnav.  You can watch the promotional video here and see the areas it covers.

As you can see, the service was originally launched in Sittingborne and has apparently had an impressive embrace according to Coach & Bus Week: "During the pilot in Kent, more than 50% of customers surveyed switched from using private cars to ArrivaClick, with 61% of users using the service a few times a week or more. 43% adopted the service for their daily commute."  I can see why.  So far it's been marvelous.

Just as I assume Uber works, the user plonks the pick-up and destination spots into a map on the app and either a pre-brooked slot or requests a pick-up there and then.  The app then works out the details of the route, tells you where you'll be picked up and tells you when the bus will arrive along with the price.  On most occasions so far this has been a ten minute wait, which is just enough time to pop into a supermarket and pick up a newspaper and whatever ever else.

The buses as you can see from the pictures are extreme comfortable, probably excessively so considering the length of the journey most people will be taking.  There are tables with cup holders (I know!) (right!), charging ports and an on-board wifi.  The blue lighting reminds me of Robert Pattinson's limousine in Cosmopolis which is expressively moody in the evening since the clocks changed and its dark outside.

It's much nicer experience than a standard bus, especially since out of the five trips I've taken so far, I've been the only passenger on four of them.  Which isn't not entirely a concern.  If this is just a pilot, Arriva are unlikely to continue if the audience doesn't increase.  But I have seen Click cars during the day with a few passengers so it might just be the time of day I've been travelling, at the tired end of rush hour.

It's cheaper than a taxi.  Trips home have been costing £2.70 which is more expensive than a standard bus (£2.30 flat fair) but compares favourably to a £5 taxi, especially now that the local fares are increasing.  The price is calculated based on time of day and remoteness of destination.  If I wanted to visit Speke from home it's £5.60 which is more expensive than the usual bus but will presumably be faster depending on the number of stops in between.

The only real problem is that the journey is at the mercy of an algorithm and I'm still trying to find the best pick-up and drop-off slots.  The first time I attempted to program a trip, the app offered a pick up point which was within a few streets of home which I had to get to within minutes and was essentially the whole journey.  Rebooking from a slightly different landmark, the nearby Subway (sandwich shop) rather than the awkward location of my work seemed to straighten things out.

Dropping off has been a bit random.  The app mapping can't quite wrap its digits around the location of our tower block so the bus has sometimes veered off course.  Fortunately all the drivers I've encountered so far have been extremely friendly and helpful and been happy to veer off whatever the satnav is telling them to simply drop me outside the main gate to the property.  This doesn't seem to be an uncommon problem; one of the drivers did refer to teething problems.

But suffice to say, I really like this service for all of the reasons I've already mentioned.  Now that my foot's better, I'm most likely to be using it on a Sunday so that I can be home in time for Doctor Who or rather a roast dinner and then Doctor Who.  My guess is the more people use the service, the more reliable it'll become.  I could imagine this replacing other transport as a safer, more viable way to travel.  Although it stops at 8pm each evening so it won't replace the night bus just yet.

"the onslaught of content"

Film Evening. I've talked before about the onslaught of content and not having time for any of it. In the streaming world that's become especially acute especially in television terms with, across the BBC, Netflix, Now tv and Amazon about half a dozen excellent looking series I know I'd love premiering every week. The backlog is mounting up with both Iron Fist and Daredevil unwatched, countless series of Homeland, that new Julia Roberts thing, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel et al, etcetera, etc.

Of course I'd have plenty of time to binge those if I didn't watch as many films but again, there are so many films around now and since that is my primary form of entertainment/worship/education something has to give. I want to watch everything, but I can't watch everything, but ... oh my ... if I do that I won't touch the piles of unwatched books and magazines and how do I choose?

In a panic this week, I created an arbitrary list of rules to bounce any or all new film releases off, the kinds of stories I tend to like anyway as a way of limiting things, streamlining. Not necessarily a rule of thumb, just a way trying to sort between the films I want to watch and those I feel like should be watching. Writing it down or rather typing it into Word was a cathartic act even if I immediately felt a bit guilty.

Reviewed in Sight and Sound and so confirmed a theatrical release in the UK.

Sci-fi / Fantasy / Horror?

Musical?

Female lead?

Auteur director?

Weird?

Set in Paris?

Set in Tokyo?

Set in London?

Set in Liverpool?

Set in the United States, especially New York?

Actor I like?

Costume drama?

Courtroom drama?

Detective drama?

Oscar nominated?


Documentary about the visual arts?

Documentary about journalism?

Chinese/Korean/Japanese actioner?

Christmas?


Any Netflix films which are reviewed well in the streaming section of Empire Magazine, mentioned as one of Mark Kermode's Cream of the Streams or everyone seems to be watching.

God, looking at that again seems limited and limiting and bound to mean I'll miss something good. Not to mention that if I keep to this the cinemas of a large chunk of the world will go unwatched.  Clearly if there's a cinematic earthquake, I'll make room for it.  It's also true that I'm trying to return to my old rule of avoiding anything which has "harrowing portrayal" in the synopsis and that seems to describe much of the content released in the UK from some countries.

Perhaps it's the times in which we live but the motivating incident in a lot of films currently seems to be the death of a parent or wife or child, usually somewhere in the grip of great poverty and/or great social or religious oppression.  I'm already basically depressed with myself and the world.  I don't need to be watching films which will make me feel even worse, at least at the moment, at least not without an element of hope amid the wretched nihilism.

How do you choose the films you watch with so much available?  How conscious are you of your likes and dislikes and could you make a similar list?  How important do you feel it is to be across at least some new cinema versus "back catalogue"?  Are there some genres you simply can't stand?  I think the comments should be open, failing that use your social media channel to send me words?  I'm genuinely interested.

The Tsuranga Conundrum.



TV There's an oddity in the credits to tonight's Doctor Who. In between the cast and the 1st assistant AD we find, "PTING [tab space] CREATED BY TIM PRICE". This sort of credit is usually reserved for a returning monster, "DALEKS [tab space] CREATED BY TERRY NATION" or "UXARUEANS [tab space] CREATED BY MALCOLME HULKE", that sort of thing. My original thought was that a spin-off monster had been elevated to the big leagues, but a glance at the Googles indicates that this is some new beastie which shares its name with a pop band and slang for teaching potty training. Tim Price was co-writer on Switch and Secret Diary of a Call Girl and is currently teaching on the MA Screen Writing at Manchester University. Did he submit a script which was heavily rewritten by Chibbers that included the Pting or was he part of the writers room, offering ideas without ultimately producing his own screenplay?

As ready made a merchandising opportunity as the Adipose, the Pting is the first monster of this series which feels like it could have returning potential.  The genetic refuse of a cross between Beep The Meep, an Alien from Alien and one of Dr. Jumba Jookiba's experiments, if anything, probably due to the budget there wasn't enough of him (or her) on screen, forever in the background as an invisible menace.  Clearly if this had been a movie, there would have been a Gremlins like scene of it munching its way through loads of random objects, gobbling anything it could get inside its apparently tiny body with its dimensionally transcendental stomach.  But its best moment is its blissed out, orgasmic little face after the bomb explodes.  There's probably a fair few similar faces tonight amongst the fans who noticed an old school 70s Silurian on the shipboard Wikipedia, in amongst the Slitheen, the Weeping Angels and whatever that thing with the giant skull head and pin stripe suit is.

The rest of the episode was a fine example of an old school base under siege adventure and another demonstration of how this version of the show is happy to simply offer us decent, base-line Doctor Who with a few laughs, some poignancy and an educational undercurrent, a show the whole family can enjoy.  Grumble about that all you want, but as I've said before, one of the problems with recent seasons is the apparent need to offer structurally challenging stories every week, which is fine when it works but can otherwise end up looking like a sphincter exploration.  Admittedly with just ten episodes this season, presenting an adventure like this can seem wasteful to some, but I bet kids loved it and that's really the point, isn't it?  We might well applaud this show for maturing these past few years, but having a Doctor in a permanent state of existential crisis can become a bit tiring.  She has to turn up at a place and inspire everyone to be the best version of themselves every now and again.

Which isn't to say the episode doesn't bat least attempt to subvert some genre and gender expectations.  Imperiled in Pregnancy has a massive entry on the TV Tropes website and in a disaster context its almost always about a woman at the end of term giving birth in difficult circumstances perhaps doubting her potential abilities as a mother, usually with male hero goofily helping her to give birth.  Here we have a man giving birth, aided by a super competent midwife, with Graham and Ryan offering their support.  This side story has already been dismissed as a pointless bit of comedy, but it's thematically essential within the context of this series which among other things is fighting against how men and women are presented in genre television, challenging us to face our own prejudices.  Although Graham and Ryan's reactions are played for laughs, it also leads to the scene in which Ryan explains his own mixed feels about his relationship with his father.

Meanwhile, its the Doctor, Yaz and the General Cicero saving the ship when in other shows the roles would most certainly be the other way around.  It's a significant moment when the police officer is left to defend the engine of the ship with Plastic Pal Ronan without any sense that she might be out of her depth or not have a plan and then be able to use her wits to capture and drop kick the Pting, referencing Siobhan Chamberlain along the way.  Similarly, it's General Cicero who's the expert pilot risking her life to save the rest of the passengers.  Perhaps some of us have become accustomed to this kind of casting and storytelling but it really is glaringly different to so much else happening in this genre were Smurfette Syndrome continues to infest the thinking of writers and directors and such moments are reserved for male protagonists.  This iteration of the show is beating the Bechtel Test without really trying.

There's been a bit of chatter already on the Twitters (which has been pretty lukewarm about opinion wise) discussing the perfunctory nature of the supporting characters and how robot Ronan in particular lacks depth and doesn't contribute to the story.  I'd argue that in Doctor Who not every character has be a functionally important part of the plot.  Sometimes they're just cannon fodder.  Sometimes they're simply local colour, there to help communicate a sense of place.  Not every character in drama has to be three dimensional.  Is that true of most of the characters in The Caves of Androzani or Midnight?  With just fifty minutes to play with, the most you can hope for is some general elements and fragments of backstory, just enough to keep us interested or cause us to empathise.  Wind down your bizarrely high expectations.

Jodie Whittaker continues to be a wonder.  In recent years the show has been a bit reticent of really presenting the extent of the Doctor's knowledge outside of that week's fiction.  Now she's in full on BBC Four presenter led documentary mode, expounding on antimatter and the miniaturizing of technology.  She's inspired and awe-struck by this reimagined warp drive and I can imagine a teenage version of me with his massive crush on the Doctor redoubling his efforts in STEM rather than coasting as I did to an E in Physics at GCSE ("So, physics. Physics, eh? Physics. Physics. Physics! Physics. Physics, physics, physics, physics, physics, physics, physics.")  But it's equally important to see the Doctor apologizing earlier for blithely attempting to put the safety of the ship's crew in danger in order to return to the TARDIS.  It's not quite braining a caveman with a rock, but it shows her to be an emotionally fallible being which causes her to be even more complex.

So yes, another meme worthy, rather joyful adventure which wouldn't be out of place as a narrated AudioGo exclusive, the very definition of the Gallifrey Base poll option "Well above average, but no masterpiece (very good/7)".  Which sounds like damning it with faint praise, but it really isn't.  It's comfort television with a lonely God, a beacon of hope at the centre, just the sort of thing you need in these times.  Watching The Last Starfighter the other night, I was struck by just how, like so much eighties adventure cinema, it lacks cynicism and ironic detachment from its subject matter, unembarrassed about what it is.  That's exactly the vibe which is shining out of Doctor Who right now and good god it's refreshing.

"And what am I going to do now?"

Comics The cover to this final Dark Horse "seasons" issue of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer neatly references their first edition back in 2007, as the slayer drops her scythe and walks away. The story isn't quite that simple. As is the case with any ongoing franchise, the demon horde are simply dormant at the close, ready to wake up and threaten the world, bringing Buffy back to the fight, weapon in hand, if required.  There'll be spoilers ahead.  If you ever were a fan of the tv series, please do go pick up the trades and graphic novels.  It's quite the ride.

After reviewing that first issue, I feel like offering a few comments on this last installment.  This is the longest sustained period of by a comic book I've had.  I can remember nervously visiting Forbidden Planet on Bold Street asking if I could order it and that's where I've bought every issue since, along with the various spin-offs and parallel Angel series.  I can't claim to remember everything that happened and still don't really understand what the whole Twilight business was (although I am still amused by how it put IDW in a spot) but I've enjoyed almost all of it.

The best issues and stories have focused on character over spectacle.  There's been more of that in recent years, especially after the excesses of Season Eight proved unpopular.  Although there was nothing wrong with flirting with massive Peter Jackson style fantasy battles, the character work did suffer and the death of Giles especially was poorly handled.  Thank goodness that was reversed and in an imaginative way.  By season nine there was an evident realisation that just because you can draw something doesn't mean that you should.

This final four issue arc is a proper summation, self reflexively tying up loose ends and pieces of character business which have been knocking around since the television series.  The future as mapped on the previous occasion when Buffy visited the future and met Frey never did quite sit right and so its gratifying that all of that has changed and since this is a reality in which magic trumps science, we're able to forgive the obvious paradoxes which occur.  Time can be rewritten if a spell exists to help sustain it.

Will a continuation ever exist?  Apparently the new television series is set within the mythology of  the tv series so we'll see if that also includes the comics although that's unlikely.  New licensees BOOM! Studios have taken the bizarre/interesting step of rebooting the original Buffy series but set in the new century, accounting for the smart phone on the artwork which, even if Joss is involved, seems like its going to be as divisive as DC's New 52 not least because cans of worms will be opened.  Does Dawn exist?  Is Willow gay?  It feels rather in-essential.

But I do love were these characters are left at the end and wished that a Season Thirteen was going to happen.  Buffy and Faith as a supernatural Cagney and Lacey.  Andrew as the next generation of the Watcher's Council.  Xander and Dawn making a home together.  Angel and Spike finally getting along, the former already plotting on how to save Illyria and Fred from hell.  It's to the script's credit that it at least references Gunn and Connor and so offer something for Angel fans even if it can't find room to offer more than grace nots to the sister series.  But it's also noticable that it doesn't attempt to shoehorn in the likes of Cordelia or Anya.  They're finally letting the dead rest.

Bye bye for now, Buffy.

Arachnids in the UK.



TV Oh fuck, he's inflicted himself on the Doctor Who universe as well. Followers of my social media channel will know that a couple of years ago I made a pledge that this blog wouldn't mention the Cheesy Wotsit in Chief of those United States but since Chibbers brought it up this week, it simply can't go unaddressed now.  Back in the Monks trilogy, footage of the semi-sentient orangutan featured on their propaganda screens, but now we have conclusive dialogue proof that he is indeed the President when Arachnids in the UK is set.

According to the third edition of AHistory (the second volume of the fourth isn't out until early December), Obama served a single term between 2008 and 2012 (following the death of Winters in The Sound of Drums), with a President Mather taking over (as established in the BBC Eighth Doctor novel Trading Futures) until 2016 when Arnold Schwarznegger might have been a two term president (as per Bad Wolf).  I think we can now infer that his predecessor on the US version of The Apprentice will also be before him in The White House.  One term POTUSes all.

Except, oh ha, here's Chris Noth as Robertson, who doesn't seem like a Democrat, thinking about primarying the Annoying Orange, so time could be rewritten.  Unless Arnold, having managed to get the law change related to the nationality of a potential President, decides that the last thing America needs is another hotel magnate and decides to throw his hat in the ring having actually served in office and still ends up winning due to being moderate enough to attract swing voters.  Unless the Doctor ends up Robertson giving him the Harriet Jones treatment, although we know how well that turned out last time.

If all of that meandering through US politics in the Whoniverse implies that I wasn't otherwise engaged with the episode, that couldn't be further away from the truth.  Doctor Who is just so, so much fun again.  Returning to the sweet spot between Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures in terms of ambition, quality and tone, by removing the existential angst of its lead character, providing her with more low key threats and accompanying her with realistic, emotionally complex travelling mates, we're able to relax and revel in the action, verbal wordplay and physical comedy, shutting out the shitty real world for fifty minutes.

Spiders.  Shiver.  Despite all my other troubles, I've never really had phobias, especially not anything that could debilitate me and thankfully not arachnophobia.  Visiting the vivarium at the museum as a child and seeing the eight eyes of a massive tarantula glaring at me through a glass wall, whilst unpleasant, didn't leave me screaming for help.  So the test of the episode was whether it would produce spiders more convincing than in the Pertwee's regeneration story and if they'd be creepy enough to wig out even a cynical sausage like me drugged up to the nines on sertraline (Zoloft).

Well, yes, yes it did.  Turns out that if you scale them up to the size of a mechanoid and place your heroes in a confined space with them, that a nearly forty-four year old library studies graduate will sit with both hands over his mouth, his legs doing the exact opposite of a man spread, his head disappearing into the back of the armchair.  Fifteen years on and Doctor Who's now in a position to create Shelob quality beasties that are just plain huhuhuhuh and also thanks to Sallie Aprahamian's fine direction just as squidgy when they're not even on screen.

But they're notably also not a global threat.  As was most often the case in the classic era, these crawling creepies are only really menacing the metropolitan area of Sheffield and although there are some fatalities, there's no great invasion plan.  As per Eight Legged Freaks, they're the product of toxic sludge and poor waste management and simply going about the business of survival, any malevolence emanating from their inadvertent creators.

In these circumstances, the Doctor becomes a kind of benevolent pest controller, knowing that this is a threat which has to be neutralized, but without the appetite for straight genocide.  Each week we see the Thirteenth Doctor not so much reveal as reiterate the Time Lords core philosophies and Robertson's cold blooded murder of the mother from a cocktail of methane and sulphides and trichloroethylene goes against everything in her being.  Granted she is planning on drowning it in essential oils, but as soon as she sees its in distress, she backs away, allows nature to take hold.

With the usual caution about such comments in relation to a mysterious production order, Jodie is really hitting her stride now, making the mental leaps to understand who the Doctor is when she carries a bum bag.  As she explains in her interview with Craig "Cotton in Line of Duty" Parkinson on his excellent Two Shot Pod (listen here), she's not really had a role with this much agency before (I'm paraphrasing), with such complex language and intellectual underpinnings.  But to listen to her talking about travelling around the world alone for six months, inserting herself into conversations so as not to feel lonely, you can see why this is perfect casting.

The rest of the crew are settling in nicely.  After last week's deep dive, Tosin has less to do here but we're increasingly seeing his facility for comedy as Ryan makes shadow puppets in the lab while the Doctor is sleuthing the source of the spiders and introducing her to the works of Stormzy (which I've just added to the Spotify playlist of popular music in the series which I created in the week, alongside the dance tracks from The War Machines).  Despite my reservations for having such a large TARDIS crew, as on previous occasions, there is something to be said for having an ensemble of regular characters rather than having two dimensional "red shirts" each week without the potential emotional connection beyond some easy "ins" like threatened progeny.

That's especially true of Yaz who we discover this week might be bi.  But unlike previous LGBTQ+ characters this hasn't been foregrounded, we're just assuming as much since her mother, played with Coduri-like zeal by Shobna Gulati, considers both the Doctor and Ryan as potential dating material.  This is how it should be.  Hetrosexuality is considered the default in most dramas with everything else seen as a variation that can only exist as part of a foregrounded story element, whereas this approach feels more realistic.  Kudos too for also not making it a key part of the family dynamic, oh and giving us at least one family which is still complete unit and who haven't fallen through a crack in time or die in mysterious circumstances.

Even with all of this happening, the episode still found time to address Graham's grief, interacting with the ghostly figure of Grace.  Such moments are common in funerary tragedies but its rare that it should happen in Doctor Who in quite this way, without it being revealed (yet) to be an alien manifestation as per Torchwood's Lost Souls or Class's Nightvisiting or Doctor Who's Last Christmas.  Like Clara, Graham's thrust himself into adventure as a way of coping with the loss of a loved one, but with the maturity, enunciated by Bradley Walsh's humble features, to understand the substituting role his travels in the TARDIS will be, allowing him to put certain inevitable obligations to one side.

For a brief moment, while Graham and Ryan offered us their "it's you isn't it" I considered that Chris Noth was simply playing himself, the scene a meta-reference to the end of the casting trailer at the close of business on The Woman Who Fell To Earth when  the viewership probably said much the same thing.  A variation of both Big and Peter Florrick and apparently 45 although far too articulate, I think by the end we're meant to assume that Robertson will be back in the future, a trait that all of the antagonists have had so far this season.  If nothing else Mike Logan and Ronnie Brooks have finally met.  I really must get around to watching Law and Order: UK.  Is it any good?

Despite my enjoyment of the episode I do have a couple of questions.  Aren't there still some spiders loose in Sheffield somewhere, particularly in Yaz's neighbour's flat?  Who's going to clear up all the bodies, human and arachnid?  Whose going to inform Frankie's spouse that she's died?  What about all the webs about the place?  Is that underground landfill simply going to stay there?  Why isn't the Doctor also cheesed about the ill considered experimentation at Dr McIntyre's lab which somewhat led to the predicament and ensuing person slaughter, however well intentioned?  After the pun in tonight's episode title, can we have an Auton episode next season called Yaz and the Plastic Population?

Anyway, I'm off to go back and watch Inside No.9 which I missed whilst researching the Law & Order portion of this review so I'll fix the typos and tidy up the English tomorrow (updated 29/10/2018: All done.  I think).  Next week's looks like a homage to the wilder parts of the classic run and so the variety continues.  I'm trying to work out what a really duff version of this iteration would look like, especially with this cast.  It's such a relief to be back in a space when we can tune in and know we'll have something entirely watchable, with engaging characters, that doesn't feel like it has to innovate whilst simultaneously doing just that.

The Massacre (of St Bartholomew's Eve).



TV How to introduce this? This review of serial five from the third season of Doctor Who was written three years ago for a project I was invited to pitch for but didn't ultimately receive a commission (and that's all I'm going to say about that). 

Ever since I've wanted to post it somewhere but constantly wondered if it could be repurposed for something else.  But as that seems vanishingly unlikely right now and since it's my birthday week and it's a Saturday, I've finally decided to let you be the joint fourth person to read it.  

Note that I have done some retrospective rewriting to adjust anything specific in terms of where it might have ended up.  For reasons.

With thanks to Graham Kibble-White for his suggestions and support (and proofreading!) at the time of writing.

The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve
Reviewed by Stuart Ian Burns

The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve is the epitome of what makes the process of revisiting the earlier movements of Doctor Who so compelling. Can you think of another series that, after transmitting 12 episodes of an expressively barmy space opera like The Daleks’ Master Plan, would plunge its regulars into an entertaining, albeit flawed, four-part chamber piece about one of the most tragic, yet important incidents in French history? Which would offer its lead actor the opportunity to play a completely different role?

A progressive dip in the ratings by two million across the tale suggests viewers were indeed bemused by the change in tone. This final commission for ‘pure historical’ specialist John Lucarroti, but heavily re-written by script editor Donald Tosh, makes few concessions to its potential audience.

The first on-screen title might be the epic sounding ‘War of God’, but what follows is an opening episode which cross-cuts the Doctor having a giddily fannish tête-à-tête with an apothecary, Preslin, about the religious intolerance of science, against an expositional free-for-all in which the various Huguenots and Catholics, who we’ll watch fighting for supremacy in 16th century Paris, enunciate their disagreements while consuming the contents of a tavern’s wine seller.

With a glut of glugging guards all introduced at once, it’s reasonably difficult to keep track of who everyone is, not aided 50 years on from transmission by only existing as audio. Even the telesnaps are missing.

With the Doctor “unavoidably detained” (more on which later), Steven is fore-grounded and typically bewildered by history, but not naïve due to the robust Peter Purves. When he exclaims, “I wish I understood what was going on,” although we know it is for our benefit, it’s a perfectly natural reaction to the complicated events swirling around him.

Slowly our ears become attuned to the action, the prosaic announcement of Christian names and surnames and statements of intent (a later trademark of the Coen brothers), and the results are generally enthralling, assisted by a cast enjoying the local colour. When Huguenot Gaston grumbles about the inferiority of what he’s supping - “Have you got no decent wine? Where are the Burgundies? Or even the German wines?” - actor Eric Thompson sounds like a disappointed lush in a 1970s Mike Leigh play.

The facts are these. Henri of Navarre is a Huguenot, a Protestant prince who’s married Marguerite of France, a Catholic. The Queen Mother arranged the union; Catherine de Medici was hoping it would heal the religious crack that's breaking France apart.

Predictably it doesn’t and the subsequent three episodes are about the results of this fateful decision, giant personalities scheming against one another as they seek vengeance for previous confrontations and consolidate their power within the city, first through assassination - the attempted murder of Admiral de Coligny, who supports the Huguenots and has the Prince’s ear - and then one of history’s most ferocious examples of ethnic cleansing.



Joan Young, whose stern surviving publicity shots suggest a disconcerting similarity with contemporary portraits of her real life counterpart, plays the Queen Catherine, the magnetic centre of the action, with steely coldness.

One of the great losses in no longer having the images for the story is the assassination attempt itself, as the hired gun Bondot lines his weapon up to take the shot at the Admiral, a scene which must have had a striking resonance for viewers just two-and-a-half years on from a tragically more successful gunshot in Dallas. To what extent did director Paddy Russell follow the clichéd visuals seen in similar television and film? What was she capable of producing on the Ealing set with this budget?

Dashing through all of this is poor Anne Chaplet, endangered like an unsuspecting office worker in a ‘90s conspiracy thriller because she happens to have heard the wrong piece of information (about the Catholic threat) at the wrong time. Introduced to earlier drafts as the potential new cohort for the Doctor but replaced late in the process, she’s reduced eventually to becoming the companion’s companion asking Steven functional questions whilst simultaneously contributing advice on local geography. But it’s to actress Annette Robertson’s credit that she is never a cipher.

As the story reaches its finale the dialogue becomes gradually more poetic and intense, conjuring vivid metaphors of what is to come. When the Marshal of France, Tavennes (played by Quatermass himself, André Morell), realises the scale of murder he’s just ordered - “We are to unleash the wolves of Paris” - he declares, “At dawn tomorrow this city will weep tears of blood.”

His words resonate right through to the TARDIS dematerialisation as the familiar wheezing and groaning is replaced with the terrifying reverberation of monotonous drums and the gramms of women screaming.

In other words, events proceed much as they would have done if the TARDIS hadn’t landed in Paris in the first place, which in a First Doctor story ranks as a major result.

But in narrative terms it’s a grave weakness because as readers who’ve been paying attention will have noticed, it’s achieved by the Doctor following the advice he would later fail to heed in The Gunfighters (1966), of apparently getting out of Dodge and taking no part in the action, which has the effect of fatally undermining its conclusion.

In most dramas dealing with doppelgangers, the storyline usually shifts between the two distinct characters until they convene and one of them orders, with fingers and pointing, “Kill him, Spock” either because they’re Captain Kirk himself, his copy, or ironically referencing Star Trek. Doctor Who would somewhat follow this structure during The Enemy of the World (1967), interweaving the title character with the dastardly Salamander.

In order to simplify the shooting of The St Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve and to accommodate a holiday for its star in the second week, the script instead has the two characters appear consecutively and introduce the possibility that they might even be one in the same.

After the Doctor leaves Preslin’s shop deep into the first episode, apparently with some task to perform (“Good luck, old man”) for much of the duration of the story we’re then meant to believe his destination is to pose as the Abbot of Amboise who’s been sent by the religious leader of the Cardinal of France to abet in the conspiracy to kill the Admiral. The process is aided by Steven’s conviction, thanks to the verification of his eyes, that this must be the case, for reasons he himself can’t comprehend.

In order to preserve the verisimilitude of Steven’s reaction on inevitably meeting him, Hartnell isn’t granted the latitude to perhaps play the Abbot closer to his own age or with altered speech patterns (any mannerism he might have utilised are consigned to history). He simply sounds like the Doctor in a sterner mood.

In retrospect, we know full well that the Doctor isn’t the Abbot. Every preview of the story mentions the casting opportunity and when releasing the yarn on audio cassette in 1999, BBC Audio felt confident enough that a purchasing fan would be aware of this spoiler that they put two images of the actor on the cover.


The script itself contains seeds of doubt. Roger Colbert, temporary secretary to the Abbot, reveals that he saw his new boss “at an encyclical meeting held by the Cardinal” and though he didn’t actually meet him, it was clearly long enough to recognise him. There’s also the chronology of the first episode in which the Abbot is well in-situ before the TARDIS arrives, and the quandary of exactly where the real Amboise has been stashed if the Doctor’s somehow replaced him.

Plus the only reason the traveller might be doing so is to sabotage the shooting, which would be against the moral code of this early incarnation.

As he explains to Barbara in The Aztecs (1964), "But you can't rewrite history! Not one line!"

So compelling is the action, and so convincingly does Purves portray Steven’s conviction that his friend has taken on this new identity which has ultimately lead to the Doctor’s demise, we simply don’t notice the title character is gone for much of the story and have to assume that a contemporary audience wasn’t meant to either.

But when the Doctor does emerge, his explanation for where he’s been is as thin as the Bordeaux being served in the tavern where Steven was stood up. “Yes, well, I was unavoidably delayed. Never mind that now. Come along, we must go. Come along.”

Which is pleasingly ridiculous, and leaves a gap wide open for Big Finish to jump into.

It also dramatically undermines everything that is to come.

After the Doctor interrogates poor Anne and then sends her off to her potential doom, we can only wonder how he hasn’t already acquainted himself with this information. He’s aware of the curfews, it seems, but hasn’t deduced anything about the coming horrors, which is a bit remiss of him.

If nothing else it means we entirely understand why Steven, who’s met those who are being affected by the horrors, decides to leave the TARDIS on its next landing. You almost expect, if not hope, him to offer an old soap opera stand-by. “You weren’t there! You don’t know!”

The Doctor’s ensuing speech is one of the great ‘lost’ moments in Doctor Who history, in which we can hear Hartnell’s rasping, emotional voice ruminating on all those who’ve left the timeship, poignantly mis-pronouncing Chesterton’s name, and how none of them could understand his burden of responsibility to the web of time.

“I was right to do as I did. Yes, that I firmly believe.” He sounds genuinely old, as though his body is already wearing a bit thin.

But dramatically, it’s entirely unearned due to the character’s absence, because on this occasion the Doctor wasn’t there, he didn’t know and without apparently having those experiences, despite having enough intellectual knowledge to express the events to Steven, it lacks the weight of similar decisions by a number of his successors. When the Tenth Doctor is slumped over the console ready to leave in The Fires of Pompeii (2008), the faces of those he’s deserting are reflected in his features.

Admittedly some of this is clearly a result of the last-minute rewrite to excise Anne as a companion. But the scene designed to introduce her replacement is equally ruined by its portrayal of the Doctor’s thoughtlessness.

Even after having the massacre itself, 20,000 souls - including most of the characters whose lives we’ve just spent the four episodes witnessing - the closing moments of this story concentrate on a much smaller off-screen tragedy as the means of Dodo’s introduction to the series.

The little boy who’s been hurt in an accident.

When Miss Chaplet blunders into the TARDIS interrupting the Doctor’s ruminations, she explains that this is the reason she requires a telephone from a piece of street furniture purporting to have that function. It’s all we can potentially think about, not helped in any way by our hero’s apparent lack of concern for a member of the show’s core demographic. But the extent of his involvement stretches only as far as patronising this waveringly-accented stranger about the emergency services who may be required. “Oh well I’m afraid I can’t help you, no,” he says, “You must run along and phone the police somewhere else and at the same time phone for an ambulance.”

What did happen to the child? He’s quickly forgotten in the narrative requirement to keep Dodo in the TARDIS, the magical nature of which she’s notably unphased by, entirely accepting the Doctor’s unusually florid exposition its existence (“Well, my dear, I'm a doctor of science, and this machine is for travelling through time and relative dimensions in space.”)

In the 1999 BBC novel Salvation, author Steve Lyons rationalises that Dodo’s on the run from an alien force that has been keeping her hostage and is simply blurting out the first thing which comes into her head. This would certainly explain her intellectual dissonance on the topic. But the script and remaining audio do few favours to Jackie Lane, whose staccato delivery offers every indication of the actress knowing she has to do in about five minutes what her predecessors could across a whole story.

In more recent series, her explanation would probably have been a jumping off point for another adventure, with the Tenth or Eleventh incarnations quickly out the door and across the park to the scene of the accident, waving a sonic around to check on the youngster’s vitals, the driver of the vehicle guiltily looking on. Attack Eyebrows might have attended more grudgingly, but at least he too would have gone.

In the 1960s version, the Doctor’s quickly away, dematerialising the TARDIS at just the moment two police officers might also have expected to utilise its outer dimensional skin’s presumed services to help the child.

Another tragedy missed, the web of time preserved.

Rosa.



TV  Oh you silly old stupid franchise.  Even after fifty-five years, after all those stories across several media, you somehow manage to find a new way of presenting yourself, making yourself fresh and brave and relevant at just the moment when we need it.  Three episodes into the new epoch and we're really starting to get a handle on what Chibbers and co are trying to achieve and it's the Hartnell era through a contemporary lens, unashamedly embracing Reithian values but tackling themes which resonate in the 21st century while simultaneously doing away with teasers.  Which isn't to obscure the big themes the show's tackled previously including racism.  But more often than not it's been through an allegorical, pepper pot shaped filter.  Rosa confronts racism head on, showing how it effects the main characters in a way which the series has only offered a certain amount of white saviour lip service to before, unafraid to simply iterate the facts when necessary.

Which isn't to say I wasn't concerned beforehand.  In her book Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge talks about how it wasn't until her second year at university that she really became steeped in black British history.  Before that she'd "only ever encountered black history through American-centric educational displays and lesson plans in primary and secondary school", "(w)ith heavy focus on Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman's Underground Railroad and Martin Luthor King Jr" which were important to her, but far removed for "a young black girl growing up in north London".  The writer then devotes the next fifty-six pages offering some balance with a tour of the international slave trade, the windrush, the 80s riots and Stephen Lawrence and I can't recommend the book more.

With that in mind on hearing that Rosa Parks would be the subject of an episode, I did wonder (taking into account any presumed co-production money) if this most British of franchises couldn't have featured a figure from our history, perhaps who's been obscured by US iconography and deserves to be brought into the light.  Except glancing back through the Eddo-Lodge chapter it's also true that in terms of British history, it's difficult to pinpoint a similar act of peaceful defiance as clearly defined as Parks's bravery that could easily be spun into fifty minutes of family drama for a Sunday night.  Mary Seacole perhaps but the budget even this budget might not stretch to recreating the Crimean War and which particular event would be portrayed.  I understand why Malorie Blackman and Chibbers were drawn to Rosa's moment rather than a British story that might require greater explanation and the sheer quality of the episode more than justifies that decision.

It's also true that the writers are well aware of these issues and work them into the fabric of the episode, notably when Ryan and Yasmin, hiding behind some bins, discuss how even in 2018, racism is still pervasive and effects their lives even if it's not quite the shitshow people of colour had to endure in 1950s Alabama.  Eighteen months ago we were congratulating Twelfth for punching a Nazi in defense of Bill.  Now here we are watching how a society which has white nationalism baked in effects the Doctor's friends even to the point of making Yasmin feel uncomfortable because she's somehow exempt because the authorities in Alabama hadn't even thought far enough to recognise that people of Pakistani heritage exist, ignorance of a different sort which somehow puts her in a superior position to Ryan left skulking at the back, an image which on its own demonstrates just how ludicrous and insipid this form of racism was.

Taking the old school "historical" approach of simply having our heroes observe events amid being captured and escaping and being unable to re-enter the TARDIS isn't unfortunately enough in the 21st century.  The classic Seasons of Fear, Back to the Future and most notably Quantum Leap approach of preserving a series of incidents in order to improve or in this case simply preserve the timeline is another excellent choice because it allows viewers to become steeped in the mechanisms and details of history and how a single change can create ripples.  It also provides plenty of opportunities to give her friends mini-adventures and see them work as a motivated team in a way we've not seen from the show in a while, harking back to the Seventh Doctor in the New Adventures, albeit with a slightly less omnipotent memory for history.  This plan needs research, research, research.

Which leads us to the ongoing germination of Thirteen.  Tim Shaw accepted, this is really the first time we've seen her face off against an adversary alone, and as expected she smoldered and its confirmed, as if it needed to be, once again, that she is the Doctor.  Her deduction and destruction of his surface mysteries are vintage and its in these moments we really see the millennia of experience bubble to the surface, an ancient God with new eyes and accent and Jodie inhabiting that authority.  Who is this Stormfront, sorry, Stormcage escapee?  I've tried running Krasko through Google translate and it doesn't seem to mean "Monk" in any languages, plus the Doctor would surely recognise a fellow Time Lord, so along with the Stenza, he's must be another example of Chibbers creating new returning adversaries for the Doctor rather than relying on the old favourites.  Does anyone know if the Nation estate's rule of wanting to see a Dalek at least once in every series still stands?  Does Krasko count?

For much of the time she's willing to be discrete and cautious in her choice of interventions, choosing when to make a fuss, when to leave her friends to defend themselves and when to make a quiet exit, which makes the conclusion all the more powerful.  Unlike Sam Beckett's mission statement to "put right what once went wrong" (which found itself reversed within the aforementioned confrontation with Krasko), it's the wrongness of the moment that becomes the catalyst for future history.  Like Tenth and Donna causing the deaths of thousands at Pompeii to save the timeline, the Doctor and her friends have to sit and observe in such a heartbreaking scene, to essentially participate in it from the wrong side of history in order to save that history.  But it's also notable that the Doctor and his cohorts don't inspire Rosa to take her action.  She retains her own agency.  They facilitate it by not participating.  Graham even wants to leave the bus entirely, the pain of remaining etched on his face.

It's also a notable example of the "celebrity" historical in which the eponymous figure doesn't interact directly with the villain and also doesn't really discover who the Doctor and her friends really are.  Vinette Robinson doesn't play Parks as a larger than life figure, but a realistically extraordinary person burning with intelligence.  Blackman's script also doesn't simplify her biography, including her activism and connection to Dr King providing ample background as to why she remained seated that day.  Interestingly it does ignore Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith who both took part similar protests earlier that year but weren't rallied around in the same way due to being too young, poor and obscure (apparently) unlike Parks who was a prominent member of the community.  None of which should be seen as criticism.  Sometimes its important to simplify real events in order to reveal a greater truth.

And all of this was filmed in South Africa!  This feels like it wouldn't look out of place on a cinema screen, or at the very least is of a piece with the higher quality end of HBO or one of those newfangled streaming services.  The huge number of interiors and exteriors, the size of the cast, the sheer bigness of it all feels like it can't keep up, that we're going to have a locked room mystery within the bottom six episodes of the series.  For every Turn Left, there's a Midnight.  We're now way beyond football field in Cardiff doubling as Central Park and someone forgetting to the dismantle or at least obscure the crossbars.  Presumably we'll have to await a Pixley exposé to discover how much of what we saw tonight was shot abroad vs Cardiff, now much it had to be created or was otherwise already in situ but this has a level of ambition we've not seen before outside of specially specials.  Not to mention that although the franchise hasn't ever been an enemy of popular music, is it the first occasion when it ran over the end credits?

But even as I write, I appreciate that I'm not really the best person to judge how the wider themes of the episode have been tackled and reflect on the importance that Rosa will have for some viewers, especially its core audience.  Eddo-Lodge also talks about performative solidarity, in which white people often go out of their way to offer support to the Black community as a way of demonstrating just how unracist they are, how unlike the Charlottesville protesters, the KKK or Krasko, the woke equivalent of have a friend who's a person of colour.  The fact I keep mentioning this book could be seen as an example of this as if to demonstrate that I've read at least one book about racial politics.  It's very easy for me to say from a position of privilege that it feels like it reflects well the experience of people who don't look like me in society, but I can't possibly know if that's right.

The fact that I'm this uneasy and hell, that I've written the previous paragraph just goes to demonstrate the paradigms that are shifted when episodes like this are broadcast.  Once again I'm flabbergasted that the same franchise which gave us Love & Monsters, The Adventuress of Henrietta Street and Beep The Meep is also capable of tackling this sort of topic and feel all of a piece with it.  Next week is an alien invasion story with a Sex Pistols punning title.  There are few shows which go out of their way or are capable of these surprises, that are able to re-engineer themselves in this way, stay true to what they are and yet become something else entirely.  And all this under the supervision of Chris "Cyberwoman" Chibnall.  Is it time to forgive him yet?  I'll let you know in seven episodes.

The Ghost Monument.



TV Custard creams! The TARDIS makes custard creams! If jammy dodgers seemed on brand for the eleventh Doctor, custard creams feels like the last thing you might expect for thirteenth and yet totally correct, as was her response which was munch the thing down as quickly as possible.  Lately I've been attempting to lose some more weight, but custard creams keep appearing the cupboard and my self control isn't what it once was.  The wreckage of teeth in my mouth thanks to a couple of decades of tooth grinding can't really bite into them any more without some risk.  But by-gad they're perfect for dunking, so long as you don't keep them in there too long.  Plus they're super cheap, about fifty in a packet for forty pence in Tesco.  Even less in the value range at Aldi.  Oh dear, I appear to have eaten another one.

Second stories or episodes are the first time we really get a chance to see how a new incarnation of the Doctor exist at full wattage after their introductory installment(s) and have an inclining of how the given actor is really going to approach the role.  The End of the World was structurally still part of RTD's task in demonstrating the breadth of the show at this early stage although Chris had Boaked himself out by then.  While New Earth on reflection does give us a roadmap to the Tenth Doctor's personality, the body swap story meant we still didn't really see him and Rose in action until Tooth & Claw.  The Beast Below is maligned but again it's an on-point expression of who the Eleventh Doctor would be, which could also be said of Twelfth Into The Dalek for worse, much, much worse, the start of that season's apparent project to make us actively dislike him.

It's too early to really say how The Ghost Machine fits into that tradition, Jodie Whitaker's Doctor and her performance is still cooking.  Without knowing the production schedule, we don't know were this sits in terms of how comfortable she in the role, and there are occasions, like previous Doctors, when she is still trying to calculate the balance of exposition over emotional beats.  She's also still for the most part, not the viewpoint character, which causes us to be slightly distanced from her, which is something which has oscillated across the years but we've recently become less used to.  Usually if she's in close-up, it's for an important moment.  With three companiofriends to deal with, she's regularly at the back or middle of the framing, or emerges towards the end of a scene between two other characters, usually to help chivy the action along.

Which isn't to say she isn't delightful.  She is.  Her performance and this version of the character is a welcome change from the introspection of recent incarnations with the weight of the universe on their shoulders.  She doesn't need to ask herself if she's a good person.  She just is and knows it.  She's especially mobile too, weaving in and out the other characters and sets like a dynamo, rarely still, sonic at the ready.  In the scene on the shuttle when she has little choice to but sit down, this Doctor seems trapped, impatient.  These are writing, performance and production choices and there'll doubtless be a moment when we see her sat alone, contemplating and it'll be all the more powerful because of it.  Jodie's nuance shines best in the interior scenes.  Perhaps these were shot later?

That's especially true of  the closing moments when the TARDIS finally returns and thirteenth the focus again, barely holding back the tears as her old friend returns.  We finally see her interior soul as she rests herself against the time ship's exterior, caressing the sign.  Then as the door opens, an awestruck look usually reserved to companions radiates from her as she glances around the new interior, the TARDIS having decided on as an expert notices, "basically the 2005 one with crystals instead of coral" but massively huge, augmented by CG.  It's in these moments we see Jodie really settle into the role, calmer, more authoritative.  As season seven (the first one) shows the Doctor's mojo, her sense of being is directly connected to her TARDIS and she's not complete without the ability to step into the fourth dimension.  I like it too.

How long has the TARDIS been phasing in and out on the planet that it should become a mythic item within the planets history such that it would be branded with the name "ghost monument"?  Like the Pandorica, has it simply always been there, shimmering back and forth into reality like a dimensional transcendental Brigadoon?  Some have complained that the audience didn't ever really think the TARDIS would ever be completely lost which devalued the conclusion, which is nonsense.  Within the DNA of the show is the idea that a TARDIS team would be unable to escape from a place because a girder had dropped in front of a door, it'd fallen off a cliff, down a mineshaft, sunk to the bottom of the ocean or simply been in a chippy mood.  We know the she and the Doctor will be reunited eventually.  It's simply a mechanism to cause the Time Lord to bump into another adventure.

One element which Chibnall is keen to demonstrate is the Doctor fighting with her wits rather than guns, even the to point of having Ryan acting like a numpty with a large gun to demonstrate the point, marinating in the juices of toxic masculinity.  As you know, I've acknowledged that THE DOCTOR DOES NOT USE GUNS unless he does, sometimes, but it's good that the show goes to these lengths to broadcast this imagine, especially now.  In order to show this is the same person who's been at the centre of the show for the past half decade, we hear Thirteenth also namedropping and practicing Venusian aikido.  I bet there are some jelly babies in those massive pockets of hers.  You could argue that leaning heavily on such things might risk the character becoming a bit generic, but Jodie's Doctor so far has been anything but.

Second installments also need to have a story significantly different from the first so that potential new viewers can get a feel for the premise.  On that score, The Ghost Monument is fine, certainly less of a curiosity than some of the others.  Judging by the plot synopses for coming adventures, Chibbers is following the recent recipe of offering a future and historical story in the first couple of weeks, although this was a much more stripped down affair with less characters and a very clear, specific story goal.  Comfortingly tab A into tab B.  You could imagine the content of this race in most Who contexts although obviously in a novel or audio because there's no way in the world the show could afford to go and film in such a picturesque landscape.  Abroad.  For this long.

Well, hello gorgeous.  After the cinematic first episode, it's usual to shift into a much more studio based affair to save money.  Instead we're now in HBO or Netflix territory in budget terms apparently, although I'd be interested to know if lobbing another couple of episodes from the season means that the budgets for those have been amortized across the rest.  Previous episodes have shot abroad and had some scale, but this finally feels like its achieved the teenage dream of producing a feature film per week.  Were the ruins a build or already on site in South Africa?  How did the spaceship crash manage to look so convincing?  Without Confidential, we can only hope that Andrew Pixley has his archival pick axe at the ready and a venue to provide us with these titbits.  Extra issues of The Complete History perhaps?

For all the scale, this is still a character piece.  As I predicted last week, with more companions, there's less need for guest spots but also a greater opportunity to provide varying viewpoints on aspects of the story like the aliens or the planets they inhabit and carry over stuff from previous episodes.  Now it's not just up to the Doctor to sympathize with those who've lost loved ones or ask the difficult questions, and this new TARDIS team is becoming quite the Greek chorus.  Graham and Ryan are also given a chance to consider Grace's death (although it's odd that they seem to have waited until now rather than either before or after the funeral) and the Doctor's clear affinity for Yasmin putting her trust and faith in the police officer.  All of their reactions feel very real too, astonished at the new surrounds and predicament and unafraid to show it.

Small but remarkable guest cast, British cinema legends all.  I've been mad keen on Susan Lynch since she co-starred with Rachel Wiesz in the millenium British noir Beautiful Creature, a passion which was crystallized by Downtime, no, not the Bill Baggs psychodrama, but the lift thriller co-starring the Eighth Doctor in the period after reading the Earth arc BBC novels trying to decide which other McGann performances could be considered canonical even though the character he was playing had a different personality and name.  She initially seems ill at ease with the jargon but is utterly riveting while describing how her home planet has been laid waste.  Shaun Dooley's playing less against type but has the chance to offer more lightness than usual.  Art flipping Malick plays a hologram who doesn't feel like he's completely done in this series.

Which segues us about as neatly as The One Show to the other surprise of the episode.  A story arc.  Who has been very continuity and mythology heavy in recent years, often at the expense of telling the stand alone takes which are the DNA of the show.  Around seasons six and seven, the only real place you could experience a story unconnected to anything else was in the novels or AudioGo audio books.  In the preshow publicity, Chibbers at al specifically said that this would be ten episodes with stand alone stories implying a return to the old format of being able to pretty much watch the stories in any order and it would still make sense (something the dvd releases could take advantage of across its decades long project).

Well.  Apart from the aforementioned perfectly natural conversation carry overs from the previous week, no  "special treat to cheer us all up" we now have flying scarves pulling something called "The Timeless Child" from Jodie's brain, a hitherto unmentioned piece of Time Lord ephemera which seemed to momentarily knock her off balance.  Any relation to the Nightmare Child?  Is there an intergalactic creche filled with epic sounding youngsters like the Quantum Child, Apocalyptic Child and Oblivion Child sharing the sandpit?  Or is it something closer to home?  How is this connected to the Stenza?  Is it connected to the Stenza?  Like Grace's unusual death last week, seeds are being sown which will either be resolved in eight weeks or Chibbers will be dragging us along right through the seasons China has already licensed.

Tomorrow's another London day for this writer  (I'm visiting Greenwich again for some shopping) so I'll bring this to a close at the beginning and the new title sequence, banged straight into from the announcer for the first time since Rose.  I think.  Throwing out the orchestral majesty of the Murray Gold era (justified by RTD because he thought the Delia Derbyshire version sounded a bit sad) (hrumph), new composer Segun Akinola resurrects the original's mysterious, uncanny sound, with percussion underscoring a reworking of what sounds like the original Radiophonic Workshop recording.  The outtro is noticeably more dramatic but like 2005 version denies us the middle eight, which wouldn't make our head spin with excitement until 2007.  Always good to hold something back.

Like the music, the credits pay homage to the past whilst being entirely futuristic offering a mini-history of Who titles across the first couple of decades.  It begins with something akin to the first decade or so, rotating shapes offering the impression of the time vortex from the 60s and early 70s.  They're then married with the fluid artifacts of the split-scan methods from the late 70s.  Finally we're in the starfields of most of the 80s.  But they're all of a pieces and transition between each other perfectly.  No face or TARDIS this time.  It's created by the mysterious John Smith, he or she of Wholock fame who director Rachel Talalay contracted to provide some of the special effects for the last series now being given this ultimate task.  Well done.

So we're over the second episode bump just about intact.  Can we define how Chibber's approach differs from his predecessors yet beyond the sheer scale of the thing?  A certain back to basic, more traditional approach to the storytelling, more character, less plot based material, an abundance of script which begs for rewatching in order to catch of all the dialogue, especially from the Doctor.  If anything, the reason I'm grasping at straws is because he's taken a step back, is less interested in imprinting his own personality, perhaps because unlike RTD and Moffat, he's less known for having a particular approach to writing, Born and Bread, Camelot and Broadchurch not really having a common theme or thread.  So far, so good.

The 231163 Diaries:
Alfred Kazin.



Politics Alfred Kazin was an American writer and literary critic, many of whose writings depicted the immigrant experience in early twentieth century America [source]. Whilst this entry doesn't directly depict events which happened on the 23rd November, the words are a prophecy of the future effect Kennedy's assassination would have on history.

November 22, 1963

Kennedy was shot around noon in Dallas this afternoon and died about an hour later.  The fact is, when have concluded all self-pitying thoughts about the in-consequence of the might when they have fallen, that the dead do have a very great power over us - that the last cry of the dying, though it is certainly not carried with any action, reverberates in out mind as a continuing effect .... Because we die, when all is said and done we live in consciousness on this side of life and not the other, Kennedy's tragedy will have a larger effect on our lives than his administration.  The final destructive blow taken against him and his silent subjection takes on continuing implications that his own actions did not.  His somehow pitiful fate has become a major event in our lives.

Publically, his appearance was always light, ironic, witty in resource and charming.  His fate is in its consequence incalculably heavy.  He is a perfect example of the prodigal son - all that substance lost and wasted!  We thought (because he tried to seem so) that America could be without the business of the Damocles Sword descending upon us - which is tragedy or fate (the tragedy being that we cannot resist its weight).  In the end all the wealth, charm, easiness, youth, came to very little [very little in proportion to the ends expected of such advantages].  The tragedy is the Irish immigrant hope that enough money and [illegible] would turn life into a "success," that the inevitable terms of life's bargain would somehow be changed.

[Source: KAZIN, Alfred.  2011.  Alfred Kazin's Journals.  Yale University Press.]

Doctor Who's Honest Trailers.

TV Sunday night's episode seems to have been an unqualified success. Overnight ratings in the UK were 8.2m with a 40 odd percent share which is huge (although as my Mum pointed out there was sod all on the other channels). Next week, ITV's running The Chase opposite which is incredibly bad faith treatment of Bradley Walsh, his two key shows running opposite each other albeit in different genres.  Reviews for the most part have been ecstatic from what I've read, although I'd be equally interested to see what people who didn't like it thought, what didn't work for them (assuming its not just man-baby screed about SJWs and gender box ticking).

Anyway, in the past couple of hours Screen Junkies have produced Honest Trailers for the classic and new series which are surprisingly light touch, cover some of the ground us fans know already but have a couple of decent jokes each. The classic series version necessarily has a few more of the old cliches in but does at least acknowledge the existence of Big Finish. But the nuWho edition just makes me want to go watch it all again. There's just something about this dopey old show which isn't anything like anything else on television still. This is a show which could not be pitched from scratch now. Yet here it is still getting huge ratings.






The Woman Who Fell To Earth.



TV Deep breath. You know the trailer with Jodie Whittaker in various states of either surprise, anxiety, mouth open, sometimes clutching her head due to what we now know to be post regenerative jitters? That would be me too right now. That was astonishing. Simply astonishing. Yes, I’m prone to superlatives and all too often that something is good or rubbish. By any measure that was a fantastic hour of television and one of the best introductions to a new epoch of Doctor Who, ranking alongside Spearhead from Space, Storm Warning, Rose and The Eleventh Doctor in terms of taking something old and making it new again.

But the problem with being a fan in these circumstances with over half a century of mythology rattling around in your brain is that to experience all of that, all of the changes, all of the tiny decisions in tweaking the format also means I’ve become the human embodiment of the cover of the best fake edition in the For Dummies series. It’s not just that I need help to even, I need at least a further ten chapters on how to literally even. Adele’s popping along in the background as she so often is in situations like this and I don’t know where to begin to even start to talk about the bigness of The Woman Who Fell To Earth (and don’t just mean the post credits casting reveal of Big).

Right, structure. I need a structure. First principles. Opening observations. Doctor. Storytelling. Friends. Enemies. Other random nonsense. That should do. I really did need this tonight. My anxiety’s on the down-low lately which I’m attributing to completely cutting caffeine from my diet included the few milligrams still extant in “decaffeinated” coffee and tea and just stick with rooibos. This that has been a rough week out there for those of us who want to think the best of people and continue to be reminded that many of them are awful. The combination of the two has been confusing so thank you to this silly old franchise for blasting through.

Let’s begin, four paragraphs in, with an apology. When it was announced that Torchwood’s Chris Chibnall would be assuming control, this blog’s writer can’t be said to have offered his best support, quoting Heston in Planet of the Apes at the title of the post and mentioning his weak episodes of Life on Mars. Despite some grudging conciliatory notes at the end if that January 2016 blog post (the announcement was a long time ago), I nevertheless have to stand corrected. This was the best script Chibnall's written for anything Doctor Who related, probably because unlike his previous work, it's the franchise in his image rather than having to walk lock step in the trenches of other show runners.

From the opening shot, Ryan's vlog, this feels about twenty years on in conceptual terms from the close of the Capaldi era. This is a world of YouTube and Twitter, where grandparents Skype and technology in general is advanced enough that the Doctor can build her own sonic screwdriver and vortex manipulator from bits lying around in a garage. Choosing Sheffield as the opening location (albeit with sections shot in Cardiff still) increases a sense of verisimilitude, because for all the housing estates in the RTD era, there was often a sense that we were watching “reality”, whereas this felt like a real place, pissed Sheffielder chucking the salad from his kebab at an alien included.

The dialogue too sees a shift away from the “screw ball” patter of recent years, in which, however funny it was often, meant everything had the edge of a sitcom (unsurprising given the writer). This was more of a piece with a down to earth drama serial, as though characters from Casualty or Corrie have wandered into a Doctor Who story. No “Jericho Street Junior School under 7s gymnastic team” or pretty much anything Bill would have said last year (or whenever it was). They're just different approaches. This is still a significant paradigm shift. Droll rather than slapstick, nothing feels forced and notably no one is being chippy for the sake of it.

The key exception to this is the Doctor, who from the first time she pops in on the rail carriage just moments before we all quote along to the preview clip which we watching a couple of hundred times, probably legally because we all waited, is the Doctor even if she doesn't quite know it yet. In his recent piece for the New Statesman, friend of the blog James Cooray Smith notices that the first episode of each incarnation “Doctors" first stories essentially fall into two categories, in which they're essentially burning bright from their opening moments or spend much of the episode still cooking. Robot's an example of the former, Castrovalva the latter.

The Woman Who Fell To Earth is right down the middle. No zero rooms or Tyler bedroom for the thirteenth. She's apparently survived the fall at the close of Twice Upon A Time (thanks to still being in the regenerative cycle) (probably) and already on the case, chasing an alien despite not quite knowing what her name is. She's conceptually aware of enough of the change that she knows she's still not quite complete, echoing previous speeches about not really knowing who she is yet. That allows CC to introduce the audience to the Doctor and who the Doctor is, while still keeping with the old notion of needing to have a nap at some point in order to expel some pent up artron energy.

Everything is brand new. For the first time since Rose, nothing is held over from the previous Doctor or production team, no sense that we have to even know that anything before this has existed. Previously the show always felt the need to keep its viewers on side. Ben and Polly in The Power of the Daleks. Sylv turning up for the TV Movie. The Eleventh Hour was written to reflect the RTD era's interest in global catastrophes whilst absorbing Moffat's whimsy. Whatever in the fuck was happening in The Twine Dillemina or Time and the Rani. The Eleventh Doctor upstaging his successor. There's none of that here. For some, this is the first ever episode.

Meanwhile, Jodie fucking Whitaker. If all you've seen of this actress are her more downbeat roles, the notion of her playing the Doctor probably seemed a bit mad. I sort of knew it would be fine. In something like Adult Life Skills, the kind of blazing eccentricity the role needed is on full display and in this character she's finally able to demonstrate that side of her personality. If the pre-show interviews have demonstrated anything it is that this is her default mode in real life, with all the no shits given approach we've loved of most previous actors in the role. Tom. Peter D. Nothing in her previous career suggests she's been working up towards this, yet it's perfect casting.

Although at this point she's still trying to feel her way around how to work the dialogue, in places presenting some slightly dotty exclamation point acting and a Matt Smith like tendency towards unusual line readings, she's just, sigh. You could devote several long essays on her face, as it stretches hither and thither, every thought dancing across there like a Gallifreyan Phil Cool, a face which launched a thousand gifs. Finger up her nose, excited about a spoon, realising that she's going to have to Harold Lloyd it between two cranes. Smiling with goggles on has to be the new Twelfth Doctor dancehandsing.

By the end, and I wonder if they were shot at different times, she's completely settled in and its oddly in these closing moments when she's consoling Graham and watching Ryan attempting to fight his dyspraxia in order to cycle, that we can see her range and that she feels at her most Doctorish and relatable, the benevolent alien who hasn't quite been around this past few years. You simply can't imagine this Doctor perpetrating the kind of cruelty we've seen on some occasions recently. When she apologises to her friends for having to see a body, we can see that this is going to be an empathic Time Lord who thinks the best of people. Hello you. We've missed you.

For all that, CC is still closely guarding exactly what kind of show this is going to be for the next nine weeks. Storywise, this is pretty simplistic stuff, even by the standards of previous introductions closer to a Sarah Jane adventure or Class. The Doctor often works best, is best defined when she has an antagonist to laugh in the face of and Tim Shaw fitted the bill with his dental dimples (quite the trigger for me that) and reason to force everyone to run about Sheffield trying to gather exactly what his M.O. is (essentially the Hirogen from Star Trek's Voyager with a singular fetish).

It's also about the companions, or friends as they are now and always have been. Crowded TARDISes haven't always worked. In narrative terms it means you have to find something for all these characters to do in each episode leaving less room for interesting guest cast. There's the third wheel syndrome as an extra character or two are introduced into an already existing relationship and distracting from the reason we're listening to these McGann audios in the first place and why do you have to even be there with your unspellable name and deeply uninteresting back story? Some cuts are deep ...

None of that here. They're all [RTD] marvellous [/RTD]. They're also entirely capable of holding their own and work as autonomous beings without the Doctor being in their life, or defined by each other, much like Ian and Barbara all those years ago. I'll talk some about them in future weeks (call it my version of withholding the opening titles) and I'm trying to fill the gaps were story arc speculation should be. For now, Ryan and Yasmin will bring out of the youthfulness of the Doctor and Graham, now that he's a widower (oh Grace) the couple of billion years of life that hidden beneath that young face.

All of this way in and I haven't even mentioned the production design and whatnot. The party circular's preview of this episode immediately went into a deep dive about aspect ratios and it's true, this is a very "cinematic" version of the series which is saying something considering how gorgeous it looked circa 2010. It'll take me a few watches to really appreciate the shot choices and so forth. It's noticeable just how often the photography takes advantage of digital camera capabilities to keep both a background and foreground object in sharp focus so that everything feels hyper real without it ever exhibiting a soap opera effect.

But it's getting late, almost the eleventh hour and I'm getting tired. A proper journalist would probably put all of this to one side and come back to it with fresh eyes in the morning. Since I'm nothing of the sort and I know there'll be at least three people wondering if I'm even going to write about this series, I should probably work towards some kind of resolution to this ramshackle collection of opinions which would probably work better as one of those YouTube video essays in which someone with a deep mid-Atlantic accent intones edits comparing shots from this and The Christmas Invasion.

Did Grace need to die? Don't know. Of anything in the episode it was the one moment which seems forced and feels like its going to be returned to at some point. But its noticeable that the script makes it very clear that it is her bravery that leads her to that moment, a behaviour she exhibits throughout the episode, a source of inspiration rather than the fridging it might have been if it had been less well handled overall. The funeral scene is unprecedented, the show confronting death and the effects in a way that's not quite been dealt with before in the same way. Bradley's is brainstorming good in his eulogy, also extinguishing any doubts as to his casting.

What I love most about the episode is that it is identifiable, inclusive and inspirational. The trappings of the Doctor are most often the result of alien technology which looks like magic, the sonic popping out of the TARDIS console, the clothes from an infinite wardrobe. This Doctor's prop has Sheffield steel running through and her costume is an ensemble thrown together in a charity shop. That means a city can now mention its key industry in relation to this silly programme and people will potentially be rummaging through charity shops trying to recreate the costume (even knowing that won't be its real origin). Perhaps there's a new thread of cosplay in which people turn up in Doctorish clothes they found in Oxfam.

More than that, it wears its diversity on its sleeve and doesn't make a big thing of it. The Doctor only mentions a couple of times that she's a woman, it's not really important for her even if it's a huge moment in reality. Other than that, these are just people and although Yasmin's the first Asian companion, at least on screen, it isn't her primary reason for existing. We'll see how this pans out in future stories, and the Rosa Parks episodes is sure to be charged. Honestly the only reason I've considered these things is because I felt the need to write this paragraph.

Representation matters. For too long people who don't look like me have only had people who look like me to identify with on television. Now we have a mad female Doctor, who's a resourceful mechanic, super smart, fallible and kind. Dyspraxia sufferers now have someone to identify with and don't disregard the effect of seeing an emotionally complex young black man on screen. NuWho has worked towards this moment in increments across the years. Finally, when it's part of the show's DNA, that it isn't trying to make up for past decisions and simply being.

Which is presumably also the message of the post credits roll call, to show that these decisions aren't simply lip service, that they run throughout the entire length of the series. Plus to reveal that some of the male cast of The Good Wife are appearing. We knew about Alan Cumming thanks to his blabber mouth, but Chris Noth apparently playing the Chris Noth character Chris Noth always plays? Is Julie Hesmondhalgh playing an older version of this Doctor? What would this tribute to the future cast of this series have looked like in previous years? Imagine An Unearthly Child ending with close-ups of Alan Wheatley, Mark Eden, Francis De Wolf, Margot Van der Burgh and Ronald Pickup.

Anyway, it's three and a half hours since broadcast and I'm still on a high. This dopey old fairy tale is back and I'm helpless to its charms and I'm glancing at my stockpile of novels and Big Finish audios with renewed interest. Unless the next nine episodes are utter rubbish, Doctor Who's done it again, renewed itself, refuelled and kept the engine running for at least another couple of series. Can we please keep to some kind of proper production schedule this time and actually have a new series for a few years running?  Even if it is on a Sunday?