The Eye of the Tyger.

Books Back to the special collections and archive this morning to read another of the ultra rare TELOS Publishing novellas, hard-sf author Paul McAuley's single contribution to Doctor Who. A strange mix of Survival, TNG's Identity Crisis and Gungha-Din, it offers us the first person testimony of Fyne, a colonial police officer infected by nanites which are slowly turning him into a chimera of the predator at the centre of William Blake's The Tyger. After a atmospherically drawn opening, set via flashbacks in post-Great War British Empire India, the Doctor attempts a jump from Earth to find an intergalactic hospital which might find a cure. Instead he and Fyne land on a generational colony ship at war with itself, trapped in the orbit of a black hole, prefiguring the BDO in Twice Upon a Time, including the slippery timestreams within.  From there we have a straight down the line accessible but cliched piece of spin-off fiction which would make just as much sense as a minor Big Finish Short Trip reading, assuming they're ok with the erotic subtext of Survival becoming text and the Eighth Doctor acting a bit out of character in places, saying things like "my dear fellow ..." and using his TARDIS as an ambulance (if only his Eleventh incarnation had been that liberal, perhaps Abigail might have survived).  Not awful, but suggests the author doesn't quite understand Doctor Who's unique chemical formula.  Placement:  Early.  I'll slot in after Spore because they feel of a piece.

Fallen Gods.

Books Back when I was visiting north west regional art collections, I eventually had to commute to the Lake District for three days to cover the remotest venues in the cheapest was possible. Reading the Telos Publishing novella Fallen Gods was this mission's equivalent of that. So rare is it that I spent today in the special collections room of an academic library bing reading through it, unable to justify spending the £50 it otherwise costs second hand on Amazon.  In keeping with other titles during the Wilderness years, it's a litfic experiment, in which the locale dictates the format.  Set during the Minoan age (although also implied to be a pocket universe), it's aesthetically like a Victorian translation of Ovid or Virgil, ignoring more accessible punctuation (not a speech mark in sight) and language in favour of allusive poetry which challenges the concentration of the reader [the old BBC website has an extract].  At first, the underlying story is pretty simplistic in structure, giant fiery monsters from the sky, the Doctor educating a local with the necessary skills to fight the thing.  But everything becomes gradually darker and although the the Eighth Doctor is present and correct, as it should be given the authors are Jon Blum and Kate Orman of EDA fame (not least when he's entertaining the surfs singing Yellow Submarine), his actions becoming increasingly questionable if understandable in the circumstances.  Thematically, we're in the area of how we should react when we learn that lifestyle within which we've become accustomed is as a result of the misery of others and how so often it's with a shrug.  Honestly, it's also a book which requires multiple reads in order get the full experience, which is the diplomatic way of me saying that I found it a bit of a slog.  Which I just have anyway.  Placement: The Doctor says he has companions waiting for him in the TARDIS (in a roundabout way) and seems to have all of his memories.  But he also refers to only having one heart so it seems like it has to be set after The Gallifrey Chronicles.

Architects Assembled.

Liverpool Life  'Five years to do 10 chuffing houses!' – meet the guerrilla gardeners of Granby:
"There are still a few tinned-up buildings on the street, but the CLT homes now stand out with smartly painted bay windows in chalky shades of blue, green and grey, providing homes for those most in need at affordable rents that will be tied to local wages for ever. Half of the houses were for sale and half for rent, priced at £99,000 to buy or £480 per month to rent – almost half the amount being charged by private landlords in the Welsh Streets nearby."There's more about the gardens
There are more photos and information at creator Assembly's own website.

Operation Night Watch.



Art Rijksmuseum have begun their restoration of Rembrandt's The Night Watch which, thanks to a giant glass wall, can be witnessed by visitors.

Find above an online Q&A about the start of the exhibition-cum-Twilight Zone episode.

This used to be an embedded timelapse of the creation of the space, which for someone who's fascinated by curatorial processes and how art handlers work, was a glance behind the walls and doors which usually obscure this kind of process.

But curiously this has been taken down, I can only assume because it gave away a little bit too much about the security elements which had been put in place to protect the painting.

The Rjiksmuseum also has full video of the Kick-Off Symposium with its lectures about the state of the painting and the work which is to be carried out:



Although BBC News says that the process is to be streamed online, as of writing the webcam doesn't seem to have been turned on.

"platform (n)"

Web How to speak Silicon Valley: 53 essential tech-bro terms explained - an often funny, incredibly useful jargon guide:
"bootstrap (v) – To start a company without venture capital. The only option for the vast majority of people who start companies, but a point of pride for the tiny subset of entrepreneurs who have access to venture capital and eschew it. “My dad is friends with Tim Draper but I wanted to do something on my own so I’m bootstrapping” – a tech bro."
The a link in the entry on AI led me to the revelation that we're now in a world where "real" humans are being hired to pretend to be chatbots.   [via LMG]

The Macra Does Exist.

TV Although I didn't enjoy everything about animated version of Doctor Who's The Macra Terror, I understood that such things as the scene omissions and the way the scenes often stray wildly from the telesnaps were as a result of the production schedule and budget.

This brilliant making of explains just how difficult it is to create these animations, featuring short essays by most of the key creatives.

 Here's Charles Norton on thinking through how the project would even work:
"... when Paul first started talking about tackling another of these projects around Christmas 2017, we all had certain reservations. A project of this scale really needed a full year of production time or as close to it as reasonably possible. It ideally needed to have the resources to cover an all-under-one-roof team of character animators. We needed dedicated production and studio managers, so that the director could really just concentrate on actually directing and not everything else. This is far closer to how such shows are run in the States. The way Warner Brothers make their straight-to-DVD Batman animations, for instance. The idea there is to sub-contract out much of the heavy-lifting 'grunt-work' of character animation, leaving your core creative team to concentrate primarily on story direction and design."
In any case, it's better than whatever was going on in the Reign of Terror animation.

Far Away, So Close. From Home.

Film Seeing Apollo 11 at FACT's Picturehouse on Monday was a bit of debacle. The aircon had  broken down in screens one and two, their answer which being to install giant industrial fans at the front of the auditorium which hammered away all the way through the adverts. As you can imagine I couldn't settle and as my anxiety began to coalesce in my stomach about having to endure the noise during a film which was surely going to have periods of silence, I left the screen and approached a staff member. 

I explained to him it sounded like a jet engine, which it did. He informed me that the room would be like an oven so they would not be turning it off and the best he could offer was a refund. Which I took, of course.

I tried sitting back down and relaxing, the thing kept hammering away, not apparently bothering anyone else, but of course I'm me and considered leaving and watching the screening at the Odeon an hour later. As the noise continued in the background of the trailers, I decided that's what I'd do.

But as I was heading up the stairs to the exit, the staff person entered and sheepishly walked to the front of the screen and turned the fan off, his manager standing at the top, leaning against the back chairs.

"My manager's agreed to turn the fan off during the film ..." the staff member said to me as he passed by.

So I stayed and went back to the box office on my way out to pay again, despite having spent much of the first half of the film with all of this rolling about the insides of my brain and the picture looking like it wasn't being projected properly because the masking curtains as they explained were broken too.  Plus as ever the fire exit sign blurted light across the bottom left hand side of the screen, giving space a light green hue.  If only they'd used a less transparent design for this important safety feature.

After this mess I decided, after many years of seeing the MCU at FACT, that I'd brave the World of Cine at Speke instead for Spider-Man: Far From Home. I knew what I was signing up for and sure enough there were screaming children (which I couldn't begrudge due to them all being dressed in Spider-man pyjamas) and half the audience walking in front of the screen to get to the toilet. One bloke was gone for at least ten minutes during one of the key exposition scenes. God knows if he could follow the plot once he returned, assuming he was bothered with it anyway.

Short review: It's as entertaining as most second tier MCU films, essentially Eurotrip with superheroes, embracing that film's stereotypical approach to nationalities and featuring very well known British television actors of the "Who's in it from Doctor Who?" persuasion. Incidentally this isn't a spoiler, but that is incredibly distracting. Soon as you see them, you'll be waiting for them to have a much larger role because of who they are and it doesn't happen. Which is a kind of spoiler I suppose but not as much as some of the howlers I've seen in professional reviews.

By why am I hear? In the run up to the release of SM:FFH, I posted twice on the topic, with trailer speculation and considering the infrastructural implications of Endgame post-Thanos. Let's revisit those. SPOILERS FROM THE START. To give you some space to look away, here's a photo of Daisy Ridley making an o-face while holding a large photograph of the big Tesco on Hanover Street in Liverpool, which has nothing to do with SM:FFH but is very funny.



You can see the rest of this completely mad video here.  She's a treasure.

Trailer speculation.

This is was not Nick Fucking Fury. Not Nick Fucking Fury at all. So everything we assumed about Mysterio turned out to be exactly as we expected with everything he said taken at face value by not too bright the Skrulls from Captain Marvel pretending to be Fury and Hill. So the entire rest of that post is sadly redundant. There's some speculation about whether every chronological appearance we've seen of Fury and Hill from Captain Marvel onwards is actually the Skrulls, but I think that's a stretch. Given the easter eggs dropped throughout the dialogue, alt.Nick and alt.Maria seem only to have been replaced for this adventure. Which makes you wonder where the real version of the latter is.  Living her best life elsewhere, hopefully.

The infrastructural implications of Endgame post-Thanos.

Or post "blip" as it's called now, which is handy.  Here are each of the old sub-headings in turn.

Birthdates

Inconclusive.  All the vacation preparations from the trailer have been cut (and will apparently turn up as their own thing on the blu-ray), including the passport moment.  The drinking scene on the airplane implies that the kids don't have updated IDs and that it's up to them to keep within the spirit of the law - see also Peter in the bar with Quentin. 

Assets and housing

As the trailer suggested, a lot of the people who returned after the blip found themselves displaced from their apartments including Aunt May (who we now have confirmation was blipped along with Peter so at least she didn't have to deal with the grief of him having gone for five years).  As I speculated, despite being alive again, they're completely fucked and apparently in the deleted scenes, there were shots of Peter having to sell a whole lot of his stuff in order to afford the trip (which explains why his room is so empty in the moments we do see him there).

Relationships

Since this is a teen film there's not much on this, apart from the teacher explaining that his wife had pretended to blip so she could run off with another fella.  That's something which hadn't occurred to me, people taking advantage of the situation.  

Not related at all but what about prisoners?  Presumably the blip time isn't included in the sentence, so despite having been brought back to life, they'll still have to see out the rest of their sentence.  Imagine the jolity when they reappear in their old cells, now occupied by new convicts.

Premierships

Nothing much at all that I remember.

Technology and the Arts

The Earth-199999 was already technologically more advanced than Earth-1218 (Mysterio getting the designations wrong is an early indicator to viewers that he's full of shit) but it does seem to have moved on again in some respects, like the giant video screen on the building in New York (and they couldn't really have anyone else play that character in the mid-credits sequence could they!?!) but less so in others.  The kids seems to be clinging to slightly lower-fi technology like wired earphones and phone designs which don't seem to have moved on much.

Factionalism

From the looks of things, the MCU is largely going to move on after this, otherwise the opening ten minutes of every film with characters affected by the blip will be about wrestling with the implications which could get samey.

Not that we actually know what the next films in the series are going to be for the first time in years.  We know there's going to be something next year but it could be anything.  Something to do with Black Widow is shooting but I haven't seen reports of much else apart from vague announcements.  Isn't it fun?  Role on Comic-Con.

The editing of Apollo 11.

Film Fascinating interview with Todd Douglas Miller, the director of new film Apollo 11, which goes into some detail about the editing process:
" The first order of business was working with Robert [Pearlman] as our independent chief historian, Stephen Slater, who was our archive producer, and putting together a nine day version of the film. We really want you to look at every single second of the mission which spanned nine days—eight days and some change. All told, it spanned nine days—to look at every available still image—whether it was 16mm 35mm large format, TV broadcasts, and links, we wanted to see all of it. Of course, all the audio, too. That was a real tedious way to do it but we need to know exactly what was all out there not only to educate ourselves but also we had so much new material. We needed to see where things lined up and where the holes were and what we could do with those."
Apollo mission fans like me are clearly look at that and salivating at the idea of a nine day long version of the film version in which the action occurs in something akin to real time. Though of course to an extent it will be quite tedious with plenty of repetition. But this methodology has worked wonders. The great strength of the theatrical release (which I saw today) is that it shows the familiar event with unfamiliar footage at unusual angles.

Flappo Bird.

Games A Flappy Bird clone for the Atari 2600. Browser play available.

Keith Haring at Tate Liverpool.


Art When New York artist Keith Harring exhibited at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in 1982, true to form and in keeping with his belief that art should be as accessible as possible, he turned the space into a night club, with florescent lighting, break dancers and his partner DJing in the corner.  Such an approach was not unusual for Harring.  He first became noticed for his subway works, in which he'd masking tape a piece of black card to the curved wall of a pedestrian access tunnel and draw his images free hand in white crayon.  He was arrested several times for this, but he presumably knew that if he was able to draw a crowd then with his images, symbols and themes that he was on the right track.

For their retrospective, Tate Liverpool have created a black light room in order to give us a flavour of what it must have been like in that gallery in 1984.  Inside are a number of his fluorescent paintings, shining brightly under ultraviolet light, his familiar mix of three eyed faces, barking dogs, pyramids and headless beings accompanied by a speaker stack pumping out 80s disco from a compilation available in the gift shop.  The effect is transportative, representing one of the key achievements of this exhibition, much like the Warhol show a few years ago and Glam before that, of placing the artworks within their chronological context, heralding those of us who lived through these times backwards in both memory and emotion.

There was only one reaction I could have to this.  I danced.  On entering the space during yesterday's press preview, throwing caution to the wind and entirely forgetting about my latest hernia, I began to shift my legs about in time with the music.  Slowly at first and then slightly more pronounced.  The image was probably hopeless and at the age of forty-four could quiet correctly categorized as Dad dancing despite me not having any children.  I shifted around in circles like a demented George McFly letting the images and beats flow over me.  A visitor wandered through and smiled as she took photos the paintings.  She asked if I was enjoying myself.  I nodded. I was.  I could quite happily have stayed there all day.

Except there is so much more to see.  Unlike some recent shows, this Keith Harring retrospective fills the whole of the fourth floor.  Although his career barely spanned just over a decade, he was incredibly prolific.  Beginning with his aforementioned early work from his time at the School of Visual Arts on East 23rd Street, to his street art, his activist works protesting apartheid and nuclear arms to his part in the Club 57 scene, onward to his drawings then his more commercial works and finally the material he created around the HIV/AIDS epidemic as he watched his friends die, Harring following in 1990 at the age of 31, not slowing his workflow down at all.

This is incredibly accessible artwork, visually legible and also incredibly profound.  Harring didn't like to offer explanations and most of the paintings are untitled and the Tate have declined to give contextual labels.  Instead as you enter the space you'll find a small visual dictionary which provides some background to his repeated symbols, the baby, flying saucer, figure with a whole in his stomach, nuclear, tv, computers, robots, religion and money.  The meaning behind the juxtaposition of these shapes is rarely cryptic.  A man riding on the back of a leviathan with a Commodore Pet like computer for a head stomping on what look like police murder outlines of decapitated corpses is probably about the dangers of rampant technology.

Obviously I'm most drawn to the apocalyptic images of flying saucers bringing about the destruction of humanity, his simplistic representations of people escape through rooftops only to be exterminated by death rays raining from above, joining the piles of corpses below.  Sometimes robots are involved just to add to the misery.  Along with the grotesquely portrayed many breasted hermaphrodites accompanying by what look like nuclear reactors in the shape of mutant rabbits, it's like witnessing a Hieronymus Bosch hellscape drawn in the style of an early nineties Nickelodeon cartoon, The Garden of Earthly Delights starring Ren and Stimpy. 

What's perhaps most impressive about Harring's technique is that he created these drawings and paintings freehand, mentally planning the structure rather than, as might be inferred from just looking at photographic reproductions, filling in pre-draw pencil outlines.  Much of the time he'd paint on the floor in acrylics, base colours first then the lines of his subjects on top blurring the lines between painting and performance art, especially when creating in public.  One of his largest pieces, The Matrix, spans an entire wall at the Tate, ten metres of dense imagery, almost all of his usual symbols, structurally improvised in front of an audience.

Due to work commitments, yesterday was my first Tate preview in a while so it helped that it was an artist I'd (a) heard of and (b) already liked.  Harring's bold creations helped to define the 1980s and inspired plenty of the design work of the era.  Although I was a teenager then and would not have known he was the source, stepping into the space took me right back to then, leafing through Smash Hits Magazine looking for Kylie interviews.  That we didn't get to see how Harring's work would have developed in subsequent decades is a great loss.  But the crises he highlighted back in the eighties continue to surface and it's up to us to heed his message and act accordingly.

Production Design. It's Complicated.

Film Short piece in The Guardian about Nancy Meyer's comments at a Producer's Guild of America meeting about the double standards her films have endured at the keyboard fingers of predominantly male critics, especially about production design:
"I don’t love when a journalist or critic will pick up on that aspect [of the film’s design], because they’re missing why it works. It’s never done to male directors who make gorgeous movies, or where the leads live in a gorgeous house."
Damn right. Films like Grand Budapest with their overt production design do tend to be recognised at awards more than as might be the case in a Nancy Myers film, even though they both offer similarly complex design challenges.

In the case of even It's Complicated, a designer has to decide exactly why a character lives in this house, has decorated it in this way, all the fixtures and fittings, from wall art to dishes and how they express that character.

Frequently films do have a generic interior thrown together on the quick and it strikes the wrong note undermining the suspension of disbelief. That's never the case with Nancy Meyers films and too often this is held against her.  God forbid that she'd want to control the whole image.

 Meyers is superb at what she does and the fact that she's only made one film in the past fifteen years is an utter shame.  And before you start, The Holiday is a classic. Yes, it is.

Destination TARGET:
Barnes Common.


Books Having completed a full watch of the television of Doctor Who up until that date in 2013, the second most important pilgrimage for a "we" seems to be read through the whole lot again in the form of the prequels to the era. To that end for the past few years I've been slowly collecting the TARGET novelisations and although there's plenty more to find, and indeed afford since some of them are really quite expensive for what they are, yesterday, just for now, I began with the first chapter of Doctor Who and the Daleks.

As you can surmise from the photo, in order make this even more worthwhile (!), I've decided to read each book in a place with some kind of thematic or actual connection.  This will not stretch very far.  The Himalayas seems like obvious setting for a thumb through John Lucarroti's Marco Polo, budget and time suggest this would be about as practical as visiting Marinus making somewhere in Chinatown a more feasible setting.  Lorks knows where I'll end up for Terminus, but World Museum Liverpool will probably be seeing a lot of me.

To the point: when the first three Doctor Who novelisations were published in the 1960s, author David Whittaker didn't know that a decade later such things would become a publishing sensation, so his interpretation of Doctor Who and the Daleks notoriously begins with a rewriting of the origins of the series.  Quite why Whittaker decided to offer such a radical rethink of Terry Nation's script surely someone reading this will know and enlighten me via Twitter (Jim?).

Instead of two teachers tumbling into the TARDIS from the junkyard after following one of their students home, we have the first person account of Ian Chesterton, scientist on his way home from a disappointing job interview stumbling into Barbara Wright who has just survived a crash with an army truck on Barnes Common as she took her pupil Susan home, still out of curiosity as to her living conditions.

With the flexibility of prose, Whittaker takes the opportunity to increase the atmosphere of his opening, the sinister shadows and noirish light sources suggesting the opening of a Hitchcockian thriller from his British period, with Ian as a more dynamic, cigarette smoking figure in the style of Richard Hannay or Adolf Verloc.  Barbara is referred to as "the girl" for much of the chapter and a problem Chesterton is semi-reluctant to solve.

As Mark Gatiss recognised when he gave it a nod An Adventure in Space and Time, the setting for this revised opening, Barnes Common, has become a particularly jolly in-joke and since reading the book many, many years ago (possibly as much as a decade), I've wanted to visit and see how close the locale is to what's the described in the book.  Was Whittaker familiar with area when he wrote the piece or did he simply select it from a copy of the A-Z because it sounded right?

The main destination for my monthly visit to London on Monday was the Wallace Collection (home of The Laughing Cavalier and Poisson's A Dance to the Music of Time), but that's small enough (for someone not that interested in porcelain wear, guns and armour) that something would be needed to fill the rest of the afternoon and Barnes is only about twenty minutes outside of Central London via a change at Clapham Junction. 

As you can also see from the photograph, quite quickly after leaving Barnes station, it became clear that Whittaker's description of the place refers to the general area around Barnes Common rather than the parkland itself.  It's mostly woodland and shrubland with patches of grass whereas the book suggests a space consisting of larger fields away from civilisation.  Barnes Common is framed with housing on all sides.

Barnes Common is also on the tourist trail for rock fans as Marc Bolan, some ten years after the publication of the book in 1977, was the passenger in a purple Mini which rammed into a tree killing him instantly in an odd parallel to the events in this parallel version of Who's origins.  For decades, the tree on which this occurred was decorated with scarves and keepsakes from fans until a memorial bust was erected recently.

Now, what I'd really like to describe is finding a spot, perhaps near the memorial, and reading through this chapter, soaking up the atmosphere and wondering if seeing the very space where the crash is supposed to happen.  I'd like to say that.  But yesterday, the rain around Barnes Common was persistent enough that some of the pavements disappeared beneath the terentials.  There was nowhere dry enough to stop and sit and take in the view.

So here's a photograph of somewhere I could have sat if the weather and been dryer:


And another:


Some large wooden balls (Jim?):


Instead, I waited until the train home:


The book will now return to the shelf until I've completed the collection (fifty pounds for The Wheel in Space?!?) and decided on the most relevant venues for the rest of the books.

The fate of that Kit-Kat is another story.

The Time War 2.

Audio Now my summer holidays have begun, it's time to sit back for a while, relax and catch up on all of the things I haven't quiet had time for, so here we are with a release from last year. As with the first boxset, this is absolutely superb and certainly more consistent than Ravenous, which is odd considering how much of the creative team is shared between the two. Perhaps it's because there's a clear direction and sandpit which creates its own restrictions and gives the Doctor situationally something to fight against and test his moral courage. There's a strong narrative line throughout about how close to being a "warrior" he's prepared to go and at what point he stops being the Doctor.  Are Big Finish planning to dovetail this directly into the regeneration episode?  Spoilers ahead (as usual).

The Lords of Terror

Trust Jonathan Morris. Trust him when he opens an episode with an incredibly generic YA set-up because there will always be a twist coming and it's always but always a good one. Here we have another example of just how bent the Time Lord moral compass has become during the Time War, why they're hated almost as much as the Daleks. The notion of shaping the development of a planet to suit the means of an antagonist goes right back to City of Death, but there's something rather more vicious about it being at the expense of an existing history, on this occasion Bliss's homeworld.  Morris's script propels forward at a lick with revelation upon revelation aided by some witty performances, notably from Nikki Amuka-Bird as the new Tamasan in her third role around the Whoniverse.

Planet of the Ogrons

Brilliant, just brilliant.  Only in Doctor Who might you find Julia McKenzie playing a psychopathic killer and have one of its silliest alien creations as a parody of its antagonist.  The Island of Doctor Moreau has already been adapted by Big Finish, but here's a franchise spin with a Dalek experimenting on splicing alien DNA resulting in the Ogron Doctor on the cover, perfectly turned out by John Culshaw who knows exactly how to play his way through the many catchphrases and references put in his mouth.  Even though it's just Eighth's DNA which has been spliced with the inhabitant of the planet, he remembers some of the iconic lines from the revival which suggests that on a subconscious level the Doctor's aware of his future selves even if he can't tap into their memories or sense of being.

In The Garden of Death

... the Eighth Doctor has amnesia again.  Often has this been now?  The TARDIS Datacore suggests that it's about five, but it feels much more than that, perhaps because his misplaced backstory in the novels lasted for so long.  At least in this story, everyone has been forced to forgot everything.  In the past I've been a bit sniffy about the previous incarnations of the Twelfth, but Julia McKenzie makes real sense of the role, partly because she's initially given time to establish her own incarnation, essentially Miss Marple in space, before the earlier versions intrude and we enjoy yet more interpretations of those earlier incarnations, fortunately signposted better in the dialogue.  How do you remove the memories of a being who's basically immortal and remembers everything about their past lives all the time?  Where do you even begin?

Jonah

Doctor Who does submarine adventure, but instead of turning up on a ship to fight off an alien invader once he's convinced the Captain that such things exist, he is the ranking officer thrust into the uncomfortable life and death decisions himself amongst a crew who need to be ordered to sacrifice their lives for religious reasons.  Timothy X Atack's script is stuffed with the usual tropes, but also rich in character with the Doctor, perhaps more than than lately actually, regaining much of his agency, motivating events rather than simply providing commentary as they unfold around him and trying to discover an escape method.  McGann's at the top of his game here, deciding that his Eighth Doctor would navigate the Time War by returning to first principles, regaining some of the lightness of his performance from nearly two decades ago.  More please.

Pecuniary of the Daleks.

TV As you may have heard, numerous unique photographs of Doctor Who's The Power of the Daleks are being offered for sale at auction by the estate of the late production designer and art director, Derek Dodd, who made the set designs for that story. They're unique documents and of especial interest because they're from a missing episode and so may be the only record of certain visual aspects of the story.

Fans have been amazed and pretty frantic about this, especially given the asking price of £800-£1200, a number which sounds low enough to be feasible to cover but despite the context still too large to be justifiable on an average salary.  The fear is that they'll be sold to a collector who'll squirrel them away out of the public eye again which was apparently the fate of a cache of similar documents, including strips of telesnaps a few months ago.

The hope is that an archive or institution like the BFI will stump up the money so that they can become publicly available, perhaps for inclusion in future publication so that everyone can get a closer look at them.  Or that a philanthropic private citizen will buy them and make them available for duplication by the producers of say, the blu-ray boxsets, so that they can be included on the Power disc when Season Four is released.

I'm of a fairly stringent mind about such things.  If an object is of public value or interest it should be available to that public.  I'm not sure where the line can be drawn, but there are numerous objects which are part of our global heritage, which to quote a famous archaeologist, belong in a museum, but are instead hidden in an environmentally controlled vault not even being enjoyed by an owner who consider them an asset rather than the artistic expression or communication they're designed to be.

Even more galling this instance is that according to John Kelly, ex-producer of Doctor Who Weekly/Monthly/Magazine, Dodd himself didn't even know he had them and that they'd discussed the cataloguing of his collection before he died but it wasn't to be.  So now his estate is going to be selling the materials off piece by piece and this important archive of material is going to be separated and blown to the wind.  Cue shots of depressed Timothy Spall in Shooting the Past.

Not that I begrudge them making the most of this asset, especially if they're not personally wealthy themselves.  But there should have been another way, perhaps if an approach had been made to an institution for the purchase of the entire archive in total.  But that's my fan gene squawking.  Instead, for now, we just have the tantalising glimpse on that auction website, especially of the reverse shot of the TARDIS console room, the Doctor and friends huddled around the controls.

Is this why The Inhumans film didn't happen?



Film Despite its nearly eight million views, this is the first time I've seen the MCU's Phase Three announcement from back in 2014. At the time, I remember shuddering that the second Avengers film wasn't going to be released until I was in my mid-forties. Fortunately, I made it and now anticipate the upcoming Phase Four announcement.

It's worth noticing how dates and elements changed in the meantime.  The Sony deal led to everything moving down the schedule to make way for Spider-Man: Homecoming and the relative success of Ant-Man the insertion of a sequel.  But the big anomaly is The Inhumans film, which was quietly cancelled, to re-emerge as a frustratingly average television mini-series.

Why?  One of MARVEL's strengths has been to see what the audience responds to and monopolise on that, making course corrections when necessary.  Thor: Ragnarok was in part a result of the relatively poor critical reception for The Dark World (even if it still did well at the box office).  More Black Panther material was apparently filmed for Infinity War because it did quite well.

I think this video captures the moment The Inhumans as a film was cancelled.  As every other title card emerges on the screen, this audience, made up of comic book experts, go absolutely batshit crazy to the point that the mic on the camera phone sneakily recording it is completely blown out and unlistenable.

When The Inhumans is announced?  Crickets.  Well, not quite.  There's still some cheering but its markedly more muted than for the rest of the announcements and when Kevin Feige returns to the stage afterwards, he sounds slightly defensive as he attempts to justify the selection to a crowd which clearly hasn't reacted in the way he'd hoped.

Was this enough?  Did the reaction of fans at this event cause the hesitation?  Maybe?  As I've suggested elsewhere, reaction to franchises tend to be fan led, and if fandom wasn't in general that fussed about seeing The Inhumans at the cinema, then there was the potential for this to be a difficult sell which was justifiable considering the size of the budget.

But there's also the possibility that as pre-production began on the AIWE doulogy, the idea of having a large population of incredibly powerful beings, even at half strength post-click, was difficult to insert into an already busy couple of films.  Perhaps there's a version of Endgame floating around with Medusa or Nahrees joining the time travelers.

Instead we got the tv series which despite the budgetary input from IMAX couldn't afford to animate Medusa's hair in every episode so had it shaved off and left Lockjaw off-screen with about the same level of nuance as K9 in Season 18 of Doctor Who.  About the only good thing which came out of the series was cancellation because it meant Anson Mount was free to play Pike on Discovery.

On the new Spider-Man trailer.



Film Tom Holland is right. The new Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer is full of spoilers for Endgame as is this short commentary. Here's another video to give you a chance look up. Just in case.



You probably shouldn't watch that either.

Anyway, alternate realities. In the new MCU trailer, Nick Fury suggests that the Mysterio embodied by Jake Gyllenhaal isn't from the MCU Prime universe but some alternate reality, brought through a crack (or whatever) created when during the whole Thanos business.

Immediately this has been seized upon as being utter pig cleanser due to this being Mysterio, who's whole being is about misdirection and subterfuge and that it's all part of some plan or other. They might even argue that the Elementals are also in on the gag, assuming they even exist or an illusion.

Here's my counter argument.

This is Nick Fucking Fury.  Nick Fucking Fury does not simply work from information supplied by someone who says they're an interdimensional traveller.  For him to make that determination, he will have investigated it a bit more than that.

So what if this Mysterio is actually telling the truth?  What if he is indeed from another reality where he works benevolently, might even be the Iron Man of that universe?  That like certain other characters, MARVEL are not going for the obvious explanation?

Which means that this film is setting up the idea of this MCU being part of the multiverse, the very multiverse which Sony have just had great success with in animated form?  That the title "Far From Home" isn't just about Spidey taking a trip to Europe, but to a whole other universe?

Like, for example, the nascent Sony Spider-verse currently inhabited so far by Venom, thereby explaining the presence of the black suit in the trailer?  Could this be what Amy Pascal was talking about in this famous joint interview with Kevin Feige?

To take that further, could we have scenes in which Holland meets some of his counterparts in other realities?  He pitches up in animated form in the Miles Morales universe, or bumps into the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield versions in extraordinary cameos?

The latter was suggested for the Into The Spider-verse but was thought to be too much, which it would have been there, but could the other reason have been because the idea had already been snapped up by MARVEL/Sony for this adventure?

To take this to its obvious conclusion, MARVEL could also use this as an excuse to tie together all of the different version of their property there have been over the decades and even as a mechanism to justify having Deadpool interact with characters from the MCU?

Either that or Mysterio is being played true to form and MARVEL know that we know that they know that we know that they know.  Or something like that.

We Need To Talk About [spoiler] [spoiler] [spoiler].

Film Here we are then at the season finale of the MARVEL Cinematic Universe Season One and after watching it on the same day as that episode of Game of Thrones, I was pretty worn out for at least twenty-four hours.  Avengers: Endgame is a strident classic of its genre is something which should go without saying. As close as we have yet to the film equivalent of an event comic upon which the events in separate "franchises" will surely follow, it's also an incredibly "important" moment for those of us who've become emotionally invested in this universe and characters.

Try as I might, there are some things I've been cogitating about in the week since and although I'm sure you've read some of the following elsewhere (assuming you've seen this behemoth and not a masochist who likes to know everything about a film before you see the film because you don't like surprises) so apologies for the repetition.  Meanwhile, not having written anything length on a keyboard for weeks, I'm finding it surprisingly hard to get my bearings around the Querty.  So apologies for any typos and the like.  I'll try to catch them all.

Here is a necessary block for stuff for anyone who wants to look away.



That should do it.

Still here?  Right then, I'd like to talk about logistics, specifically in relation to those missing five years.

As is established by the climax of Endgame, unlike some of us might have assumed due to the presence of time travel, satisfyingly the Infinity Gauntlet (TM) isn't used to reset the timeline.  Everything which happened, happened.  Stark doesn't have to make the decision to sacrifice the existence of his own child in order to save the timeline, none of that mishegoss.  As he says himself, he wouldn't proceed with the plan unless the timeline remains intact and everyone seems fine with that, especially the audience who now won't have rewatch Infinite War knowing that it's about to be retconned out of existence in the next film.

Endgame creates its own rules about time travel even to the point of having its characters discuss all the usual permutations from films before being told it's all guff, that Back To The Future is bullshit.  Of course it stings that out of all the programmes and films mentioned, even Quantum Leap, that Doctor Who finds itself shunned despite the film featuring an actual companion actress in a starring role.  But disregarding the notion of paradoxes frees the story from any obligations change the future somehow or offer the chance of a universal do-over.  Whatever happens, happens, and there's no changing it.

Some have become quite confused about all of this, but everything is explained in the rooftop conversation between Banner and The Ancient One.  That removing the stones from the timeline won't bust open reality so long as they're returned to their relevant points, to do otherwise would create a separate reality or some such.  Ok, I'll have to watch it again, but the reasoning seemed sound on first consumption and explains why in the final moments, Steve takes Mj√∂lnir with him as well as the stones.  Something plenty of filmmakers forget is that its ok to create your own set of rules for a sci-fi or fantasy concept so long as you follow them yourself.

Anyway, as a result, by the close of Endgame, we realise that when Brulk clicks half the population of the galaxy back into existence, from their perspective its as though they never left and that they're entering a world were the other half are now five years older than them having reached 2023 the slow way by living through it.  Never mind that this is a superhero film franchise, that's a hugely interesting and faintly dystopian concept by itself, large enough to sustain its own film, let alone a television series.  It's essentially a rapture film in which the great one decides to send everyone back after five years because it didn't go as planned.

How does a planet, let alone a universe deal with billions of people who they thought were gone for good suddenly turning up again?  After the emotional realisation that your loved ones aren't dead, you're then left with the problem of what to do with them all.  There are all sorts of logistical and legal matters to attend to.  One does not simply disappear from existence for five years and then return assuming that you'll be able to carry on with your life as though nothing has happened.  Five years is a long time, even in a world in the grasp of collective grief.  For example:

Birthdates

You now have half a planet which is physically and mentally five years younger than the other half but who still have their originally birthdate.  Which means that people who're physically thirteen years old are now eligible to vote, watch In The Realm of the Sense and join the army, not to mention the mess it makes of retirement ages.

The state would have two options.

Either they'd have to redo all of the paperwork to give eligibility ratings depending on whether someone was clicked out or existence or not.  So some kind of mark on the voter rolls in polling stations and a BBFC classification would be 18-certificate (23-certificate for [insert euphemism for those who disappeared for five years]).

Or more radically artificially revise the birthdates of everyone who disappeared.  In the trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home, when Peter presents his passport, it doesn't have a date of birth on it, no doubt to hide the Endgame spoiler.  Perhaps when that shot's in the actual film, we'll see that Peter's DOB has changed to suggest he was born five years later than he actually was.

On the one hand, it means that everyone embraces a collective lie that at least on paper, there are people who lived on the planet five years longer than their date of birth says they did.  But on the other it saves on an awful lot more paperwork than having to just create new documents.

Assets and housing

Judging by the tone of the opening hour of the film, everyone who disappeared has been pronounced dead, which means that wills will have gone into motion and assuming the heirs also still exist, their assets will have been passed down and either sold off or kept.

The less well off, especially those who were renting will have had houses taken back by landlords and all of the other stuff which happens when someone dies without anyone to take care of their affairs.  Houses cleared of possessions, that sort of thing.

Not to mention everything happening at banks in relation to savings and investments etc.

After the initial shock, society moves on.  Governments make new laws to deal with the aftermath.

Then all of these people snap back into existence and everything they owned is gone.  Their house isn't there any more, either demolished, left empty and sold or rented to someone else.  Their assets have been seized and there isn't yet a legal framework in place for them to get it back.

Not to mention a job.  Apart from in some government departments, vacancies are not kept open for five years.

Perhaps that's were some of the people in the homeless shelter in the Spider-man trailer come from.

A lot of people'll be as lucky as Ant-Man and be able to walk back into their own life, albeit with suddenly having a teenage daughter to deal with.  But the rest might not have a life to return to.

Despite being alive again, they're completely fucked.

Relationships

You pop back into existence and discover that your wife or husband or partner has moved on with their life, perhaps even remarried.  Within perceptual moments you've gone from having a loving home to becoming the outsider no longer legally married, perhaps with a whole new family living in your house.

Or what if you're in a relationship with someone who lost a loved one to Thanos and that loved one suddenly turns up and you realise that your partner was making do.  How does that make you feel?

Also what if you were a young child when your parents went and you've been adopted?  Obviously you should go back to your own parents, but as we know, in custody cases it isn't also that simple.  If its a couple who are now poor, the court may decide the child is better off with the adopted parents.

Nuts.  Again, there's tons of dramatic mileage in this sequence of events on its own.

Premierships

Thinking about that final shot of T'Challa triumphantly returning to Wakanda: did his premiership not pass to a successor?  At all?  Did they wait around just in case?  The implication is that M'Baku or whoever has stepped aside now that the real King is back but will every country on the planet be as accepting of the new status quo?  Political change will have presumably come within those five years and there's bound to be wars and other controversies ensuing when powerful people attempt to retake thrones and dispatch boxes they assumed were rightfully theres.

Technology and the Arts

Just to give this lip service.  Half the planet return to find computers technologically better than they were and there are five years worth of television and film to catch up on.  Even if half the casts have disappeared, you can bet the Tommy Westphall universe is still going strong.  Will you still be able to even play your dvds (assuming they haven't gone to landfill).

Factionalism

Then there are the numpties who want to treat the returnees as second class citizens, who believe that the world was a better place post Thanos and feel like having them come back is the worst.  Not to mention those who thought it really was the rapture and have now been proved wrong.

Sigh, just sigh.

Ravenous 3.

Audio  The titling and story order of this boxed set misses a trick in not referencing Star Trek's Generations.  How hard would it have been to called the third episode, Situation Grimm in homage to Kirk's line to Picard on agreeing to leave the Nexus to battle Soran?  No?  Just me?  The main cover rather over sells the participation of that raft of companions.  They're only in the second episode of the box and it's an otherwise Doctorless episode which is great for continuity purposes but does leave us heading towards disappointment.  Thank goodness its a great episode anyway with some stonking cameos birthed from a hilariously well constructed set up.  There's no doubt, despite my reservations about the Ravenous and the Eleven, I'm enjoying this much more than Doom Coalition which often felt like it was trying to be too clever for its own good.

Deeptime Frontier

Which frame the Ravenous as somewhat like the Par-Wraithes from DS9, in that they've been coaxed out of an anomaly by a nearby space station.  Pretty notable for how it foreshadows the beings the Time Lords become during TW2 in how they're willing to interfere with causality like the renegades they've previously attempted to arrest any time they've come in contact with Gallifrey.  Some might criticise the initial cliffhanger resolution, but for veterans of Terra Firma and to be frank Doctor Who in general, the last minute unlikely intervention when the situation looks hopeless shouldn't be that surprising.  Also enjoying how, now that cross gender regenerations have now been properly established, it's being utilised everywhere.  Readers of the EDAs will be comforatable with the Time Lords changing species altogether.

Companion Piece

Well, phooey.  When it was indicated that Companion Piece was a chance to go back and tie up a long standing piece of continuity, I'd pretty much convinced myself that it would be the long awaited reunion of Eighth and Charley, the latter finally discovering the former is still buzzing around the universe, both of them realising that they'd both been a bit foolish at the close of The Girl Who Never Was, published back in, dear god, 2007.  Instead its something which has been knocking around even longer than that, River Song's equivalent of the Laika moment in Alien Bodies.  All of which said, this is bloody fun romp, largely because Nine is a funnier, more entertaining iteration of that character, with some storming if pretty dark one liners, especially about one of the Doctor's absent friends.  Superb.

L.E.G.E.N.D.

In the making-off documentary on the accompanying about L.E.G.E.N.D., Matt Fitton very carefully says that the Brother's Grimm isn't something either the audios or television series has tackled before which leaves a space for those of us listening a story about a planet which is modelling itself around these fairy tales and being somewhat reminded of Grimm Reality, the BBC Eighth Doctor novel in which the Doctor and his friends find themselves on a planet which is modelling itself around these fairy tales.  The key innovation is drawing the actual Brothers Grimm ala the Goosebumps film which also introduced a version of the author into the hijinks.  Admittedly, it's such a great concept it's surprising a version hasn't turned up on television, although I suppose The Shakespeare Code is pretty similar too if you squint.

The Odds Against

Ok fine, the scenes between the Nine and the Eleven are fun even if there's no doubt they may have benefited from being recorded on the same day (actor availability leading to a split).  The corporeal Nine and the version that exists in the Eleven's memory ganging up together spins, but I think I would have liked more of the earlier incarnations talking to one another across time in different bodies, although that would also have required them to be clearer defined and as the Datacore entry on the Collective demonstrates, it's all a bit of a mishmash apart from those who've had their own narrative agency in a story.  Perhaps there'll be a moment soon, like IM Foreman in Interference, when all of the incarnations will meet in reality and we'll discover what they're really like and why they regenerated.

Ravenous 2.

Audio Quick landmark update. This is the first of the Eighth Doctor mid to late period releases which has the new logo on the front and cover design, which means that none of the spines match any more. Long term fans will remember the pain of this from the VHS releases.  Shifting to use the television logo to cover all the merchandise is always a bold move, especially right now in relation to the blu-ray box sets which are supposed to be all out in five years.  What happens if there's a regime change at the top and Mark Gatiss or Abi Morgan decide that they want something different to whatever Chibbers signed off on?  It's inevitable that we're going to end up with spines with logos which don't match and also don't represent the era upon which they're applied.

Escape from Kaldor

An incredibly good Matt Fitton script which provides the kind of development for Liv that Absent Friends gave to Helen.  The writer apparently opened up his research beyond television to Chris Boucher's MDA novels which then makes me wonder how much the society constructed here also harmonizes with the Kaldor City audios (perhaps it's about time I got around to listening to them) (assuming I can find a copy).  Especially strong is the sense of place.  Who is at its best when it offers familiar environments on other worlds which are almost but not exactly like Earth and having been to London a few times now, it's entirely possible for me to imagine what this shopping centre designed to attract high earners would be like even if in instead robots serving its employees earning an annual salary which is less than the price of handbag.

Better Watch Out

Utterly incredible.  Without the restriction of having to entertain fans and casuals on December 25th, Big Finish offers an all time classic Christmas story which is challenging in both its story and how its told.  A fairly conventional monster story is enunciated through parallel narrators, nested flashbacks and subjective exposition in ways which arguably could only work on audio as it uses our own imagination against us, wrongfooting who we think we're listening to how the action unfolds.  Plus it's completely festive without becoming cloying, partly because of the continuing thread of Liv being entirely noneplussed by contemporary human traditions (although you might wonder given how long she spent on Earth in Dark Eyes how she didn't come across it).

Fairytale of Salzburg

Long terms fans will probably work out the big character twist at the close of the story which just goes to tie up just how much this two part tribute to the Moffat era even it we'll be slightly perplexed by how it resolves itself with Clarke's law stretched to its very limit.  Is this God-like wish giving being an invention for this story or have they been knocking around elsewhere?  Will they be returning in the future, and surely a figure this powerful breaks the Whoniverse if they can just pop in and bend reality in this way?  Wouldn't they be quite useful during the Time War assuming they can take sides?  Also how much of what's happened to [spoiler] has been retained or have they been replaced with a different version with no memory ala Fitz in the EDAs?

Seizure

After two stand alone stories, here's the obligitory arc episode to justify the title on the box.  It's fine.  It's a standard base under seige story set on a dying TARDIS with minimal crew and although the Ravenous's voice is creepy (especially when it's toying with Liv), it simply doesn't feel like a classic monster with enough potential mythology to sustain a whole series.  With some mild rejigging, there's nothing they're doing which couldn't equally have been done just as well with the Daleks in a way which wouldn't be possible with The Silents (for example).  Rather like Buffy's fourth or sixth seasons with their unconvincing Big Bad, so far in Ravenous it's the episodes which don't contribute to the overall story which work best, which I suppose means the Riley in all of this is the Eleven.

Ravenous 1.

Audio When the Time War series was anounced, it seemed like that was going to be the only new Eighth stories in release - but here we are with Ravenous, the continuation of the mid to late period of his adventures, with some Lucie Miller fill-in material also forthcoming so there's plenty more for my bank balance to scream in pain about for the foreseable future.  For the purposes of full disclosure, I write this having already ploughed through the first three boxes together in about a week, so it's with the hindsight of knowing what's to come.  By design, the series as a whole, although with linking elements is a mix of stand alone and arc episodes rather like one of the latter tv series which means we get to hear the characters within less grim and sometimes rompy settings, which is a refreshing change.

Their Finest Hour

Here's Churchill back, in narrative terms, as a sort of World War II equivalent of the Brigadier, drawing the Doctor into the adventure and providing military support towards the end.  Very much a callback to the pre-Dark Eyes type of story but with a glance towards the tv revival with the focus on the Polish participation in the RAF.  The resolution isn't unlike numerous other Who stories in relation an alien faction going rogue, but to an extent all of that is backgrounded to the pick-up from Victory of the Daleks (and The Doctor Dances) about how despite subduing the extra-terrestrial invaders, the war of a particular time period continues with its own, more conventional tragedies.

How to Make a Killing in Time Travel

Something which has become baked in to Doctor Who over the years is that its antagonists tend to ultimately be pretty bold in getting ahead of their plans often designing them in such a way as to be able to revel in the big reveal when it happens, even to the point continuing to pretend to be doing something else, even in private when their only audience in the viewer, reader or listener.  HTMAKITT celebrates the reluctant antagonist, the kind of whose nefariousness is either by accident or happanstance who then attempt to cover things up even though they're entirely aware of the personal gain.  Stralla Cushing is a perfect example, superbly played by Judith Roddy of as the Doctor himself says, "an enormous brain and a complete idiot."

World of Damnation

Let's just put this out front: the Eleventh is becoming pretty tiresome.  Big Finish are clearly enamoured with the concept and there's no denying the dexterity of Mark Bonner's performance as he skips between the various Doctor-like incarnations,but Doom Coalition pretty much exhausted the potential story value of his psychological problems and yet here he is again.  Admittedly it's to resolve the cliffhanger from the earlier series but that could have been dealt with as a one and out, but instead he's being set up as continuing presence going forward which means another few hours of having to listen to the echoey voice treatment and jokeoids which populate his dialogue.  Sorry gang, but he's the new C'rizz.

Sweet Salvation

The Candyman who features here was apparently the original concept for the character before JNT or whoever decided to go instead with a copyright violation for Paradise Towers.  He's a suitably creepy confection, describing all of his tasty treats with all the relish of an Androgum.  This is meat and potatoes Who, with the Doctor attempting to convince the authorities about a threat and gaining their trust in aiding him to battle it off.  But it's also a Matt Fitton script which forefronts this companions, with Liv in full on warrior mode and Helen under suspicion as to her motives with the Doctor ultimately only trusting her because of her actions.  It's not about who you are, it's about what you do.