Fans, eh?



TV At what point did you decide that you were a Doctor Who fan with a capital F? This question won't necessarily be relevant to everyone reading this, although given that I have some clue as to this blog's constituency or at least the three people who've been sticking with it during the silence (Hello Twitter followers), it's perhaps not entirely off piste. Go on, when? If asked, I always give the answer that it's when the Eighth Doctor met Charley in Storm Warning, which allows me to bore people off about how good the Big Finish audios are.  But in truth it had been brewing for a while between visiting the exhibition at the Dapol Factory in Llangollen and then watching or listening to as much material as was available between UK Gold recordings by a relative and borrowing BBC audio books from Liverpool libraries.  Pop culture fandom is really something which creeps up on you, something speaks to you about it which makes you then in turn want to talk about it with other people.

Doctor Who's fandom was impossible to miss as a concept, partly because it seemed like a logical  progression given both Star Wars and Star Trek had them too, but it was really in the pages of the party circular that the extent of it, the mass, became most obvious, not to mention subsequently the web, notably Outpost Gallifrey (ask your Dad).  But it's not until reading Paul Cornell's anthology of fanzine extracts, Licence Denied that I really understood the longevity and depth of it.  Suddenly I realised that the authors of all those books I'd glanced at in Waterstones and even bought, weren't just for hire but had long been fanatics of the series.  The acknowledgements page alone is a who's question mark cover tank-top of everyone you probably follow on social media.  My key take away, other than that Graham Williams the producer of some of my favourite stories was hated in the late 70s, was that these were my people and still are.

Which is why the new Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition, The World of Doctor Who, is such a joy.  Effectively an update of the Cornell book, twenty years on with less in-jokes and inevitably a greater sense of optimism, it charts the chronology of TARDIS followers from the 60s through to the present day, stopping off in between to provide potted histories of conventions, fanzines and fan productions (licenced and otherwise) usually with the kinds of technical details about organisation, production and distribution that we adore.  Given that I missed almost all of this before the pre-internet 00s, all kinds of mini-controversies are finally explained -- Ben Cook's interview with Keith Miller cheerfully watching water flow under the proverbial until it flows into a valley drawn on pavement of London's South Bank.  It also says something about this longevity that contributors to Paul's book also turn up here in a paid gig.

It's also a reminder that fans, especially of a programme with this longevity and who are the reason it literally still exists, have always had a sense of entitlement.  For some this manifested itself in them actually taking control of the series, of the narrative, and for others it's been to scream at those same people for not making the version which is in their heads.  There's a brill cutting from Doctor Who Bulletin in which Ian Levine remonstrates about the state of the show in the latter parts of the JNT era, despite the fact he was a "consultant" only a couple of years before.  Seeing some of this writing, I've wondered if my own caustic reviews, especially of Capaldi episodes don't have a similar invective tone.  But even if that's true, for the most part its because I want the series to be the best it can be and keep to its core philosophies.  Well that and trying to be funny even if that's an endeavour for which I rarely succeed.

The closest I ever got to writing for a fanzine was Behind The Sofa, the group blog which ran for five years in the last decade (yes, sorry, BTS died eight whole years ago) otherwise I've generally squeed all over this place. I've always been slightly (slightly?) reticent about networking with other fans offline.  Despite what everyone says, I'm especially scared about attending a convention in case seeing or meeting stars or creators of the show compromises what's otherwise been a relatively solitary relationship between me and the show.  If someone has an off-day, I'd be afraid that it'd change how I enjoy the text.  But this magazine's made me wonder - would it be so bad to be able to go to a place and meet people who actually share my interests, where I'd have something in common with everyone there and actually understand the reference?  Would I have to cosplay, or would a Clayton Hickman t-shirt do the trick?

This special is a reminder that despite also enjoying film and considering myself a Shakespeare "fan", this silly old series is the one thing I can't stop returning to.  Apart from it being amazing even when it's rubbish, the stuff of it, the everything, the immensity, that it has all of these facets, that you can love all of it and some of it and yet still consider yourself part of the tribe and that its originating "studio" only partially has any control over this is what makes it pretty unique.  That's why when older fans lose their temper about the youngsters (or whatever patronising phrase they've chosen this week) not really understanding what the show is about or its history, it's a collective act of amnesia of how they originally approached the series.  Those youngster are the franchise's future and the reason why it'll still be going after we've all had our ashes scattered from a TARDIS shaped urn at Wooky Hollow.  If the show has to have taught us anything, it's that embrace change protects its future.

link:*website.com*

Social Media For a few weeks now, since buying this new(ish) PC, with its ability to run more than the basic columns in Tweetdeck, I've been pondering how I can set up a column which just features Tweets from users with a particular keyword or search term in their username.

In other words, have something which features all the BBC accounts without actually having to laboriously maintain a list or follow the corporation's own infrequently updated lists.

After much headscratching and googling I've found this:

link:*bbc.co.uk*

And then applying a "verified user" filter on the column.

This is by no means exactly what I wanted. It only features links back to the website, not the general chatter I was hoping for.

In the olden days, before Twitter turned off that bit of their API, I would have been able to feed this search into ITTT but this will do for now.  Plus it has the flexibility to allow for:

link:*theguardian.com*

And to combine them:

(link:*bbc.co.uk*) OR (link:*theguardian.com*)

So could could have a film column:

(link:*variety.com*) OR (link:*hollywoodreporter.com*) OR (link:*www.empireonline.com*) OR (about a hundred other things)

All of which also has the benefit of including users other than those connected with the magazines so that if a link is a especially popular it'll bubble up more often than it might from just the originating feed. 

A Complaint Letter To Picturehouse Cinemas.

Film The following tells much of the story. What I didn't include, in order to stay on topic, was the appalling sound quality. Only the speakers behind the screen seemed to be in use and often muffled.
Hello,

This afternoon I saw the lunchtime (12:45pm) showing of The Antman and the Wasp at your Picturehouse at FACT. After the adverts, the film began to start and began projecting in 'scope across the middle of the 1.85:1 screen which had already been set up for the adverts, looking pretty much as it does on a home television with black bars across the top and bottom of the screen. Initially I thought this was an affectation and that, rather like Galaxy Quest for example, once the film started the image would increase to fill the screen.

It did not. The whole film played this way. At this stage I didn't know that the director had chosen to make the film in 'scope - the first film was in 1.85:1, so I thought perhaps matt blinds had been left on the projector and the image was being cropped - so I began considering whether to miss some of the film and run out and report it which was at the back of my mind through almost the whole film, whether I was seeing the whole image, guaging if the tops of heads were cropped. Once you have a thought like that it just *lingers*. So that rather took my out of the film.

​Checking afterwards, the IMDb revealed that it was indeed made in 2.39:1 so it had been projected incorrectly. I was a bit cross to be honest. Projecting in this way also meant that the emergency exit sign which is right next to the screen reflected across the surface screwing up the blacks in the image making some scenes look especially difficult to watch. It's less noticable when the screen has an image across the whole thing, but in this instance again, it was really, yes, distracting and damaging enough that it looked better when the house lights were up over the credits.

I spoke to the cinema manager and she explained that it was a fault with the projector which they've been reporting to you at head office for over eighteen months - something to do with the lense not being able to interpret the DCPs they're being sent properly. So that's eighteen months of people like me having to pay full price to watch films with inferior picture to quality, which is quite frankly rubbish, especially for a company which used to put cinema and the quality of how cinema is presented above all other concerns.


The manager said that its got to the point were they're now asking customers to email their complaints to head office because they're not getting any help directly. This should not be the case. I should not have to send this email. You should be listening to your cinema managers and providing whatever help they need to offer the best product to their customers. MARVEL films are my special treat and your inaction on this issue all but ruined this one.

Take care,

Stuart.
Update! 7/9/2018 I've had a reply:
Dear Stuart

Thank you for your email and your feedback. We appreciate all feedback as it helps us know how to improve the customer experience.

I am sorry to hear you didn't enjoy your visit. The issue with the projection has been unfortunately a problem for the FACT Liverpool site for about 8 weeks, instead of 18 months as you may have misheard. They are working with the temporary solutions they have, and are understandably keen to get back to the correct projections, as are we all. We are organising the parts and engineering required, and we appreciate your patience while these works are underway.

Kind regards,

[Some person]
Picturehouse Customer Care Team Leader
I've since been back in touch with Picturehouse at FACT - apparently it could have been 18 weeks [shrug emoji]. The relevant parts have finally arrived from the US and they should be installed shortly. Stand down everyone, stand down.

Bye Bye July.

About It's that time again, new month, new picture at the top of the blog. Look ...



It's Pernilla August who played Shmi in Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menance.

Every theatrical release reviewed in Sight and Sound & The Monthly Film Bulletin. Ever.

Film Soon. But not yet, I'll let you know.

After noodling about with spreadsheets and the list on Letterboxd, a month ago I set up a central watch list on the IMDb to consult rather than having selections strewn across the various streaming services. With the help of JustWatch, that means that the service itself becomes secondary to the text/artwork/result of the entertainment media conglomerate's mode of production that looks good.

That led to the inevitable question of what?  After attempting to use Rotten Tomatoes aggregator as a guide and only watching anything which has a score of more than 70%, which led to me watching too many very good films, which seems like a blessing, but just like my anxiety tablets this generally pleasant mood all of the time, it left me with nothing to kick against.

Which led to a realisation the better option was to  work through everything theatrically released in the UK and then pick and choose what looks good.  In other words, what most people do.  But with my project led brain, it seemed best to be systematic about this.  The best way to cover the variety of releases was to look at the deep pile of Sight and Sound Magazines under my desk.

Then taking out a subscription to give me access to the digital archive of every issues so that said pile can remain undisturbed.  Much easier to work from a scan anyway and in any case, the collection only really stretches back to the early 00s.  Now I'm putting this on a screen it looks completely mad.  I'll never watch all of these films.  Gah.
 
So the reason for my absense from here, other than going through one of the periods of living up to its title, is creating playlists containing every film which has been reviewed in a year's worth of Sight and Sound Magazine.  Essentially, volunarily submitting to a data input role.  The monotony is surprisingly theraputic.  Zen-like.

After each year, that content has been transfered to my watchlist, which is sorted by release date going backwards.  Except, "fun fact", on the website that's the international release date.  You can only see the UK release date order on the app.  Although that would have been my preference, with nearly seven thousand items already in the watchlist, the app just crashes, so website it is.

Sight and Sound 2011

Sight and Sound 2012

Sight and Sound 2013

Sight and Sound 2014

Sight and Sound 2015

Sight and Sound 2016

Sight and Sound 2017

Sight and Sound 2018 (so far!)

My tollerance is about six months/issues per night although hopefully that'll get longer as the number of releases/reviews decreases going backwards.  There didn't seem to be as many films released even in the last decade let alone the nineties, although it's also possible that most of them were only receiving a London release (as plenty of newer films still do).

Something to be aware of is that this won't necessarily be the films that actually received their theatrical release in those years.  The vagueries of publishing mean that the January issue will have reviews for film released in the preceeding December.  It's a bit smushy.  There have also been occasions when I've come across a film which isn't on the IMDb and submitted a basic update.

Eventually the plan, as the post title suggests is to create a single playlist containing everything reviewed across both titles.  The Monthly Film Bulletin ran the complete film round-up until the two titles merged in the 90s with Sight and Sound only covering a few key titles when it was still just a quartly publication. 

Given that the remit of both periodicals has been to keep a record of every film released in the UK each month, that should mean that there'll then be a big long list of every film theatrically released in the UK stretching back to 1934 somewhere online.  I'm not sure of what use this will be although I imagine the downloadable database will be handy for someone.

Of course, when I get to the other end of these publications, I'll look at the chasm of time between 1934 and the start of the film business and want to fill in that gap somehow.  But we'll see.  Like I said, having written all of this down (if you see what I mean), it looks like an impossible task.  But I like a challenge ...

All of this is new to me.



TV And there we have it. Proper footage of Jodie doing her thing and she's just, isn't she? The way she moves, the accent, the sheer joy of it from the off. She is the Doctor and we like it very much indeed.  It's a reminder of what Doctor Who is, feels like a Doctor Who trailer but ...

Something which was lost in between the folds of Capaldi's attack eyebrows and the shadows which seemed to stretch across every scene of his era was that this show is at its best when it's fun, the darkness acting as a seasoning rather than the whole dish.

There's a giddiness here in the few fragments we see of her in action of a kind not highlighted since early in the Matt Smith era, with its sense of adventure, its "All of time and space, everything that ever happened or ever will.  Where do you wanna start?"

More's to the point we still know barely anything about the characters or the situations apart from what's been revealed elsewhere - Chibbers says no Daleks for this year or two parters which are both blessings.  Anyway, I'm off to watch it another 53 times anyway.

Never give up hope, no matter how dark things seem.

TV Oh my goodness, this trailer has me gasping, absolutely gasping and laughing and cheering and oh my goodness.



The Clone Wars is back !?! They're completing the series properly with the mythic Mandalore storyline? How are they going to take Rebels into account? Will we see the much talked about plan of having Asoka endure the massacre at the Jedi Temple, watching her old mentor's descent into the dark side?  The lusciously letterbox, the painterly animation, oh bliss.  Just bliss.  Anyway, having got that out of the way, I'll talk about the other thing in another post because it seems unfair to stick it under here.  Blimey.

"Hey Jodie..."



TV If nothing else, putting this teaser on during the World Cup half time meant that we all received an education in the intricacies of the handball rule from a bespecled Gary Linekar, the moment he placed the glasses on his nose surely a reference to similar moments for the fifth and tenth Doctors.  Clearly based on those rules it wasn't a penalty but since England aren't in the final I couldn't care either way.

First reaction?  Honestly?  "Is that it?"

On seeing it again, wow that's just the sort of integrated marketing of which the BBC should be rightly proud.  Rather than, as happened with the Bill reveal during Match of the Day, it was an alien thing dropped in amongst the football, this actually seemlessly fits in everything that surrounds it, including footage of a Garyscussion in which Sheerer and Ferdinand's words have a double meaning.

If it's a reflection of the ensuing series, we're returning to the urban series of the Davies era,with the look of the trailer strongly reminiscent of those British films set within big cities, Late Night Shopping, Wonderland or Dirty Pretty Things, companions in the mode of Rose, Martha or Donna rather than Amy or Rory. Bill was somewhere in the middle.

Why The Beano Summer Special from 1981?  It's the issue Eleventh is seen reading at the opening of The Rings of Arkanoid (or however they spelt it):



So it was whatever they had in the prop store. The Beano were so impressed with that cameo, they reprinted it as part of a Doctor Who special.

And there at the end, there she is:



For the past couple of days I've been in a bit of an anxiety bubble and what broke me out of it, apart from some buttered toast and the final two episodes of The Ark in Space was knowing that this glimpse would be coming. I was a bit harsh (a bit?) when Chris C was announced as the new showrunner, but the fact that he seems that got the casting of the key role so spectacularly right from what we've seen so far means I'm as excited about this new series now as I've ever been.

It's comin', oh it's a comin'.

June Over.

About Happy Fourth of July if this something you're celebrating. June's over and so here are with a new title bar for the blog. It is, quite predictably ...

Miranda July


Here We Go Again.

Music Sorry, not sorry for the Doctor Who reference, but it's to one of my other loves I'm referring.

In a recent interview for a podcast I've never a heard of but fortunately transcribed by the Official Chart Company's website, Siobhan's talked about the group still in the process of recording music. But they're in no hurry to release anything:
"We're all in our early thirties now so it doesn't really matter when we release this record," she explained. "To us, it will happen. If it takes longer, that doesn't mean we'll suddenly think we don't want to do this anymore. We got together 20 years ago... and when we sing now it feels just as magical - even more so. That's really special... this is a natural connection that we have."
Which at this point makes it sound like one of Ian Levine's private projects, although to be fair she does say "major legal implications" have stalled the comeback, which either means they're still trying to get the Sugababes name back or a record company's being obstructive or some such.

But judging by the rest of it, everyone is getting along fine and honestly I'm happier about that than about them releasing new music.  Grudges can be toxic and its good to hear they really have put it all behind them.

Now, here's a Dutch bloke in a balaclava singing Overload:

Do you like our owl?

TV The BBC's Computer Literacy Project wasn't something which really effected me at school. Although I would have been just in the right place chronologically for it, my Junior school didn't even own a computer, I don't think, and although the secondary school did have a BBC Micro in the physics lab, our computer room was first filled with Research Machines 380Z and when it finally had an upgrade and dozen Acorn Achemedes.

But at home, I didn't miss a programme, especially Micro Live which I remember vividly seeing amongst Play Chess and various Open University programmes (which I barely understood but liked the colours of the science experiments). It's Fred Harris voice which resonates now as he calmly explained how easy it was to use a computer and how we shouldn't be scared of them. Thinking back now, it's possible it was my interest in these which led my parents to give me an Acorn Electron, my first computer.

Now, as part of the Taster series, the BBC have uploaded an entire archive of programmes and related documents from across the projects ten year history, including the whole of Micro Live, Micro File and their earlier iterations. They've also included an emulated archive of the hundred and sixty on BBC Micro programmes featured across the programmes, which is something even viewers wouldn't have had easy access to thirty years ago. Yes, thirty years. My god.

Here's a very long press release explaining how the project happened and why its being resurrected and here's a blog post about designing the website. Hopefully it'll be online longer than the three month window its currently been given.

Here are some of my highlights:

Douglas Adams interview about the game version of Hitchhikers from Micro Live.

A visit to the EPCOT Centre.

John Humphries takes a word processing challenge.

Motion Control in Hollywood movies with behind the scenes material for 2010 and The Last Starfighter.  Features bonus Leslie Judd.

Brian Jacks reveals which micro he bought for himself and his family.

Paul Daniels explains his experiences with home computers and at programming.

Some software:

This animated Owl which was the symbol of the project. Few people remember just how difficult it was to do this kind of moving imagine on a machine with less memory than it takes to power one pixel on a smart phone.

Snapper which I was the first game I became addicted to, but not as much as my Dad who would be regularly up until two in the evening playing this and Chuckie Egg. Included with a box of titles in the original release of the Electron.

A really ambitious version of Space Invaders, with fast moving graphics and a steep difficultly curve.


Obligatory "new" computer post.

Life Let's mark time again. For the past eight months, after my last desktop conked, I've been persevering with a laptop connected to a monitor, keyboard and mouse, which long term readers around these parts will know has happened before. At least a years worth of the RTD era of Doctor Who was tapped into a old school Compaq netbook with an Atom processor running XP, not to mention much of one of the annual reviews.

Anyway, that trusty Fujitsu was becoming increasingly slow and even a slight memory boost, double the 4gb, was only a temporary fix.  Computers just get old and this was taking three or four minutes to start up and keeling over with more than five or six tabs open on Chrome.  Spotify was slow enough to be unusable to the point that I unsubscribed and moved over the Amazon Music (not that I'm in a hurry to switch back).  Time and tide.

This is now being typed into a HP Elite 8300 SFF Quad Core i5-3470 3.20GHz with 8GB of memory and a 256 GB solid state hard drive (my primary storage is a connected external disc).  Despite being (a) refurbished and (b) being originally manufactured in 2012, it's the fastest machine I've ever used.  Thanks to the SSD, start up takes seconds as does shut down and apps load almost instantaneously.  Web pages appear super fast.

There's nothing more to it than that, there isn't some amazing story here, other than that buying refurbished hasn't so far been the disaster that some sites suggested it might be.  The label on the top says Windows 7 but it's running Windows 10, but other than that it feels brand new.  About the only upgrade I'm considering is an extra graphics card but frankly since I don't play new games, I can't yet see what the benefits would be.  Chuckie Egg plays perfectly fine.

Rise of the Lichens.

Life  Turns out for forty-three years I've been carrying a genetic disorder. In about March I noticed a white mark running down the middle of my tongue and that food tasted weird. A pharmacist thought it might have been just that I'd scalded my tongue, but after seeing the dentist for my regular check-up I was referred up the dental hospital.

The appointment was yesterday. After ninety minutes of interrogation and prodding about in here by some dental students and their lecturer, at one point involving an actual ruler to measure the length of some of the more obvious white patches in my gum, I was told that I wasn't treatable.  I have Oral Lichen Planus, an auto-immune disorder caused by the body being at war with itself. 

Aesthetically its about as bad as it can get.  I strenuously suggest you don't look at this Google image search which is filled with cases far worse than mine.  You looked, didn't you.  Well, it's you're own fault and Nick Ross isn't going to save you this time.  It looks a bit like Oral Thrush, but whereas that can be fixed with some anti-fungal gel, this is just something you have to live with.

Apparently it could clear itself up in a couple of years.  Or never go away - some patients have had it for decades.  But it shouldn't be effecting taste, so I'm also visiting the hospital for a blood test to check for a zinc deficiency and biopsy out of an abundance of caution that it's not something more serious.  There is a cancer risk, 1% in ten years or some such.

But the general message was that this is nothing to worry about which is useful considering my other condition where that's the last thing on my mind.  The shift up 100mg seems to be working well and the side effects have subsided again.  Yesterday morning I felt nervous before the appointment, but what I like to call "proper" anxiety, the kind which subsides when you know you're going to be ok.

Basmati Brie.

Film The other day I renewed my NOWtv Sky Cinema package because (a) there was a three months for ten pounds offer which is extremely cheap (b) the whole thing will be owned by someone other than Murdoch in the next couple of months anyway and (c) it meant I could finally watch Bismati Blues, the Brie Larson starring romcom which managed to dodge both a theatrical and home release in the UK despite having an oscar winning star.

You might remember the trailer from last year.  It's the one which looked like a right up dated white saviour film in which Brie Larson seems to pop up in India to fight for the local "peasants" against an evil conglomerate surrounded by stereotypes and racist portrayals.  It was suggested by some that it had been dredged up from Larson's past, an early film made before her career properly coagulated as a cash grab from a production company which was trying to cash in on some old turkey.

Except, as this very good interview with the filmmakers from Vulture explains although you could argue about how successfully India is portrayed in the film (this Hindustan Times review is scathing) Brie participation is rather more complex.  Unlike this Variety review which suggests she began shooting before Short Term 12 put her on the map, Larson had actually completed shooting on that before she joined Basmati Blues (with shooting taking place during the gap before ST12 was released properly at cinemas).

But that's when it gets interesting.  That initial shoot was a washout: monsoon season descended destroying sets and leading to cast and crew being evacuated.  Not enough footage was shot and when what they'd manage to record had been assembled it was far from a completed film.  But they'd run out of money, despite the whole thing being bank rolled by George Soros's nephew.  Seriously, the films weird, but the production process is somehow weirder.

So they bided their time and eventually having added some SFX to what they had, they convinced the financiers to give them some more money to go in an shoot enough material to complete the footage:
"By the time reshoots began in 2015, nearly all of the crewmembers, Indian and American, returned. Larson did too, even though by this point she had already shot Room, the movie that would win her the Oscar, and there was nothing in her contract that said she had to come back. Had the actress wanted Basmati Blues to stay hidden forever, she could have easily let it. That she didn’t is perhaps proof she really did care about the movie’s message."
So yes, contrary to every review you've probably seen, Larson cared about this project enough that she returned to complete reshoots after Room (which also makes me wonder exactly which footage is from which shooting period).  Which just goes to show that with filmmaking assuming a thing does not necessarily mean its true and some film reviewers need to do more research.   No one knows anything.

But what of the film?  It's bonkers.  Going in, I had no idea it was a musical (the trailer's a bit vague on that point) so imagine my delight when Brie began singing in the opening the scene and I remained gobsmacked for the rest of the duration.  It's rubbish, of course, and the charges of racist stereotyping aren't entirely wrong headed, it does have a shout out to Gurinder Chadha at one point).

Mostly because of Larson, you do end up just going with it in the end.  Any film which drops in a Busby Berkley inspired number starring Donald Sutherland and Tyne Daley has to at least be hate watched.  It also has Scott Bakula who eventually leads a giant song and dance number, a section which I'm guess has to have been shot in 2015 while is was on a break from one of those acronym shows.

Despite what the trailer suggests, it's almost the exact opposite of a white saviour film. She's in India to destroy the welfare of the local rice farming community on behalf of a multinational conglomerate by selling them sterile seeds.  As the filmmakers themselves admit, they were naive when writing the ending (most of which is in the trailer) but it is ultimate the Indian characters who save themselves and anything she does is by way of correcting her own horrendous mistake.

Overall it's worth seeing for Brie who belts out what are pretty good old school tunes (I've been listening to the soundtrack a lot since) even if the book doesn't quite hold together.  Larson's next seen in her directorial debut, Unicorn Store, which emerges in the UK at the end of this month and then it's Captain Marvel next year.  Hopefully playing a superhero doesn't mean she's completely given up on weirdy indie projects completely.

Powell Estate 2005.

TV Almost as though it was planned that way while classic Who propels along on Twitch (they grappling with The Gunfighters right now), the BBC have uploaded the whole of Doctor Who since 2005 onto the iPlayer with an expiry of about six months. There are some gaps - none of the animated series or crossovers with other shows - but nevertheless we're now in a situation where its possible to watch both televisual epocs for free.  The show has never been this accessible before.

In the half hour before I have to go to bed, I think I'll try and choose my favourite stories from the revival period, roughly one per season, with a link back to my original review and the opening paragraph of each just to bulk this out a bit.  Yes, new readers I have reviewed every episode since the show returned and much more beside.  Yes kids, that was my review of Blink.  It made sense that night if you'd watched Doctor Who Confidential (ask your parents).

Rose:
"The downloadable screensaver from the official website which until seven o'clock tonight has been counting down until the start of the new series of Doctor Who now simply says 'The Invasion Begins...' Somehow I don't think it means the brief sound bleed of Graham Norton creeping in from BBC3 just as new companion Rose was being menaced for the first time by the Autons (who oddly weren't named this time out). It was an own goal from the BBC on what is one of the most important broadcasting nights of the year. But you know what I'm willing to forgive them."

School Reunion:
"A photograph appeared in both Radio Times and Doctor Who Magazine of The Doctor embracing Sarah Jane Smith and to meet it felt like for the first time the old and new shows were joining together, that the past and present would finally become one continuity, with new fans and viewers being given a reason to revisit those old stories. It felt right. It felt good. Then I saw tonight's episode and I still can't believe just how right, and how good, this adventure would be."

Blink:
"Sorry Mr Tennant, I don't actually have first memory of Doctor Who. Actually I generally draw a blank on whole sections of my childhood and I have a horrible feeling that like the shadows that follow Jim Carrey about during the eternal sunshine of his spotless mind every now and then whole decades are doomed to become blurry, only memorable through the application of my videos of the 'I Love...' series of the early naughties. Who knows, in about ten years time I might look back at this review and ponder exactly where it came from."

Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead:
"Blimey. Last week’s strategic announcement that the writer of this episode Stephen Moffat would be taking over the stewardship of the franchise was perfectly timed to keep the series in the public mindscape during the Eurovision stink and add to our expectations for his next story. All eyes would be on this opening episode, perhaps with some viewers not wanting to watch the dancers, acrobats and jugglers on the other side tuning in to see how good a writer this new producer is. It’s a disappointment to report then that at just the moment when the franchise had to produce one of its best stories ever we were presented with Moffat’s worst script, a cloggy, poorly written disappointing dirge that all seemed to take place in the same room, lacked mystery or excitement and frankly if any of his writing for the fifth series is this bad then there’s unlikely to be a sixth."

Planet of the Dead:
"Now that the Doctor Who Forum becomes a members only club after a ‘major event’ like the broadcasting of a new episode, I decided to search Twitter to find out what other people thought of Planet of the Dead. Unsurprisingly, even though a percentage of twittererers are the 'not we' or 'casuals', the comments are much the same a mix of ‘it was the shits’ and ‘it was shit’ along with people wanting to communicate the fact they recorded it/forgot it was on and that Russell T Davies is rubbish/God that David Tennant should/shouldn’t be going and that Michelle Ryan is well fit/too posh (I’m paraphrasing). In fact the only different I can see between Twitter and the discussion board formerly known as Outpost Gallifrey is that people tend to use their own faces as their avatars rather than a shot of Beacon Alpha Four and no one’s asked in which year it was set and the UNIT Dating implications."

The Eleventh Hour:
"When Steven Moffat’s stewardship of Doctor Who began in earnest there was a moment when he had to sit down and ask David Tennant if he wanted to continue. There was a moment, just a moment mind you, when Tennant’s mind must have raced with the possibilities. Another year. Just one more year. Maybe two. "

The Doctor's Wife:
"We’ve always suspected it and now Neil Gaiman has provided a confirmation. Over the years, over its forty-seven years, Doctor Who has invented itself and reinvented itself, its premise, bolting on new mythology, discarded other pieces that have stopped working, just like the characters of Auntie and Uncle in The Doctor’s Wife in fact, and more often than not it’s changed our perception of the stories which have gone before. It’s impossible to watch the sixties episode now without thinking of the Doctor as a Time Lord, the Meddling Monk too, even though the word wasn’t even uttered for six years. Similarly ever since the TV movie we’ve all had that nagging doubt about his parentage."

Hide:
"Who in the what now with that pronunciation of Metebelis III? Really Matt Smith? Really? Though to be fair it’s not necessarily his fault. With his Troughton fixation he’s probably not seen The Green Death or Planet of the Spiders but no one else on the production has an excuse, especially the usually meticulous Steven Moffat who must have sat through the episode a couple of times before broadcast. Given that this was the first episode recorded of a very long shooting schedule, how could there not have been a moment during the ADR session when Matt was asked to pronounce it properly. Or is this Steven’s attempt at creating a new potato/patato or more accurately Uranus/Uranus for the Whoniverse?"

The Day of the Doctor:
"Right then here we are. It’s the evening after the night before, Adele’s on, and I really don’t want to be here, which I appreciate isn’t the best way to start any review, but when it’s a review you really don’t want to write, it’s probably perfect. You know when … I mean when … well … there we are. See, can’t even get my words out. But yes, if ever there was a time when I didn’t want to be sitting at a keyboard tapping away it would be now. There are certain moments in a fans life when they’re facing up to the fact that having made a promise earlier in their life, they want to do everything in their power to break it. So when I promised myself of all people that I’d review my way through all broadcast nuWho (and it’s spin offs), you know as a bit of a challenged, I’d be faced with something as patently unreviewable as The Day of the Doctor."

Robot of Sherwood:
"Just over ten years ago, your writer, not longer after watching the director’s cut of A Californian Archer in the Sheriff's Court decided to visit Nottingham and “do the Robin Hood” thing. Even on the six hour train journey down, or down and across, a bit, he didn’t have much of an idea of what to expect other than to see perhaps the castle. Thanks to the sheer longevity of this blog you can read about the whole thing here (I’ve now been writing this for a third of my life) including the visit to said castle where, after some haggling over guide books and what was their lack of interest in selling me one, the clerk behind the counter informed me that Robin Hood didn’t exist. "

Heaven Sent:
"He’s not is he? Is he? Since 1996, many is the spin-off story written to account for the Eighth Doctor’s “joke” about being half-human on his mother’s side and here we are in 2015 on the cusp of a massive episode about the Doctor returning to his home planet and having revealed that it’s not in fact the Daleks with which a Time Lord has been hybridised but some other warrior race and since it is apparently the Doctor who is the hybrid, well there can be only one answer to that conundrum."

The Empress of Mars:
"Good evening ladies and other genders, I give you my favourite episode of the series so far. No purportedly clever opening paragraph here, no wandering off into some personal blogging cul-de-sac in an attempt to put off the inevitable shrugs and sighs, The Empress of Mars is a winner, baby, and that's the truth (that's the truth). Woo-hoo. If this is Mark Gatiss's last episode for the television series (not that there's any indication of that), it's a pretty good summation of his favourite tropes and ideas, a televisual Last of the Gaderine so authentically Who that it demonstrates once again that for all Steven Moffat's reliance on showrunners nervously turning out a first Who script which in the end feels like the work of someone who only thinks they know the franchise, it's no replacement for someone who has it running through their creative veins and written more stories about the Doctor than anyone else this series."

You May Leave.



About Another month, so another new blog banner. Make way for ...

June Thorburn

... a character actress who worked mainly in the 1940s and 1950s, but whose life was tragically cut short in a plane crash in the 1960s [wikipedia].

London 1965.

TV Back in the Wilderness years when I became a Doctor Who fan, the ability to access old episodes fell between sell-thru VHSes when I could afford them, loans from friends and the off-air recordings from UK Gold my Auntie was good enough to capture. My first purchase was The Keeper of Traken at the exhibition in the Dapol factory in Llangollen. Although I managed to snag and watch a fair amount of the television series, it wasn't until the dvd releases that I really began to collect them. Even then it took until 2013 when I watched the whole of the series in one go, did the pilgrimage, that I finally saw Terror of the Zygons and listened to a number of the missing episodes for the first time.

Imagine my surprise and curiosity that right now, as I type, the gaming website Twitch is streaming almost the whole of Doctor Who in a marathon series of broadcasts for the next few months, barring orphan episodes and curiously the Dalek stories from the 1980s.  As I type, The Dalek Invasion of Earth is playing at the moment, Susan and David diffusing a bomb.  I didn't see television's Dalek Invasion of Earth until the DVD release (although the film version was well known to me) yet here it is streaming for anyone who's interested and even on a television if you have the wherewithal to cast the stream to a Chromecast or what have you.  If this had been available when I was first becoming a fan, I expect I'd be watching all night.

But for us old schoolers (I've been at this since the 1990s so I can't deny it any more), the real curiosity is the chat stream which runs up the side of the browser window which allows the up to eleven thousand viewers to comment on what they're watching, and its here we can see young fans, perhaps whose only exposure is the revival seeing these Hartnell stories for the first time.  Now I don't really understand live tweeting a drama when it's the first time you've seen it, but you know kids but what's here is fascinating as they notice most of the things which have been in-jokes for years or ask questions about who everyone is and best of all, create new memes which would never have occurred to us before.

Example: between episodes, Twitch are running a trailer for the particular era being shown and at the moment that includes a clip from The Chase of the school teachers  finally making their way home and Ian's exclamation, "Its London 1965!" and ever since the chat box has been filled with commenters repeating the phrase or versions of it.  But the love for Ian and Babs has been charming.  Even before The Daleks/The Mutants/The Dead Planet or whatever had completed broadcast, they'd already begun 'shipping them.  They really love Barbara.  They'll be crushed when she's gone some time in the next couple of days given the relentless nature of these broadcasts.  But it does suck you in.  Despite having a mountain of Big Finish to catch up on, and everything else, I'm really tempted to watch all of this again.

Watching these comments is addictive and it's a draw just to see what they make of the various reveals and cliffhangers (assuming someone doesn't come in and spoil everything).  The Rescue's playing later and I'm half tempted to stay up just to see what they make of Koquillian.  How many will have been indoctrinated enough so that when Sixy strangles Peri it'll be treated with the correct level of revulsion?  Or will they, like much of the contemporary tv audience become bored by then and moved on to something else with just a hardcore couple of thousand still tuning in? Oh sorry, Ian's just encountered a slither which has led to this comment: "Brain it with a rock like the Doc did the cavemen, Ian!"  Lest we forget that Hartnell's Doctor was a dodgy old soul at the beginning.

The nature of fandom has regenerated.  The recent idiotic criticism of the changes in Doctor Who Magazine to skew their coverage towards the new crop of fans with cosplay tips and a younger Time Team ignores the fact that this is a family show and more than that, if it spends its time trying to cater for older fans rather than embracing inclusivity, it'll kill the thing stone dead, just as it did in the mid-80s.  We might not quite understand what's happening in that chat box, what the thing is with the avatar faces or the capital Fs or why London 1965 has become such a popular thing to repeat but that's ok.  We have the eyepatch joke, the toilet in Tooting Beck, the lightbulb, "No, no, not the mind probe" and whatever the illustrators were snorting during the production of the 1977 annual.

Of course, a dozen thousand people watching a live stream won't necessarily have a huge cultural impact but it will surely make memories.  Instead of "Do you remember sitting around in that tent at Longleat watching a tenth generation copy of The Horns of Nimon", it'll be, "Remember when Twitch streamed all those Doctor Who stories for free"?  The fact that these fifty year old shows are attracting an audience is nothing short of miraculous and apart from anything else, it's giving these young viewers an education in the history of television.  Perhaps some of them will move on to finding out how the episodes were made and which will spur them to go into working in television themselves.  What Twitch is doing right now is a precious gift and we should all be grateful.

Red Dress in a Solo Class.

Life Once again in Asda last week picking up the medicine for my overactive bladder (my water sample was clear so it's not an infection), I had my ear pointed towards the ceiling attempting to work out if its the Mutya or Amelle version of Red Dress playing on the supermarket radio station. Every occasion I have a different answer never quite able to pin it down. Mutya's vocal is clearly superior but Amelle's not really being herself on that track - she's attempting to recreate the vocal and fit in with what's already been recorded so the whole thing doesn't go completely off the rails. The fact that I can't tell the difference probably says a lot about the success of the enterprise.

Item!  Oddly pleased to see that Class is being revived by Big Finish.  The show had potential, it's the writing which went off the rails as the show continued.  Plus it was a concept designed for the longer US style season but trying to squeeze itself into eighth episodes so didn't have the time to establish its characters or their relationships properly.  There hasn't been announcement on the Big Finish website but Nick Briggs has been retweeting tweets referencing it and there's this:



Really great list of writers, especially Jenny Colgan, though it's notable Patrick Ness isn't mentioned in the article. One slight element of concern is that for all the injection of proper Who, this is set "during the televised run" which suggests it won't deal with the cliffhanger so it's not really a second series, but more of the first series. Huh.

Item!  For some reason I'm in no rush to see Solo which seems to have been the audience's approach in general with the disappointing box office (which as ever would be gangbusters anyway for most releases, but Star Wars is Star Wars).  It's really difficult see why you would want to learn about the early life of a character when you know their future is filled with such tragedy and horror and you're going to spend the whole film mentally compensating for them being played by a different actor.  NuTrek made recasting the leads part of the story's DNA, whereas Solo is saddled with having to be a direct prequel.  But I will go, eventually, probably next week.  Along with Deadpool 2 finally.  Hopefully.

Item!  Last Wednesday brought my increase to 100mg of anxiety medicine and I don't feel much different although given that one of the side effects can be short term memory loss, perhaps I just haven't remember what it was like before the transition.  Actually, my heart doesn't feel like its beating as rapidly as before and I haven't been nodding off in front of the television as much as before so I suppose that's good.  Plus I'm able to sit and write this so that has to be step in the right direction even if my creativity in general is at an all time low.  Speak soon.

"Today was about as much fun as a sandpaper dildo."

Film I'll let this Twitter thread tell the story:



How disappointing.  Not as disappointing as it must have been for the lady audience member carrying a large box of popcorn and a bottle of apple Tango who muttered as we were leaving, "I booked a day off for this".

There's a strange emptiness which comes from being excited to do a thing, planning your day around it and then the thing not happening. 

I came home and watched the British psychothriller The Ones Below, which is fine even if the ending needed someone with a keen eye to point out that the surprising twist really isn't and edit accordingly.

It's not Picturehouse at FACT's fault and they're now struggling with a screen down and having to reschedule all kinds of screenings in order to acomodate the Deadpool 2 crowd:


Lots of people will be entering the cinema today who may not know about the fault expecting to see one of these films.  Hopefully they'll be understanding and treat the staff well.