The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.

TV During the revival we've become accustomed to big, brash season finales filled with massive cosmological shenanigans, giant emotional storylines, companion departures, deaths and resurrections and a sense of bowing up the season which has come before.  In keeping with the rest of this series which has largely been about presenting redux of the original twenty-six years, it's fitting that The Battle of the Who In The What Now? is more subdued than we're used to, with armies living and dying off screen, a tiny guest cast with epic back stories, a resolution involving someone pressing a few buttons in the TARDIS, a shouty returning antagonist and a long introductory walk through a quarry.

Except of course, the New Year's Day episode is clearly going to be the more traditional finale and will seem as much after all this has been uploaded to Netflix for posterity (and presumably the shiny disc box set).  Battles across time, explosions involving soldiers flying through the air and whoever the Doctor's referring to at the end of the trailer, who we're all assuming will be the Daleks but given the way this series is going, might as well be some new monster we haven't met before.  Big Finish granted, I've always been drawn to the idea of being introduced to some fully formed arch nemesis for the Doctor who she's apparently fought against for centuries in the mode of a Terry Nation creation but we just haven't had an onscreen adventure with yet.

Setting the usual expectations aside, how'd it go?  It was fine.  As Liz Myles said on Twitter earlier, this has been a "very warm, comfortable, cosy series of Doctor Who" and this "finale" is the epitome of that.  Perhaps in the edgier Moffat version, Graham would have shot Tim Shaw stone dead and caused a schism in the TARDIS team, but despite Bradley's understated anger that was never going to happen.  This is an iteration of the show designed for Sunday nights with a more subversive rather than overt edginess, one closer to Tom Baker's description of his run: "The smallest child terrified behind a sofa or under a cushion, and the next one up laughing at him, and the elder one saying 'sh, I want to listen', and the parents saying 'isn't this enjoyable'."

Indeed Tom would certainly recognize a few elements from his era.  The stealing and compacting of celestial bodies ala The Pirate Planet.  A previous decision coming back to haunt the Doctor leading to the fostering of a false religion and untold horrors on complete strangers as per The Face of Evil.  Ancient beings of immense power led astray from The Deadly Assassin (I appreciate that last one is a bit tenuous).  Essentially its the resolution of a season long project to bring the show back into some kind of manageable state of lower expectations.  A more expensive episode might have had cutaways to the planet as the pink ray enveloped it, but we've probably seen enough shots of bewildered people looking towards the sky already.

Instead, we have a Doctor who's compelling because of what she doesn't say.  The BBC uploaded the "dome new man goes sauntering away.." cafe scene from The End of Time to YouTube recently, which is beautifully acted all round but you simply can't imagine Jodie playing through with Graham because she doesn't articulate in that way.  Even on discovering the pain she's potentially caused in not ending Tim Shaw on Earth and sending him half way across the galaxy, it's underplayed and all in her eyes, rather than simply adding to some nihilistic angst as might have been the case with more recent incarnations.  She's on a singular mission to help people, as best she can, her own emotions be damned.

But she's also not one for righteous fury.  Again, her male counterparts might have treated Tim Shaw with greater contempt especially given that he's even more genocidal than Solomon from Chibbers's previous Dinosaurs on a Spaceship whom the Eleventh Doctor was quite happy to make explode (a move I was cross and curious about back in the day).  But she's adamant that Graham doesn't kill his nemesis because of what it would do to him, which is also a contrast to his reaction to how Amy dealt with Madam Kovarian, albeit an alternative version.  She trusts that he'll do the right thing, to such a degree that despite her storming confrontation with Tim, the Doctor's more interested in reversing the results of his experiments and happy to leave the boys to deal with the other problem.

She's also pretty sexless.  Given the flirtatiousness of 10th, 11th and let's be honest 12th, 13th has barely looked sideways at another person, male or female.  Yaz seems to have the most potential, but even then the only whiff we've had of that ship was her mother's confusion as to the nature of their friendship.  Asking to remain with the Doctor during the danger tonight was more to do with the usual "I want to stay with you" than hanky-panky.  Should this change?  If more recent incarnations have been allowed to kiss seemingly anyone with less pulses than them, from royal mistresses to Hollywood actresses, why shouldn't this incarnation?  Dunno.

Either way, we've finally reached the end (or middle) of the casting trailer with Phyllis Logan, Percelle Ascott and Mark Addy, both of whom, like the actor Kevin Eldon last week, feel like they should have been in Who before but a pleasure to finally have them here (although granted Eldon played Antimony in Death Comes To Time but does that count?  Honestly?).  Logan and Addy in particular demonstrated their depth of experience offering acres of lived history within the short screen time - we could absolutely believe the former could have lived thousands of years.  Perhaps they'll bump into Captain Jack or Me as they visit the galaxy and swap immortality tales.

So that's everything over bar another hour on New Year's Day.  It's been a season without any particularly rubbish episodes and only a couple of stone cold classics, probably Rosa and It Take You Away.  The latter is probably my favourite thanks to its gonzo ending which revealed that the receiver of the Doctor's emotional farewell, so intriguing in the trailer, turned out to be a rubber frog.  If I've a request for the future, now that we know that everyone's going to survive Resolution would be more Yaz.  Mandip Gill's felt slightly under utilised and that's something which should be corrected.  Oh and some returning monsters.  I think we've earned a  Cyberman stand off.  Happy Christmas.

Christmas Links #9

Customer 'disgusted' after Yodel delivery man was caught chucking a Christmas parcel down driveway:
"Our neighbour thought 'why doesn’t he just knock on our door?!'"

6 Festive Melted Cheese Recipes For Christmas:
"Molten cheese makes for the ultimate Christmas comfort food, whether for a special Christmas Eve feast or on those lazy days between Boxing day and New Year."

Garden centre donates festive fir to light up Ottery this Christmas:
"Christmas spirit has already sprung in Ottery following the donation of a festive fir by Otter Garden Centre."

Scottish farmer sued for £2 million after he ‘spoiled huge crop of Christmas trees’:
"A Scots farmer is being sued for two million pounds damages over claims that he spoiled a huge crop of Christmas trees."

Woman has more than 400 Christmas trees set up in her house:
"Shelly Botcher has never found a Christmas tree she didn’t like, and she has never thrown one away."

Restaurant Gift Cards Are the Best Christmas Present Ever.
"Here’s Why I Think So."

Share This Beautiful Icelandic Tradition With Your Family This Christmas:
"Icelanders give books to each other on Christmas Eve, go to bed early and spend the night reading."

Man opens Christmas gift from high school sweetheart 48 years after breakup:
"A man in Canada is finally opening a gift he received from an ex-girlfriend 48 years ago."

Christmas Links #8

Fake Elf News: The Goofy Game Everyone Thought Was Spyware:
"How Elf Bowling, the incredibly popular viral game from 1999, gained an unfounded, false reputation as a piece of malware and spyware."

'A Christmas Story': 35 reasons why we still love the holiday classic, 35 years later:
"Get out your ridiculous pink bunny onesies: Nov. 18 marks 35 years since "A Christmas Story" premiered in theaters. To help celebrate, we've done something that should earn a major award: We've rounded up 35 reasons why the holiday film about a boy who desperately wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas is still worth watching."

14 Queer Christmas anthems to fill you with festive cheer:
"Christmas time is QUEER! Glitter, tinsels, fairies: could there BE a queerer time of the year?!"

Turkey reprieve: one in 12 dream of meat-free Christmas dinner:
"UK supermarkets expand their vegan and vegetarian ranges as flexitarian trend grows."

Moose Accidentally Rings Doorbell With Butt:
"Like me in an Anthropologie, not realizing the dimensions of my own posterior and therefore backing into a large display full of felt Christmas ornaments, a moose was recently caught on TV accidentally ringing a doorbell with his butt in Anchorage, Alaska."

'Anna And The Apocalypse': The Scottish Zombie Christmas High School Musical:
"Anna and the Apocalypse is a [checks notes] Scottish zombie Christmas high school musical."

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Final Kensington Palace Christmas Tree Has Been Unveiled:
"This is the last holiday season the royals will spend in Nottingham Cottage."

Hundreds of Santas descend on London for a good Claus:
"You wait all year for Santa, and then hundreds come all at once."

Christmas Links #7

How To Decorate For Christmas If You Don't Have Space For A Tree:
"Put out your lights and ornaments without having to drag in a Christmas tree."

A ranking of 100 — yes, 100 — Christmas songs:
"I am so tired."

Mariah Carey’s Christmas Album Is the Only Thing That Will Never Suck:
"Some people say life is short, but actually, life is long."

The Netflix Christmas Movie Cinematic Universe Is Here:
"With A Christmas Prince, The Princess Switch, and The Holiday Calendar, Netflix is coming for all your holiday comfort viewing."

How drunk can you get on Christmas food? I breathalysed myself to find out:
"A recent report claims certain seasonal scran can push consumers over the drink-driving limit. But which food? And how drunk are we talking? One writer sacrifices an afternoon to find out."

Watch Lost 1973 Elton John Performance of ‘Step Into Christmas’:
"Elton John was at the absolute pinnacle of his fame when he appeared on the Gilbert O’Sullivan Show in late 1973 to perform his new holiday song “Step Into Christmas.” The clip was placed into the ITV archives after the initial airing and presumed lost forever, but it was recently discovered and is available to watch above."

Why my kids aren't getting toys for Christmas:
"We take Christmas very seriously at our house. So seriously that we put up no decorations until late on Dec. 24 and leave everything in place until after Candlemas on Feb. 2."

Sweary Doctor Who and other classic BBC bloopers to air this Christmas:
"Tom Baker, Judi Dench and Noel Edmonds will all needs their mouths washed out with soap."

Christmas Links #6

Christmas Dinner Rocketed To International Space Station:
"Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the tradition dinner, even in space."

Shock CCTV shows disturbing footage of drunk passengers falling off platforms:
"Network Rail has released the video to warn against excessive drinking this Christmas."

For disabled children in poverty, this Christmas is straight out of Dickens:
"Thanks to government austerity, 40% of disabled children are now so poor that they’re going without presents."

The cost of real Christmas trees is on the rise — thanks to millennials:
"As supply is down and demand is up, Christmas trees are becoming more expensive."

Tyler Perry pays off more than $430,000 in layaways ahead of Christmas:
"Tyler Perry is spreading holiday cheer in his city of Atlanta."

Making your own distinctive gifts for Christmas – archive, 1922:
"Most women when choosing a present would prefer to give something distinctive but are deterred by the knowledge of their own slender purses and the fact that originality invariably commands a steep price."

It being December, hundreds of thousands of words are being written to encourage us to enjoy the festive season by spending money:
"A lot of these words are febrile brandspeak, a lot of the phrasing is teeth-grinding hyperbole and a lot of featured claims are deliberately over-egged. But sometimes the author goes one step too far, assumes too much about their audience and shamelessly lies. [...]Here are 20 excessively presumptuous examples published in the last week, taken from London-based websites which publicise events and experiences. Most of the examples aren't from the website you're thinking of, before you jump to any conclusions."

Teaching my sons this Christmas that home isn’t just a place you visit. It’s a feeling.
"White lights, in yellowing plastic candle stands, will be taped to window sills. Jingle bells hung from the back of the front doorknob, too ugly to display but too festive to leave in a box, will welcome guests. The tree will be fatter than it is tall. Carefully preserved Mr. and Mrs. Claus ornaments will perch on the uppermost branches, their jolly faces adding warmth to the evergreen needles. The living room will feel dark and it will be hot. It’s always hot at my parents' house on Christmas Eve. Everyone crowds in the living room because there really isn’t anywhere else to go. (Except downstairs, but the kids will have taken over, and none of the adults will join them for fear of missing something.)"

Christmas Links #5

6 simple ways to have a more eco-friendly Christmas:
"From DIY tree decorations to opting for reusable gift wrap, small changes should be part of your festive planning this year."

24 facts about Christmas in the Tudor period:
"Count down to Christmas with our Tudor advent calendar! Every day until Christmas Eve, Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke will be revealing one fact about Christmas in the Tudor period."

Save Money on Your Christmas Tree by Asking for a Dud:
"Christmas trees are wonderful and cozy and festive, but they’re also damn expensive, at a time of year when most of us are already struggling not to blow our budgets."

20 Things All Early-’00s Teens Desperately Wanted For Christmas:
"Back when all you wanted Santa to bring you was a boombox that played burned CDs."

Best Christmas ever with over 100 BBC iPlayer box sets:
"BBC iPlayer has presents for everyone this Christmas, with a cracking selection of new shows and more than 100 box sets available at the click of a button."

40 years later: One couple’s Christmas tree grows from 6 foot to 52 feet becoming a tourist attraction:
"One couple’s Christmas tree in Worcestershire is a little bit special."

Van Driver Takes Driving Home For Christmas To A Whole New Level, With Giant Tree On The Roof:
"Don't try this at home."

Stop Ruining Your Christmas Cookies! Follow These Tips to Better Baking:
"Here are a few pointers on making the perfect cookies this holiday season."

How to survive Christmas with your family: LGBT style:
"How do you stay relaxed with your loved ones over Christmas?"

Satanic Sculpture Installed At Illinois Statehouse, Just In Time For The Holidays:
"In the Illinois Capitol rotunda this month, several traditions are being celebrated. There's a Nativity scene for Christmas, a menorah for Hanukkah, and then something a little different: an arm holding an apple, with a snake coiled around it."

Taste test: With more of us than ever reaching into our freezer for Christmas dinner, we try out a selection of supermarket frozen options:
"THERE are so many options for Christmas dinner in supermarkets’ frozen aisles."

12 Christmas Movies That Completely Flopped (And 13 That Were Massive Hits):
"Every December, millions of families around the country like to sit down and watch a Christmas movie. It's a way of spending time together, while also doing something to get into the mood of the season. For many, heading out to the cinema on Christmas itself is an annual tradition. December 25th is actually one of the biggest movie-going days of the year, believe it or not. There are, of course, also dozens of holiday films available on DVD and Blu-ray. Some cable channels even run 24-hour marathons."

Yorkshire school that 'cancelled Christmas' reinstates it after hundreds of letters:
"Lady Lumley’s school told students the festive season had become ‘commercialised’."

Christmas Links #4

Dean Cain’s Christmas movies: an (almost) definitive guide:
"One-time Superman Dean Cain has made lots of Christmas movies, mainly with dogs in them..."

Jess Glynne, Rita Ora, Clean Bandit and George Ezra revealed as part of Top Of The Pops Christmas and New Year specials:
"Top of the Pops - the biggest pop party on TV - announced the line-up for the two Christmas Day and New Year’s specials hitting BBC One screens this festive period, hosted by Fearne Cotton and BBC Radio 1’s Clara Amfo."

How to choose the best Christmas tree:
"A Brooklyn Christmas tree salesman shares his tips and tricks for selecting the best one on the lot."

Vintage 1930s Woolworths Christmas tree auctioned:
"One of the first mass-produced Christmas trees will be auctioned after staying in one family for 80 years."

'Most festive pub' in UK displays 97 Christmas trees, 21,500 holiday lights on its 3-story facade:
"The Churchill Arms' 3-story display of nearly 100 trees and more than 21,500 Christmas lights in London has earned it the title of "most festive pub" in the United Kingdom."

Rebels with a cause (Percelle Ascott & Mandip Gill):
"We are helping to raise money and awareness for Shelter because the work they do to help those in need is amazing."

Christmas Links #3

John Lewis: Christmas comes a week early as advent calendar sold at store gets days horribly wrong:
"Customers who opened the 2 December door today were surprised to be told that the Big Day was not in fact on the 25th, but on the 18th."

Should we stop listening to these Christmas songs?
"Baby, It's Cold Outside is one of those Christmas songs that's about as traditional as mince pies."

Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' is the best modern Christmas song:
"Maybe she's a “diva,” but Mariah Carey is also truly excellent at capturing sentiment in song."

Unwrapping new Christmas music:
"From Blues, to Pop to a music power couple, there is a bounty of new Christmas music to make the season festive."

Laura Dern, Issa Rae to Star in HBO Series About Cabbage Patch Doll Riots:
"Issa Rae (Insecure) and Laura Dern (Big Little Lies) will executive-produce and star in an HBO limited series based on real-life riots that started when there weren’t enough Cabbage Patch Kids dolls to go around, our sister site Deadline reports."

In Praise of ‘Krampus’: Celebrating the Pinnacle Anti-Christmas Film:
"Michael Dougherty’s descent into the Christmas season, Krampus, opens with a particularly potent scene that mines an array of familiar feelings we’ve all become accustomed to experiencing during the holidays: ennui, anxiety, rage and, most importantly, utter dread. During a slo-mo shot, a mob of blood-thirsty holiday shoppers take over a department store to the tune of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” while mouths foam and fists fly. It’s an important sequence that sets up the entire message of the fittingly horror film — that Christmas is a horror show all by itself, and that no matter what, we will never, ever, be able to escape it."

The 12 midi dresses of Christmas:
"From the office do to Boxing Day drinks, there’s a midi for that ..."

Two Minneapolis police officers on leave after Christmas tree decorations deemed 'racist':
"The tree was ornamented with Flamin' Hot Funyuns, a pack of Newport cigarettes, a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen drink cup and police tape."

19 Christmas DIY Projects That Are Both Easy And Adorable:
"'Tis the season to get crafty."

It Takes You Away.

TV "Zagreus sits inside your head. Zagreus lives among the dead. Zagreus sees you in your bed. And eats you when you're sleeping." I don't know about you but those are the words which flickered through my head on hearing the Doctor talk about her grandma's fairy tale about the Scaramucci or whatever it was called (Jodie seemed to have great fun wrapping her chops around whatever was written in the script).  For the casuals, Zagreus turned up the second season of Big Finish Eighth Doctor stories, a result of the Time Lord absorbing a shed load of anti-time and becoming the epitome of a Gallifreyan bogeyman.  Eventually he trapped himself in a divergent dimension without causality in order to protect the Whoniverse.  He then spent a couple of years oscillating between fairly standard adventures and the kind of surreal whimsy the actual television show broadcast tonight.  Some of it was quite good.

For a few brief moments, It Takes You Away seemed like it was going to become a full blown homage to that controversial story arc to the point that the Kro'ka and Rassilon might turn up attempting to use the portal to go home (sorry casuals), but instead it's more clearly influenced by Andrei Tarkovsky, most notably his adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's Solaris, and Jean Cocteau's Orphee which has previous having been a key source for Stephen Gallagher when writing Warrior's Gate (along with La Belle et La Bette).  Like Solaris (see also the Soderbergh remake), our travelers are enticed into remaining in the alt.verse by convincing recreations of the recently deceased.  Like Orphee, a mirror is the means of entering the alternative dimension in which those loved ones reside.  Not sure about the significance of the moths (The Duke of Burgandy?) but the big red torch could be a reference to Lamorisse's The Red Balloon.

Good evening.  As you can see I'm back.  There will be a review of The Witchfinders during my shiny disc rewatch (although every episode now seems to have been set for permanent residency on the iPlayer so ... shrug.gif ... might be sooner) but I'm in much more comfortable territory with an episode about mirror universes and small rubber frogs as the big bad.  If the shot of Dogbolter's cousin raising its tiny hand to banish the Doctor from its solopsistic matrix isn't the image of the series, then I still haven't read enough Paul Magrs novels (which is actually true, I still haven't experienced Verdigris).  But yes, it's the second of December, BBC One have already adopted their Christmas idents and I'm feeling much more chipper.  Much chipperer.  Chipperly?  Positively peart.  Anyway, the early broadcast means I might be able to finish this at a reasonable hour so I'd best get on.

This season continues its geographic diversity with a trip to Norway.  Not having seen much Scandi-noir outside Forbrydelsen or Män som hatar kvinnor, I don't know the extent to which director Jamie Childs replicates the mis-en-scene of those shows, but it certainly feels authentic with its blue washed colour timing and simple camera movements.  Both actors Christian Rubeck and Lisa Stocke are both Norwegian and appeared in the types of shows imported by BBC Four for a Saturday night broadcast.  Perhaps more interesting is Stocke, who looks under-utilised when we discover she's a graduate of LIPA, was in the original cast of Mamma Mia, the voice of Elsa in the Norgwegian dub of Frozen and has been a contestant on 4-stjerners middag (Four Star Meal), the local version of Come Dine With Me, which ditches members of the public in favour of celebrities.  Cue showreel.  Since it is nearly Christmas, here she is singing The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth as part of a charity campaign:

I'd be "drite seg ut" if I didn't note that this isn't the first occasion the revival has visited Norway's lovely crinkly edges, with the anomaly that allowed Tenth and Rose to interface located at Dårlig Ulv Stranden, fifty miles out from Bergen in Pete's World.  Perhaps that's also the source of the interface between these worlds, the walls between different realities especially thin across the fjords.  You can imagine in about five years Big Finish'll produce a boxed set which ties both of these stories together, along with the shaft in Torchwood's Miracle Day and it'll all be revealed to be a result of Kermit's plastic pen friend.  I joke, but honestly however much truthiness Jennifer Saunders offered on Have I Got News For You ("Actually, Doctor Who will probably be busy delivering its lecture on colonialism and the collapse of the British Empire. Probably worth missing that."), there's always a tiny metal munching alien or a universe sized consciousness which manifests itself as an amphibian in the next episode.

This is still Doctor Who, through and through.  Ed Hime's script is even structured like an old two parter.  Pause the iPlayer version at twenty odd minutes and we find the potent reveal of Erik's wife, which while not life threatening for the Doctor etc, would be a potent choice at Big Finish.  Plus Jodie's now entirely comfortable in the character's skin and the writers and director are unafraid to play up her eccentricities.  Only the Doctor would be more interested in chewing dirt than taking in the view.  Where once the Doctor was a mad man in a box, now she's just a nutter.  They've also gained confidence in allowing her to carrying a two hander, something rare in this iteration, and there are shades of Eleventh in The Rings of Arkanoid as she faces the Solitract and offers her history as a trade to save others.  But whereas she was then all fire and fury, now she confronts Fredo with peace and compassion.

Speaking of which, as Doctor Who itself has illustrated in the past, the return of a deceased spouse can lead to potent, emotional choices.  But unlike Pete Tyler and Danny Pink, here Grace is a manifestation of Graham's memory, a near idealised version of her, someone who is everything he remembers her being which is an incredibly cruel choice for the antagonist.  Bradley is incredibly strong in these scenes, his face wretched, underplaying the re-surfacing of his grief and fighting his want to believe.  Sharon D Clarke also makes the important choice of making the distinction to make the recreation of his wife colourless, motion going, presenting just enough personality to draw Graham in, but not so much that audience doesn't dismiss its own cynicism, underscores by the Doctor, about these sirens of time.

Ed Hime's another interesting choice as a writer.  Chibbers has largely ignored the choice in previous administrations of selecting showrunners from other dramas to write scripts, preferring those with perhaps less experience of television and/or perhaps more used to working in a writer's room.  According to his agency website, his only previous TV experience is a couple of episodes from latter day Skins, his other credits mainly found in radio drama and theatre.  If he's a fan, and there's enough in here to suggest he is, it's amazing the audio drama wing of the franchise haven't snapped him up already.  When and if there is a new series, will Chibbers retain these writers or give others a chance?  We're not quite back to the eighties approach of commissioning writers with little to no experience of television, but it is still gratifying that we're looking beyond other successful series to keep the narrative engine running.

In previous years, the penultimate episode was often the tipping point into the finale's hi-jinks so it really is quite odd that we go in there with little or no idea about what to expect.  My guess is it'll be like last stories of yore in none regeneration years in which we have an epic story without much in the way of lasting consequences - we know that the whole TARDIS team survives in time for the festive special.  But I still have a nagging suspicion Chibbers will pull a fast one and it'll be revealed that there has been a story arc running right through the year hidden in plain sight, the Room 237 nature of which will blow our minds.  Something related to most of the villains surviving the episodes, the TARDIS being a bit skittish about were it deposits her passengers or something the Doctor hasn't been saying in order to keep her friends safe.  Either way, ten episodes might be the perfect number for a Netflix MARVEL series but it's not been enough for this season of Doctor Who.

Christmas Links #2

The Box Of Delights (Original Television Soundtrack) Roger Limb and The BBC Radiophonic Workshop:
"Included on this CD release is the delightful original theme, Victor Hely-Hutchinson's Carol Symphony: Andante quasi lento e cantabile performed by the Pro Arte Orchestra."

How to make your last name plural this Christmas season:
"Nothing quells my Christmas cheer as quickly as a stray apostrophe. Every year they assault me."

Movie Advent #1: ‘The Apartment’:
"‘Y’see, I have this little problem with my apartment …’ With these words, CC ‘Bud’ Baxter, played with ineffable charm by Jack Lemmon, introduces the setup of one of the bleakest, and somehow funniest, of all festive films. It’s a concept borrowed from another film, a famous weepie. When director Billy Wilder saw David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945), the borrowed flat where the lovers meet caught his eye, and his imagination. ‘What about the poor schnook who has to crawl into the still-warm bed of the lovers?’ he scribbled in his notebook. CC is that ‘poor schnook’ and The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960) is a film that emphasises the value of home, family, love and marriage – all suitable themes for the festive season – by depicting their absence. That’s why it’s essential viewing, Christmas-wise."

Watch out, Santa! I’m ready for the annual Hanukah v Christmas faith-off:
"It’s hard to convince your kids to care about Jewish holidays when their other parent is opening advent calendars."

Caught Our Eyes: Tapping Out a Giant Message:
"In the era before the development of social media, how did you get a big message across? Type it out on a giant typewriter!"

At last, a partner for the Snowman who has melted hearts for 40 years:
"Illustrators including Quentin Blake and Shirley Hughes celebrate the Raymond Briggs Christmas classic – and one adds a touch of romance."

17 Kiddos From Your Favorite Christmas Movies And What They Look Like Now:

Christmas Links #1

Don’t F with me at Christmas:
"The song is the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York. Of course it is. But there’s a problem – actually, there are several but, in typical style, only one’s causing an issue at the moment. It’s a word. An F-word. No, not that one. You know the one. It comes at 2 minutes and 22 seconds into the song and is sung, with gusto, by the much-missed Kirsty MacColl. The word is “faggot”."

Here are the 10 most annoying Christmas songs of all time:
"Why do pop artists have to get involved with Christmas?"

Christmas Number 1 2018: The contenders revealed:
"Who's in line to claim the coveted Christmas Number 1 in 2018? We reveal all..."

From waiting lists to unboxing: the bizarre world of beauty Advent calendars:
"Forget chocolate – this year brands including Nars, Glossybox and Mac are counting down to Christmas with cosmetics. But are they really worth the (often hefty) pricetag?"

Smithfield’s Christmas Eve meat auction returns for 2018:
"Good news for meat lovers and lovers of a meaty bargain as the exceptionally good fun Christmas Eve auction will return to Smithfield this year."

Can I Find Someone Who Loves Christmas More Than Me? A Festive Investigation:
"Meet Jack Monroe, 'Mr Christmas' and Advent Alexa."

18 Tragic Christmas Designs That Deserve To Be Loudly Booed:
"Who approved of these?!"

The Lantern Sleeper.

Life If you've been trying to travel up Lime Street in Liverpool by foot or vehicle the past few years, you will have found it pretty difficult thanks to the demolition of the various old buildings on the station side of the street between the two large pubs including The Futurist cinema.

In their place a different edifice has been raised, a colourfully lit office, retail and residential opportunity called The Lantern which includes a new Premier Inn, walking distance from the other Premier Inn on Hanover Street but more convenient for Lime Street Station.

Last night I slept there, wanting to get away for a night but not wanting to get away too far much as I did in Manchester in September.  So armed with some literature, my toothbrush and a change of clothes, I walked there yesterday lunch time and booked in at 2pm.

As you can imagine, the "Have you come far?" conversation at the check-in desk went off the rails fairly quickly because frankly how do you explain that you simply want to go somewhere with a comfy bed and some peace and quiet so you can read a book and just give your anxious mind a rest?

I did not get much piece and quiet and initially my anxious mind did not rest.  Not long after being in the room, I noticed a constant wooshing sound.  I assumed it was the air conditioner on the blink so I visited the desk and asked if that was the case.

They said yes and that they'd turn it to "auto".  Ten minutes later and the noise was still there, thrumming away in the background.  Another visit to the desk and they said they'd turn it off.  Nope still there.  Another visit downstairs to be told that it definitely had been turned off.

For a further half an hour the noise was still there, loudly niggling away at me.  By this point I wondering if I'm being unreasonable, but I remember how silent the previous Lenny Henry endorsed rooms I'd slept in had been so decided to not let it go.  Elsa.

Another visit downstairs led to different staff member visiting the actual room and I showed him the grill the noise was coming from.  Lifting it to one side, we saw the big black box it was coming from.  We both stopped and listen.  He said he'd investigate.

He investigated, discovering that these grills are in every room and that the box we can see is the air conditioning system shifting the air through the building.  It's an access point and there is no way to turn it off.  I bothered to record the noise to you can experience it yourself:

I considered just going home, asking for a refund and said so.  He explained that I'd have to put a complaint with head office in to get a refund but that if I decided to stay he'd make sure I received a complimentary breakfast.  I stayed and eventually managed to tune the noise out for the most part.

How does this happen?  Who designs a hotel in which the aircon system is this audibly intrusive notably when there is advertising throughout the room indicating that their key selling point is a comfortable, unobtrusive night's sleep?

But no, this hummed away right through the night, while I was initially trying to get to sleep and then around six hours later when I got up to go to the loo.  I'd like to blame it for my usual dream about nakedly running around a fictional town looking for my clothes, but that's just my anxiety.

Which isn't to say the visit was awful.  It wasn't.  This was the view from my window:

Which is not something I thought would ever happen, being able to see the goings on in Lime Street from above, albeit on a Monday night when not much is happening anyway.  Seeing familiar landmarks from unusual angles is always exciting.  See also the view from my breakfast booth:

For the uninitiated, that's Lime Street Station.

Plus I did manage to read a whole book, the Black Archive edition about the TV Movie with the Pertwee logo which does indeed manage to find something new to say, despite the Gary Russell paperback, the complete history and the various shiny disc releases.

And I had a bath for the first time in about ten years even if it was too small for me to fit my whole body in and ended up bobbing backwards and forwards.  Showers are fine, but this was luxurious and the most relaxing moment of the visit.

The Witchfinders.

TV Sigh. Much as I enjoyed The Witchfinders, I can't quite summon up the imagination tonight to offer an opinion over eight paragraphs, so if you don't mind, I'll leave this for now and go and take care of myself. Think of me as Jacqueline Hill during the fourth and fifth episodes of The Sensorites. Perhaps I'll come back to it.  Just so that you haven't wasted a click, here's an excellent primer from BBC History about James I's obsession:
"James’s obsession with witchcraft can be traced back to his childhood. The violent death of his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, seems to have inspired a dark fascination with magic. His Highness told me her death was visible in Scotland before it did really happen,” related Sir John Harington many years later, being, as he said, “spoken of in secret by those whose power of sight presented to them a bloody head dancing in the air”."
A lecture about witchcraft in general from Professor Wrightson at Yale University:

And a fascinatingly anonymous three column website about the Pendle Witches:
"During the sixteenth century whole districts in some parts of Lancashire seemed contaminated with the presence of witches; men and beasts were supposed to languish under their charm, and the delusion which preyed alike on the learned and the vulgar did not allow any family to suppose that they were beyond the reach of the witch's power."
See you next week.


TV There's little doubt that automation has devastated the organic workforce of the country. Little by little from supermarkets to banks to factories to call centres, companies turning us collectively into Victor Meldrews, replacing people with machines or at least putting the onus of a task on to the customer rather than someone employed to provide assistance.  In my own industry, and no I'm still not going to tell you what it is, what was once a profession even at a customer service level has transmuted into something rather more basic, more about being available if the machines break down or modifying the let's say product, so that it can be used within the automation on a less frictionless basis.

Jobs which would previously have been available to people with for whatever reason less qualification no longer exist but unfortunately this isn't being recognised by governments, notably ours, with a benefits system designed to penalise those who can't find work rather than offer them a helping hand, which assumes that people are lazy rather than being in a position were the jobs they might have done or have done just simply aren't available.  My Mum worked on a check out starting in the mid-90s for about ten or fifteen years to help us keep above water money wise, years after she would otherwise have joined the workforce and I fear that position simply wouldn't have been available now, at least with the security she had.

Kerblam! suggests that in the future, we'll end up introducing people quota, that we'll artificially force companies to employ humans even in jobs which could just as easily be automated.  This does not seem unrealistic although it's more likely that companies will simply end up with a proportionally smaller workforce to maintain the machines, keep things running smoothly.  That's already the case in some industries, especially for tasks which require something more complex than a simple algorithm like ad-hoc shelf packing or selling a mortgage or asking for the dispatch of emergency services (although in truth both of the last two are already being achieved via an app or website).

In that way you can understand why Charlie (played by Leo Flannigan who looks like a young Chris Addision) would freak out about this and want to make people scared of the technology enough that they might try and slow progress even if we can't agree with his terrorism.  From a certain perspective, we could be at a tipping point were a techno-dystopia is in our future, perhaps not with human androids of some description but at least with rectangular screens willing to fulfill our every whim with even less friction than we have now.  Within a few years, we'll essentially have a machine with a HAL-9000 AI in every room.

But Pete "bluray booklet" McTighe's Kerblam! breaks from Doctor Who's usually more Luddite positions.  In general, technology is a bad thing in this franchise with the Daleks and especially the Cybermen designed as cautionary tales of how technology could sap us of our humanity.  In the modern era, stories as diverse as the Silence in the Library, Girl in the Fireplace, The Rebel Flesh, The Girl Who Waited, The Bells of Saint John, Mummy on the Orient Express, Sleep No More and countless others have been about how technologies designed to protect humans can go bad when we're not paying attention or misunderstand its application.

Kerblam! is on the side of technology.  The central thesis is that Kerblam! works and people are happy to receive the parcels and within the limits of the slightly totalitarian androids, the workforce is generally pretty upbeat.  Like Robots of Death, it's deliberate sabotage which causes the system to break and it's that system which somehow knew to send a message to the Doctor asking for help, even if it failed to reach her a couple of incarnations later than expected.  The fez moment is adorable.  Along with the reference to The Unicorn and the Wasp, its good to see the show referencing its recent past more obliquely.

But then, curiously, in the closing moments, we're told that essentially Charlie succeeded in his aims and that the company is returning to a majority human workforce, which seen as a win by everyone.  On the one hand, yes, it means the company will employ more people but on the other it sends the message that terrorism, even if its defeated, still wins.  Oh and the Doctor goes from admonishing Ryan and Graham for being robophobic when they remark on how creepy they are to blowing up an entire conscripted army of them, albeit with the best of intentions.  Perhaps its this confusion within its central these which ultimately makes me like rather than love this episode.

Plus there's the unrealism of how the workforce is portrayed.  Despite the warnings about productivity, the actual work is portrayed as being really quite leisurely with the guest artists able to stop and have chats with nothing so much as a repeated warning.  Places like Amazon would not have allowed their workers to fall behind and the processes seemed to designed more to provide the closing surprise rather than offer a realistic portrayal of the job.  What kind of business loosely wraps the parcels in bubble wrap, stuffs it in an identically shaped box and then sends it out into the ether?  What if the product is larger than these standard limits?

Which isn't to say there isn't plenty to like, especially the banter between the main characters who're now very comfortable in the their roles, the chemistry flowing.  Structurally we are very much in 60s territory, with Ryan and Yasmin fulfilling the Ian and Barbara or more closely Jamie and Zoe positions of peeling off from the Doctor in order to explore the environment or sent on a mission.  A four part version of this story would have had more cutaways to the management, extra co-workers to be interacted with and more stressing on the cliffhanger moments like being discovered in the office going through files or one of the Kerblam! robots menacing Graham.

Perhaps I am beginning to miss the Doctor as a more interior being.  On only a couple of occasions this season have we had an intimate moment with her, most notably when she greeted her new TARDIS for the first time.  Although it's fun to return to the more runabout nature of the classic series, it's interesting that the Doctor hasn't been put in a position where she's had to properly question the nature of her being.  I appreciate that I've recently congratulated the show for not returning to the existential angst of previous years, but they really have to be careful that she doesn't simply turn into an expositional teacher figure.

That said the supporting characters have gained some more depth than in recent years.  You'll remember me rolling my eyes at the one dimensional approach to humanity in the likes of Smile, whereas the Kerblam! humans were given just enough back story and personality for us to genuinely feel something upon their demise, especially Dan the picker, gone too soon and killed off-screen.  This seems to have been Lee Mack's first dramatic role and although there's only a wafer thin difference between this and his Not Going Out character, the moments when he spoke of his daughter was genuinely effective.  The idea of taking on a meater part doesn't seem that far fetched.

Other than that, there isn't really much more to say after a first viewing.  Some Who stories are like that.  They're enjoyable for the period you're watching them and then you're ready for the next with the obvious suspicion that they'll gain significance in the future within the unfolding text.  The model seems to be that the more immediately "important" pieces in this season are the historicals and next week we're placing a female Doctor within a suspicious, misogynistic period and it appears when James I was at his most paranoid.  Do you think she's mention having been married to his predecessor?

And we still don't know anything.

Film One of my favourite writers has died. I think most of us would be able to sort the books we've enjoyed onto three metaphoric boxes. Those which we'll read once then move on, those we like enough to keep on the shelf and return to now and then and those books which have a profound effect on who they are. William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade is in the third category for me.  My love of movies can probably be traced backwards to reading that book.  My interest in film studies was founded in those pages which led to doing the MA a decade ago.  But most importantly my understanding that creativity and problem solving go hand in hand, that writing is most often about setting yourself a task and finding the most imaginative way of achieving it and also that you can take that approach with life in general.

It's a book more spoken about than read I suspect.  One of its key themes, "Nobody knows anything" is parroted a lot by people who rarely know the context. The full quotes is "Nobody knows anything. Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work. Every time out it's a guess—and, if you're lucky, an educated one."  In other words, nothing is a sure thing but you can certainly have a hunch.  More often than not, especially in the realm of blockbusters, those releasing pictures know that they either have a resilient classic on their hands which will stand the test of time or some piece of shit which they can make a fast buck on.  The makers of Black Panther had a hunch that it would do ok, if not necessarily the stellar numbers which ensued judging by the marketing campaign.  The makers of Fan4stic knew they has some prime horseshit and let it die.

Honestly you should read this book next.  The anecdotes are worth it and there are plenty in there which haven't still done the rounds as well as those which have, about the making of All The President's Men (the clashes with Redford, Berstein and Ephron) and Marathon Man ("My dear boy, why don't you just try acting?").  But there's also clear instructional material on writing screenplays, how to construct a narrative and how to deal with source material in adaptation, that whatever it is should be dealt with as raw material rather than some holy scripture.  That film is a different media to print and attempting to do a direct adaptation does a disservice to both.  The chapter on A Bridge Too Far alone is an incredible resource as Goldman explains how he chose the various stories and then set about working out how they'd be crosscut across the film, making the most of what was sure to be an incredibly starry cast.

His other books are all just as entertaining in varying degrees but I have a soft spot for his collected writing for the likes of Premiere Magazine about specific Oscar years in which he dissects the contenders, such as noticing that framing structure in Saving Private Ryan is utter nonsense because it's from Ryan's point of view which means the film ends with some of the key emotional threads unresolved.  I remember reading these on their original publication and thrilling at window they offered on how the needs of production impacts on the writing process and his sheer honesty.  His most recent film credits have been as a script doctor on a diverse range of projects and you can usually tell that there was a moment when everything fell into place and then the director began to ignore Goldman's advice.

Of all his films, All The President's Men is still my favourite.  As Screentrade explains, not everything which appears on screen is his but the overall structure and much of the dialogue survives.  His approach was to show the audience what they don't know.  For example, that there were two break-ins at the Watergate, the first successfully planted the listening devices and it's the bundling of the second visit, shown in the film, which led to them being caught.  He also decided that the public were all too aware of the back half of the Woodstein story and Nixon's resignation so he concentrated on writing about the parts people didn't know as well, essentially ending his film half way through the book at a moment of failure.  In that way he could show that you can't succeed unless you make a few mistakes along the way.  RIP.

"right wing onanism"

Politics Just a quick note before midnight. As you will have noticed, we're finally here, the Brexit proposal draft has been published and as predicted by anyone with half an eye on human nature and the other one on having watched politics their whole lives, it's a complete and utter shitshow. Pretty much everyone I spoke to on the 24th June 2016 knew that whatever was agreed would neither please the brexitiers who want to be out completely, the foolish remainers who want to "respect the result" but still want in on the customs union and free movement and essentially staying as a member of the EU in all but actuality and the rest of us who simply just want to remain.

As was outlined last year in this brilliant New York Review of Books piece (Biden's Briefing has an audio version for those of us outside the paywall) the Irish border question is difficult, difficult, lemon, difficult.  The new document's approach is to have the UK in the customs union to varying degrees in order to keep the Irish border check free.  Except it means the Northern Irish would have much more favourable terms than the rest of the UK which the Scottish aren't too pleased about, and presumably the Welsh although no one ever bothers to go and ask them.  There isn't a way to get around this which doesn't involve putting a dagger into the Good Friday agreement. 

This has cheesed off the DUP who're reportedly, according to this Torygraph person, threatening to pull out of the confidence and supply agreement which is keeping this Government in power unless Theresa May stops being leader of the Tories and so Prime Minister.  Except whoever takes over the job. and god knows who that'll be, won't be able to magically offer something different, some dynamic innovation.  Whatever else is agreed, the Irish border question will still remain and how to allow the Northern Irish to retain duel citizenship if they want to.  There'll be plenty of back and forth and eventually we'll be back to exactly what happened today.

The only option in the end will be to either crash out without a deal and so there'll be a hard border in Ireland and a successive risk to the Good Friday Agreement along with the rest of us just having whatever Premier Foods are stockpiling to eat or we'll remain with some excuse related to it being for the good of the country, probably with a second referendum in order to provide some legitimacy.  Two or three years of right wing onanism, tens of millions of pounds spent not to mention all of the journalism hours expended and we'll be back to where we were three years ago, UKIP on the rise due to ignorant racists wanting to stem the tide of multiculturalism and the rest of us rolling are eyes and enjoying all of the benefits being a member of the EU offers.

"Sitting here stressing at 2:30am, about how fast the year can go."

TV Doctor Who Magazine has confirmed what we all knew anyway. This year's Doctor Who Christmas Special isn't. It'll be shown on New Years Day instead as per The End of Time Part Two.  Petitions have apparently started and there's been some backlash from fans who've become accustomed to having an episode to watch each December 25th, I'm quite happy about it.  There are few reasons why I wouldn't watch Doctor Who live which meant that I'd end up structuring my day around whenever the BBC had decided to broadcast the programme and this year it won't matter.  Plus its one less festive offering the next time we binge rewatch the series.  About 10% of the episodes since the revival have been broadcast on Christmas Day.

The apparent reason is that Chibbers couldn't think of Christmas related idea which hasn't been done yet since the show returned, although that's patently untrue.  There hasn't been a riff on the nativity for one.  This needn't involve the TARDIS pitching up in Bethlehem - it could be about the Doctor and friends protecting a primary school which is holding their annual nativity.  Plus as the Feast of Steven shows, it doesn't have to be about Christmas, it could be just something different to the usual run of the series, which is pretty much what The Husbands of River Song is, for better or worse, barring the teaser.  My guess, assuming the series is broadcast next year, that it'll come roaring back on Christmas Day with much connected ballyhoo.

Anyway, since I don't have any more to say on this topic, here are the proper Sugababes singing New Year in Christmas hats, recorded in 2013.  Those vocals, those vocals.
Mutya Keisha Siobhan (Sugababes- New Year LOVE Advent 2013) from Mutya Keisha Siobhan on Vimeo.

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?


Female lead?

Auteur director?


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?


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.