Things I'm Watching on YouTube #1:
Be Kind Rewind.



Video  Few YouTube channels come nicher than Be Kind Rewind which investigates the winners of the best actress categories at the Oscars, using this moment of success to talk about the film making business at that time, why the particular actress may have won that award, gender politics and race and a whole lot more besides.

BKR only posts once a month. These are authored, researched essays.  But I've learnt more about film history from these videos than many other sources.  Plus its great for seeing clips of films which time has forgotten.  Her most recent video is the longest yet, about the "feud" between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, debunking Ryan Murphy's tv series as a sham and lies.

The Sixteenth Book I've Read This Year.



Books Mark Kermode recommended this after an interview on the film review show when all Richard Dreyfus wanted to talk about was what a shit Michael Cimino had been rather than publicise his new release.  It's stunning a stunning memoir covering the production of all the films on the cover plus Convoy, The Wicker Man and The Man Who Fell To Earth.  Not just a string of showbiz annecdotes (all of which are incredibly funny and illuminating), it demonstrates in detail the role of the producer in putting together packages to sell to studios and working on set day-to-day to keep the production moving on budget and schedule.  Essential.

Ebi Obegbuna's Wind Verses Polygamy.

TV Earl Cameron and a lost play.
John Wyver writes extensively about the lost recording of writer Ebi Obegbuna's play Wind Verses Polygamy.  I wonder at what point our cultural attitude to television changed from it being thought of as being just as ephemeral as theatre because it was rarely repeated and being disgusted that such items are no longer available in the archive.  When the BBC began its retention policy?  When the first domestic VHS recorders were produced?  The first commercial video tapes making some of this material available and therefore leading us to wonder what could be made available? 

Thandie Newton on everything.

Film In Conversation: Thandie Newton.
Astonishingly frank interview in which she describes what was tantamount to abuse on the set of Crash, being fucked around by the racist producer of Rogue and bow she nearly had the Lucy Liu role in Charlie's Angels but the producers wanted her to be more stereo-typically "African-American".

Rethinking the Film Canon.

Film Rethinking the Film Canon. Important essay on how the so-called film canon was originally shaped by white voices.  The canon became frozen some time in the past century even though there are dozens of films which are worthy of consideration in the same breath as Kane or (god forbid) Nation.  It'll be genuinely interesting to see how much the Sight and Sound list changes in 2022 with the prevalence of streaming services and hopefully a greater diversity of voices involved.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.



Language Watching the above episode of Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man I discovered just how offensive to some the term "African American" can be. It's used as a blanket description for those who also may have their heritage elsewhere, such as the Caribbean and those who don't identify with being African because that heritage was stripped from them because of slavery. But I also see that it's a way of "othering" because White people in the US are rarely referred to as Euro-American, for example.  In news and police reports, suspects are often called White or African American, which is ridiculous.  So the least offensive term is Black, which seems to be what we use in the UK now for the most part.

The Juror's Story (Short Trips: Repercussions)

Prose A clever, funny story even if I'm not completely on-board with the conclusion (spoiler alert). A riff on 12 Good Men starring all of the Doctor's incarnations up until then banding together to save one of their own.  It's told from the point of view of one of the jurors who's slowly manipulated by these various Doctors dropping in across time until he reaches the same conclusion they do, or have to, about the accused and his actions. In which case you might then wonder why he has to be pulled out of time as happens at the close of the story. If it's because he now believes there to werewolves in the world, then considering what else is common knowledge that seems a bit unfortunate. If it's because the Doctors have weakened the web of time and he's at the epicenter of the distortion, that makes the Doctor no better than the Weeping Angels. Doctor Who in the early zeros was a weird, weird place.
Placement: Early. In the Greenpeace gap for old times sake.

The Time Lord's Story (Short Trips: Repercussions)

Prose What a pleasure. Set directly after the Big Finish version of Shada, this has the Doctor and K9 investigating genetic skulduggery on Gallifrey in which (spoiler alert) we discover a renegade time lord is attempting to give his race infinite regenerations using vampire blood. Back in 2004 this must have seemed like an utterly bizarre notion, the usual mad scientist fare for the Doctor to step in on. Now we can enjoy the irony of a character who unknowingly already has that ability stopping someone from triggering it in everyone else.  Genuinely this could be one of my favourite Eighth Doctor stories.  Iain McLaughlin & Claire Bartlett catch his voice and action perfectly, President Romana is at peak haughtiness and one off companion and proto-Osgood fan girl Tianna leaps off the page.  But it's also a classic romp, with running and screwball ratatat and feels much longer than its twenty-odd pages, in a good way.
Placement: After Shada (Shaaadaaaa!).

Repercussions... (Short Trips: Repercussions).

Prose Gary Russell's Repercussions sits very badly with me, for some reason. The Doctor is a time/space event with a personality and even in his Eighth incarnation he's made some wildly questionable decisions.  But the idea that he has an airship in a time loop for hiding people who's existence could mess up history often because a mistake he's initially made is awful however many of them "understand" why he did it. Never cruel or cowardly?  This is both.  I know that this is largely a Chaucerian framing device for this Short Trip, it also doesn't make much sense that this early in their travels Charley would discover all of this and then still be OK with being with the Doctor and spend half of her visit in this pocketverse justifying his actions.  It's also that he's apparently been doing this through various incarnations and she might still be at it for all we know.  Is this where Aramu disappeared off to when he was attacked on the beach in Praxeus?  Gary also implies that Grant Markham and Sam Jones have also been stashed here (this was in the period when Big Finish was distancing itself from the continuity in the novels).  Hopefully this is one of the things which was wiped out during the Time War because, jeez.
Placement: Just after Swords of Orion.

Lockdown Links #14



New On Streaming Services:

Little Joe which was released theatrically just before the lockdown, is now available on the BFI Player, both stand alone and Amazon Prime flavours. It's fine, unless you know a tiny area around Hope Street, Myrtle Street and Catherine Street in Liverpool as you spend the whole film shaking your head at the wonky geography. The Foresight Centre is not a school. Is it supposed to be set in Liverpool? No one has an accent despite the shots of the Everyman, down Duke Street towards the Liver Buildings and the interior of the Philharmonic Pub. It's really quite unsettling.

In some ways the how Little Joe is filmed and the substance reminds me of a Liverpool Biennial commission. Without the dramatic elements, if it was just the shots of people tending the flowers, you could imagine it projected on a wall at FACT. That's a complement. Other than that it's a creepy attempt to redo Star Trek's This Side of Paradise in a cold, metropolitan setting.

Netflix's Homemade is a series of short films made in lockdown by major directors and stars. Features Ladj Ly, Paolo Sorrentino, Rachel Morrison, Pablo Larrain, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kristen Stewart and Gurinder Chadha:

Staged, the new sitcom starring the Tenth Doctor and and the man RTD and Moffat joked about taking over the role in the Forest of the Dead podcast commentary is on the iPlayer in full and utterly beguiling.  In my head canon it's set in the same satirical universe as The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

The Color of Time, a 2012 art piece about Pulitzer Prize winner C.K. Williams directed by twelve film students at New York University featuring Jessica Chastain and Mila Kunis has turned up on Amazon Prime under the UK title Forever Love and advertising which makes it look like a romcom.  It is not.

Britbox now has a selection of archive episodes from World In Action. The selection seems to be based tangentially with current affairs. There's a piece from '89 about three journalists racing across London using different types of transport and from '92 about twenty people applying for jobs at Manchester City Council.

Links:

What If Moviegoing Is No Longer Fun? The Frightening Realities of COVID-19 Exhibition:
Indiewire on the practicalities of cinema going pre-vaccine. "Movie theaters are made for escape, but that’s a tough proposition if they look like a death trap."

A Decade of Sun:
NASA timelapse of Sol revolving over a ten year period.

Was Penny Lane really named after the slave merchant James Penny?
Incredibly detailed exploration on how Penny Lane was named and where the myth of its connection to the slave owner spread from.

The Observer view on the inept and dangerous handling of the easing of lockdown:
The Observer's Editorial about the mishandled easing of the lockdown. Key sentence: "Social distancing now designated at “one metre plus” had predictably collapsed to one metre minus." People are trusting a government which persistently lies.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK:
If you want to keep an eye on UK Coronavirus disease 2019 cases/deaths, they're available on this page at gov.uk.

Jesus Christ, Just Wear a Face Mask!
Metafilter user 109 has had enough of your anti-mask bullshit. I agree. Any time I leave the flat I wear a mask and gloves, even just to visit the front door of the block to pick up a Deliveroo order.  It's a tiny inconvenience and if we were all doing it, could save many lives.

The Time Ball (The Many Lives of Doctor Who).

Comics Published as "issue 0" of a new run of stories about The Thirteenth Doctor by Titan Comics, this pulls together tales about each of the Doctor's incarnations including War around the theme of the number thirteen, all written by Richard Dinnick, Who spin-off veteran and illustrated by a variety of artists.  Some stories are more substantial than others, the writer often selecting less obvious TARDIS teams, so Ben, Polly and Jamie with Second, Sarah Jane with Third and the crews in Titan's own Eighth, Tenth and Eleventh series.

Which means we have another short adventure for Eighth and Josephine Day, on this occasion trying to send an alien who's been captured by the British Zoological Society in 1833 back to her ship.  As with most of the stories in the book, we're witnessing the final moments of the action, with the pace of a Doctor Who Adventures installment, but it's just enough to remind me how interesting this team is and how much a further run of stories would be appreciated.  The Eighth Doctor just seems so happy here, which has been a rarity in his portrayal lately.

Placement:  Before The Lost Dimension apparently.

We Can't Stop What's Coming (The Target Storybook).

Prose Whenever these multi-Doctor anthologies are announced, it's always with the curiosity of how they'll deal with Eighth. For most of the time, it's a generic Doctor in what has to be an early adventure or most recently it's the Time War. But every now and then, there's a unicorn. Colour me amazed on opening The Target Storybook to find a missing adventure for Eighth, Fitz and Trix.  You can imagine my awe at having read said adventure and realised that it could be set after The Gallifrey Chronicles and prefigure the arms race that has become a key factor in the Time War. I mean really.  Thank goodness there are shortages due to the lock down or I might have ended up in hospital due to the amount squee seeping out of my various orifices.

Published a whole fourteen years after this TARDIS crew's last adventure which ended on a cliffhanger, goodness knows what children and young adults made of this if they'd picked it up due to Jodie Whittaker's face on the cover (along with all of the Doctor's other incarnations - and Adric for some reason) (yes, I know, Matthew Waterhouse has written the Fifth Doctor bit).  The writer, Steve Cole (old EDA show runner and editor of this anthology) makes few concessions to the reader in explaining who Fitz and Trix are, even their appearance, with the former narrating half the story in the first person.  Perhaps some kids are wondering which television series featured this crew.  Or there are others seeking out their other adventures online and god knows what they'll make of Sometime Never ...

This being the literary equivalent of meeting some old friends on a train platform just long enough to say "Hello" and "Whatcha doin?" before you go your separate ways, it's a pretty simply story about time paradoxes, although Steve doesn't go completely down the rabbit hole and start throwing words like "faction" around.  That would be silly.  It's an immensely brutal story, which fits neatly with the novels of that period just before Cardiff steered the franchise back to its family roots with Trix's sadism in particular accurately portrayed.  Then after a couple of dozen pages, they're gone again, back into literary history.
Placement: There's isn't anything to really indicate where this happens in the latter stages of the EDAs but I'm adding it after The Gallifrey Chronicles anyway.

Notre Dame du Temps (Short Trips: Companions)

Prose Anji! The Seventh Doctor on his way to San Francisco! Amnesiac Eighth Doctor! City of Death! Published in April 2003, around the time of both the release of an official Ninth Doctor story and the announcement of an even more official one, it's tempting to see Notre Dame du Temp as a reminder of the rich mythology developed during the wilderness years in a moment went it was possible that these new series would reboot it all.  Except, the BBC Books series still had a couple of years to go.  This is from the same month Reckless Engineering was published and features elements which were continuity right then.  How was that possible?  I'm also intrigued to know who the writer is.  This is Nick Clarke's single Doctor Who contribution and yet this as accurate a depiction of that period and characters as you'll find.  It has to be a pen name surely?
Placement: Since the focus of the timeline is the Eighth Doctor himself, based on his cameo I've placed it just before Camera Obscura, when he gets his other heart back.

Femme Fatale (BBC More Short Trips)

Prose Paul Magrs' nostalgic throwback to the 60s has itself, twenty years on, become a bit of a nostalgic throwback.  Published three years on from the TV Movie, two years before the Big Finish audios, right in the thickets of the wilderness years with the franchise continuing to entertain its smallest audience ever in print and comic form.  For some reason, I entirely neglected to either read or review Femme Fatale at the start of this project fifteen years ago and so here we are, in the old review format, filling in a gap.

It's a culture shock to be back in the "With Sam" years, somewhere between The Scarlet Empress and Interference when the storytelling mode was often experimental and writers had license to produce stories with shattered timelines and unreliable narrators.  Magrs' story is the finale to an anthology which includes stories told in the format of a police statement, a second Doctor story set during season 6B and a prologue to The Romans from the Hartnell era about the budding romance between Barbara and Ian and how they came by the house.

Femme Fatale's Bayesian narrative presents a series of events around the attempted murder of Andy Warhol and expects the reader to cobble together what actually happened.  There are multiple versions of the Eighth Doctor and Sam Jones some of which are in Iris Wildthyme's own "biography", in the Doctor's rewrite of that text, a reimagining of Doctor Who reminiscent of Steed and Mrs Peel which could be either of the former and straight storytelling.  It's the kind of writing which is rarely sanctioned by Bristol now.

God, it's good.  Iris is in her full Barbarella bloom (making this prequel to The Blue Angel) and the writing evokes the freewheeling structure of Mary Harron's film I Shot Andy Warhol making it impossible not to see Lili Taylor in the Valerie Solanas.  Plus, let's be honest, it's a Doctor Who story about the shooting of Andy Warhol which is something you don't read every day.  I mean you could read it every day but I think even Paul would agree there are plenty of other stories in the world.

Placement: Most timelines put it between Beltempest and The Face Eater.

Forgotten (Short Trips: The Centenarian)

Prose Here we have the other side of the events in the prologue to this anthology. Having completely misunderstood what was happening in Dear John, I find this is actually another attempt to explain how the Master got back out into the world from within the innards of the TARDIS. Given this is a time travel show, there's nothing to say that what we see here is any more or less valid that the explanations given by subsequent audios. Time can be rewritten. This is otherwise a very poignant send-off for Edward Grainger in which we discover the extent to which he and the Doctor's lives became intertwined and are reminded once again how the Time Lord continues to make attachment only to have then stolen away by time.
Placement: With the Prologue.

Dear John (Short Trips: The Centenarian)

Prose One of a tiny group of stories from the "With Gemma and Samson" which the Eight Doctor promptly forgot about, which is something he's often prone to do. This brief glimpse of what a functioning story for this TARDIS team looks like suggests something akin to This Life featuring a grown up John and Gillian. It's also potentially a direct sequel to the prologue of this anthology, explaining what an entity which left Teddy Grainger's small body was and why, if I'd read the stories in between, there was something a bit off about him, the subsequent stories developing the aftermath.  This is a rich read with allusions to AA Milne and Poltergeist and neatly deals with the three in the TARDIS problem by having one of them getting absolutely blathered.
Placement:  The TARDIS Datacore suggests this might be post "With Mary".  Why not?

Prologue (Short Trips: The Centenarian).

Prose The aim of The Centenarian is to present the life of someone who constantly meets and aids the Doctor from his chronological or biographical perspective. This could be seen as a meditation on the nature of spin-off media, stories inserted between the gaps in the television continuity.  Here's a figure of huge importance in the Doctor's life that was previously hidden. The Prologue covers the birth of the protagonist, Edward Grainger, and is told from the point of view of a maid working in the Eaton Place-like setting, describing events and foreshadowing what's to come, a perspective at one remove from the position we're usually in during an adventure.  Since I'm focusing on the Eighth Doctor, I'll be diving straight into his main adventure within the anthology, but I'm intrigued enough to want to read the whole thing at some point.
Placement: The Doctor seems to be travelling alone so I'll arbitrarily put it between The Girl Who Never Was and Blood of the Daleks.

You Had me at Verify Username and Password (Short Trips: Snapshots)

Prose The central question I have about this simple whimsy is whether the Doctor himself is running the Nigerian 419 scam or someone who was somehow previously aware of his and Charley's existence and their connect to the the protagonist, Calabria, Fifth Moof of Trebidden. Despite what the TARDIS Datacore suggests, it simply doesn't feel in character for the Doctor to be taking advantage of the lovelorn in order to have a lot of money sent to him to get Charley out of jail when he has a sonic screwdriver and been in enough prisons himself to know the ins and outs. Plus the Earth is in jeopardy if he doesn't keep up repayments.  So no, I don't think this is about the Doctor, or at least not the real one.  Someone's hacked his MySpace.
Placement: Almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the Eighth Doctor ...

The Sorrows of Vienna (Short Trips: Snapshots).

Prose Oh, so that's what that is. If nothing else, Steven Savile's story has filled in a blank about the Doctor's attire. The scarf Eighth wears is more properly called an "ascot" which probably won't be a revelation to you, but as someone who's only just about social climbing from George at Asda to M&S, call me fascinated (and yes, I do know what a fascinator is). A celebrity historical in which the Doctor becomes embroiled in the lovers grief of Goethe and inspiring the writing of Faust, this shows the influence of The Unquiet Dead (broadcast a couple of years before). Savile writes with a richly detailed, literary style which enjoys picking out the details of the Viennese landscape and society. But he doesn't quite have the ear for the Eighth Doctor's voice, notably when he keeps referring to Goethe as "poet" when he would more than likely simply use his first name. 
Placement: A powerful statement about the Doctor's guilt on how he left things with Cr'zz and Charlotte, let's assume it's set in the otherwise unexplored gap between The Girl Who Never Was and Blood of the Daleks.

The Kemps: All True.



Music However much of a classic it's supposed to be, This is Spinal Tap felt unaccountably a bit flat. Perhaps I've seen too many real life documentaries since, the likes of Anvil: The Story of Anvil or Bros: After the Screaming Stops, which cover similar ground to Tap but feature real people. Enter The Kemps: All True, the new project from Rhys Williams, in which the real members of Spandau Ballet, both capable comic actors, bend themselves and their history into comic territory. The clips and cast look incredible although as you can see from the above embed, Williams hasn't really needed to push them in that direction too much ... [via].

NYCHistory:
New York on Film
in Chronological Order.



Introduction.

After ninety days in lockdown, my imagination is naturally trying to focus on other people and places, constantly reminding myself that there is a world outside of this tiny flat, somewhere I used to be and will be again.  One of, if not the key support in this has been film, with its capacity for time travel, to provide a window onto what we might describe as the before, when we didn't live in fear of others and the physical disaster they might accidentally inflict on us.

One of the places I keep returning to is New York.  Ever since my film diet evolved in my mid-teens, it's been impossible not to idolize it all out of proportion, fascinated by its size, its landmarks, its atmosphere.  Of course this is all through the filter of film and it's easy to romanticize a place when you've never actually been there, but at university, in halls, I'd sit in the doorway of my room and pretend it was the window ledge of a brownstone watching the world go by.

Why then create a chronology?  The idea's been swirling around me for a few months, as I wondered if it was possible to track the building and development of this metropolis through cinema, to see what the earliest narrative about the city is and compare period and historical films with the movies produced in the era they're depicting.  Would there be clustering around the larger events in the city's history?

Find the results below.  The spine of this list is a page at the Wikipedia which I've trusted to give me accurate information about when films are set, so there are bound to be errors and do let me know if you spot anything.  The plan is for this to be an organic chronology with films being added in and out if it's obvious that something should or shouldn't been in here.  It will continue to evolve, there are plenty of documentaries to add.

Some rules I've worked by.  The chronology only includes films intended for theatrical release.  There have been hundreds of television series and movies over the years about New York but the ultimate intention for the list is that someone might actually sit down and watch the films in a particular year or even the whole thing (if they do nothing else for the rest of their lives) and adding lots of television most of it probably unavailable would just complicate matters.

Other than that the list is inclusive for the most part.  If a film has any scenes set in New York, they're included, even if they weren't actually shot in the city itself.  It's about how the city has been depicted over the years  But it has to have scenes set in New York or be are about the city and its people.  Films which show and talk about the reality of 9/11 are in here, the many interchangeable conspiracy documentaries are not.

As to the date when a film is included, it's been a judgement call.  If a film covers a long time span, I've tried to place it in the moment when the city has the most impact on the story.  If it isn't a historical film, I've just assumed its set in the year of release based on the information available from the synopsis, watching the trailer and my own memory of seeing the film.  Again, there will be errors.  Do let me know etc etc.

Finally, the documentaries are marked in italics in case anyone decides to stick with reality, or at least reality through a documentarian's eye.  I haven't separated out the newer films set in an older period because it made the chronology even more difficult to read.  Plus its an incentive to click the link on an interesting sounding title and discover when the film was made in contrast with those around it.

If I've learnt anything from this exercise, it's that there are many films by well known directors with incredible casts which have become all but forgotten, especially from the 1960s and 1970s.  Remarkably a lot of them are available for rental on streaming services, so it's worth checking JustWatch if something takes your fancy.

Susan's War:
The Shoreditch Intervention.

Audio  As Eddie Robson explains in the behind the scene section of his contribution to Susan's War, when he wrote his Short Trip All Hands on Deck, it was with the expectation that it was to be her final adventure before the Time War with presumably the veiled references to her demise in the revival providing the melancholy conclusion to her story.

But understandably, with, as we saw with the Valeyard in the last Eighth Doctor box, Big Finish experimenting to see what happened to all kinds of supporting characters during this Whoniverse spanning moment, why not see how Susan Who would actually work for her people against the Daleks given that she's been away from her home planet for so long.

The solution is to turn her into a spy, of sorts, a kind of minister without portfolio probably being sent on the kinds of missions the Doctor would be if he'd agreed to work with them full time.  Initially diplomacy, then undercover, then as weapons inspector and finally as a CIA agent, each story demonstrates that her loyalties and ideologies have diverged from her grandfather.

The result is utterly superb.  From the first story which reintroduces her to the elderly Ian Chesterton (the timeline apparently having diverged since Death of the Doctor's concluding companion check-in) through the following invasion and base under siege, they're never less than exciting and nostalgic, sprinkling just enough kisses to the past without going to second Panopticon.

At the centre of proceedings is Carole Ann Ford.  With the exception of soap opera, are there any actors who've played a character so consistently across so many years?  Ford says that she had to keep reminding herself that she was playing the older Susan here, but that certainly doesn't show as we can still hear that she's the same person but with a new set of priorities.

The Shoreditch Intervention

When you see Alan Barnes's name on a story featuring the Eighth Doctor, you know it's going to be special.  As arguably Eighth's originator on audio, he always catches his voice so it's strange that this is the first time he's written the Time War version.  Typically, Barnes captures the Doctor's slight weariness at trying to keep to his own set of values intact while the universe crashes around him.

He also set himself the immense task of telling a story set between An Unearthly Child and Remembrance of the Daleks without sabotaging either of them and although it's sometimes challenging to have scenes from stories with twenty-five years between them in your memory, the fusion of classic, revival and wilderness mythology ultimately leads to something else.

Which isn't to say the story isn't a bit messy in place.  There are a couple of "What? What?!?" moments especially when causality goes out of the window which isn't something you expect to hear in an Eighth Doctor story.  Ahem.  But the reunion of Eighth and Susan helps to keep things grounded, their unlikely chemistry carried over from (jeez) nearly a decade ago.

There's also a good balance between keeping Susan prominent and giving Eighth his due.  One of the threads is in relation to her name.  Initially I thought this might be deep cut reference back to Sometime Never... but her TARDIS Datacore page suggests other shenanigans.  It's even suggested she might not be a Time Lord at all (which makes you wonder what she knows about the Doctor's origins).

Placement:  Perhaps around the time of his appearances with River Song and the War Master?

The Time War 3.

Audio Another winner. As I said last year, these Time War boxes are of incredibly high quality, as good a series of Doctor Who as we've seen across the decades. Unlike the boxes set earlier in his timeline, because they're threaded by an overall status quo rather than a plot shaped clothes line on which everything ultimately needs to be pegged, we're able to enjoy stand alone storylines that so far haven't become too bogged down in pointless chases for mcguffins or complex plots which are difficult to sustain across the nearly half decade release cycles they have now.  With the final box out towards the end of this year, I wonder what we'll hear next.

The box designs have changed ever so slightly on the website.  The first two boxes were called The Time War, but definitive article been removed for the cover now and then retrospectively edited for the first two and in a different font.  You can see why this has happened.  The first box had the Pertwee logo from the TV Movie emblazoned on it, the second the Whittaker logo from the Chibnall era and they wanted them to match the rest of the range too.  Plus Doctor Who merchandise wouldn't be Doctor Who merchandise if the spines matched.  It just wouldn't be right.  But I'm still keep the The in these post titles.  So nyer.

State of Bliss

By design, Bliss hasn't quite managed to gel in the same way as some of Eighth's previous travelling companions, mostly acting as a placeholder with some of the same mystery of Clara Oswald in her first eight episodes. Like Clara, State of Bliss makes her origins part of the antagonist's plot to trap the Doctor. The result is an ingeniously low key affair which mixes alternate realities and future probabilities in way which provides an expression for how the Time War is otherwise being fought.  One of those occasions when a relatively stand alone episode that's also connected to the overall theme of the series actually works.

The Famished Lands

Horrible.  Absolutely horrible.  Though I mean that in a good way.  For the most part this is pretty conventional "Doctor Who topples the morally ambiguous status quo" stuff but instead of burning down the house, he appreciates the difficult choices of the rulers and finds another way.  Who stories tend to include antagonists who're taking advantage of a situation for their own nefarious ways, to increase their political capital and power.  So it's an interesting change to find someone who is utterly awful yet you understand their point of view.  But the distinction is made with those who take such decisions for ideological reasons.

Fugitive In Time

Sometimes the ends don't justify the means.  The Doctor's in something of a bind.  He knows the Time Lords have become the despicable thugs that autocrats become in a war setting, but also that the Daleks are worse.  He can reason with his own people to some extent, whereas the pepper pots are just cunning exterminators.  Nevertheless there is a moment in here when you're not sure that he really trusts one of his fellow people or knows full well what she's about to do and lets her do it despite having spent half of the episode trying to stop them.  His open attempts to remain the benevolent alien are being stretched to the limit.

The War Valeyard

Superb.  One of the best aspects of the Time War stories is that it forces writers to ask what so and so would be doing during the conflict.  Some results have been more ingenious than others, but this is just about perfect.  On the one hand it's not really an Eighth Doctor story - he spends much it listening to exposition and only has a tangential part in the solution.  But it finally offers some idea of how the Valeyard both can and cannot exist and also how for all of his nefarious ways, the core being that is the Doctor remains the same no matter what outer shell and personality have been inflicted upon it.

The Fifteenth Book I've Read This Year.



Books Does this count as a single book given that it's about the length of a New Yorker article and it has "an essay" written on the cover? Well, since Amazon are selling it as a single entity, yes. Since Sedaris's work is often best heard than read, I bought the audiobook, in which the author narrates the piece in less than half an hour.

The tone is rather like one of his older This American Life contributions. He talks about his signing tours and how various themes often develop which leads to a very funny passage in which he finds himself having to search a town in order to hand a random stranger $50 (honestly this makes sense within context).
The results are hilarious. Would recommend.

The Spotify Playlist:
Revolution in the Headcover.



Music During the process of reading Ian MacDonald's Revolution in the Head, it became apparent to me that much of The Beatles' career was built on cover versions, which the author makes plain by placing the writer credits after the title for each track. Soon I was listening to the originals and comparing them to The Beatles versions which then led me to thinking about compiling a playlist which ultimately became a Spotify playlist covering the whole of their career, mixing the songs they recreated with their work being reinterpreted by others.

Unsurprisingly, almost every single song by the one of the most successful groups of the planet has been covered by someone even if it's an enterprise creating near identical versions to fill a gap before the back catalogue went to streaming.  On the three occasions when I couldn't find a viable replacement, I've chosen a different version to the one that's known.  The only occasion when I've selected a track credited to The Beatles over a cover version is A Long and Winding Road from the Let It Be ... Naked project, without Phil Spector's strings slathered all over them.

Otherwise, I've also tried to take a fairly scholarly approach.  If it's a song which Lennon/McCartney wrote for another band (eg, The Rolling Stones) which they also recorded, then the intended version is included.  If a track wasn't completed during The Beatles era but resurrected for a solo album, I've included that.  On a couple of occasions when a cover version simply isn't available, such as an instrumental, I've added something which influenced or was influenced by it instead.  Albertross.  Albertross.

Mostly this is just supposed to be a celebration of The Beatles place in musical history and their cross genre appeal.  Most of the great Beatles musicals are represented, although I couldn't in all conscience use the title cover for Across The Universe when the Fiona Apple version exists.  There are probably better variations of Yesterday, but I couldn't not include the Himesh Patel.  I am Sam is included thanks to Sarah Mclachlan putting her contribution, Blackbird, on a rarities compilation.  Enjoy. 

The Fourteenth Book I've Read This Year.



Music At the beginning of the year, I had such plans, one of which was to read at least a book a week. Then the lockdown happened and in order to keep my sanity, I've moved onto a project based mentality which is currently to watch my way through Kurasawa's career in the afternoons and a Eurovision Song Contest each evening. We'll see how long that lasts. At the start of the lockdown, I was going to watch lots of Shakespeare and read Plato's Republic but I feel like my brain's shrunk so you make do with what you have.

On the upside, it also means I'm now able to say I've listened to all of The Beatles back catalogue in chronological order thanks to the late Ian MacDonald's superb book and this Spotify playlist which sequences the tracks in the same order as his scholarship.  After stuttering through the incredibly dense introduction which puts the group in the context of the 60s, their cultural impact and vice-versa, I'd read the entry for a given a track the give it a listen through the author's critically constructive filter.

MacDonald doesn't pull punches in the way a disappointed fan often doesn't.  He approaches anything past Sgt Peppers with the caution many Doctor Who fans view the John Nathan Turner era, still sublime in many ways but never quite reaching the heights of past glories.  As is so often the case, once any of the fundamentals of what made an artistic endeavor good begin to dissipate, usually the harmony between creators, it can't be recreated.  Boringly for The Beatles, it was the usual rock and roll standbys of too many drugs and too much money.

But by god, when The Beatles were good, they were sublime.  Sat in my armchair with Spotify pumping the tracks through my TV speakers, I was frequently in awe at what was achieved back then and how much of popular music, yes, even now, was defined by them either through appropriation or as a reaction to it.  The era which the author dismisses out of hand due the group's drug filled miasma still managed to produce All You Need Is Love, I Am The Walrus and Hello, Goodbye (arguably due in part to the group's drug filled miasma). 

Economical too.  It's extraordinary how many of their most memorable songs are under two minutes long and only about a fifth of the tracks break the three minute barrier.  Just sixteen last longer than four minutes.  The longest, the magisterially avant-garde Revolution 9 clocks in at eight minutes twenty-two (the shortest is Her Majesty from Abbey Road at twenty-two seconds).  MacDonald isn't interested in such metrics though.  At the top of each entry is a list of credits, recording dates and other info, but not track duration.

At the end of this magical mystery tour, what I've I learned?  Chiefly and cruelly that Ringo couldn't sing, his only decent song Octopus's Garden, the Love album released many years after the group split up containing the best arrangement.  That it isn't George Harrison's guitar which gently weeps but Eric Clapton.  That the reason that half of the production on Let It Be album sounds out of place is because John had Phil Spektor complete the album without consulting the rest of the group, finally hammering the stake into the coffin of his friendship with Paul.

On a technical level that the songs were not recorded in any semblance of the order they appear on the album or as single units created one after the other.  Their earliest songs still required more than one recording day to get right through George Martin's steady hand.  Also that up until Sgt Peppers the US distributors often butchered the running order of those albums to create more releases which meant American audiences experienced the music in a vastly different container to the UK.  Now, bring on Eurovision.

Emergency Questions Twenty-One to Thirty.

Life Where next, Richard?

(21) How sensitive are your nipples?

Not at all, at least when I'm caressing them myself. Tough as bullets.

(22) Would you rather date a man who has a six foot tall penis or a man who instead of having a penis has a tiny man there?

Richard goes into some detail as to the nature of this tiny man, that he's wearing a suit and has his own personality which seems like an unnecessary distraction when you're trying to feel the love tonight. So I'd have to say the large penis. At the very least it would be a conversation piece.

(23) Have you ever come up with an idea for conceptual or performance art that you think is better than any of the guff that gets nominated for the Turner Prize?

This seems to exist as a feed line for some of Herring's material. There is a lot of tosh at the Turner Prize, but also every year something extraordinary, which was the case when it turned up in Liverpool twelve years ago. Although that Nathan Coley installation piece, in which he put wooden blocks on the floor across the doorways in his section which meant that people in wheelchairs had to phone ahead so the gallery staff could put in ramps was awful. But in general I'm too much of a fan of the arts to engage in such frivolity. Suckers.

(24) Are you ever mistaken for a celebrity? Which one?

Not specifically. Back before the great weight loss of 2013, a work colleague did suggest I look like a fat David Tennant. Which when I lost the weight you think would mean ... but no.

(25) Do you have any good ideas for terrorist atrocities?

My Marvel Cinematic Universe BDs are displayed in chronological rather than release order, with Captain Marvel between Agent Carter and Iron Man.

(26) What's the best advice you've ever received and ignored?

Eating fish is good for you. Can't stand the smell or taste (unless batter is involved).

(27) Have you ever had the opportunity to assassinate a public figure?

I actively try not to be in the same room as them in case something happens.

(28) Does sex with a robot count as cheating on your partner?

Yes. Absolutely.

(29) Why can't everyone be babies?

Considering the behaviour of some people during the lockdown, there's strong evidence that a large cross section of the population still are.

(30) Kettle crisps are not as nice as they once were. Have I changed, or have they? DON'T LET THEM ANSWER THAT! IT's RHETORICAL. If you could travel back in time and compare any food of today with an equivalent of the past: What time would you choose? Which food?

The 1990s and Fruitopia, a drink from the Coca-Cola Company so ahead of its time, it had Kate Bush compose the music for the adverts.



Snapple was no match for it. I've read that the name has continued use on other concoctions but it's the original and best which I ache for.

Watching Hitchcock's Downhill.



Film Just over ten years ago I set myself the task of watching all of Alfred Hitchcock's films in order and writing about them on the blog. A couple evaded me for reasons to do with no longer existing (The Mountain Eagle) or not being able to find a copy, which was the case with Downhill, his 1927 film riches to rags tale starring Ivor Novello.  Lately, I've been trying to catch up with films I hadn't gotten around to by selecting a random year (via Alexa) each night and finding something at home or on a streaming service and wouldn't you know 1927 popped up and I was reminded that Downhill is available on the BFI Player.  Time to fill in the gap.

As with most of his films from the silent era, Downhill doesn't really have much in common with his later work in narrative terms.  The BFI's synopsis suggests its "an early variation on his fabled ‘wrong man’ plot" but in all of the later examples, it's the spark for a propulsive suspense narrative whereas this is more of a morality or cautionary tale - it's Novello's choice not to reveal the truth.  But it is an excellent example of episodic storytelling in which a character finds themselves in a series of increasingly difficult situations, in this case through pride and fear, betraying its stage origins.  It was originally a west end play written by Novello himself and the actress Constance Collier.

Nevertheless Hitchcock's visual storytelling agility shines through.  One famous scene begins with Novello in a tux but as the camera pulls backwards he's revealed to be a waiter in a cafe, no, no, he's a thief, no no, he's actually standing on a stage set and he's part of the chorus.  The director has taken the audience's expectations of what they're seeing and turns it on his head, breaking our suspension of disbelief before putting is back together again.  He also repeats the symbolic motif of having Novello's character descend, down steps in school, an underground escalator (see above) and a lift after each emotional setback, literally going "down hill" only going up when he emerges into the light from the cargo hold of a ship.