TV This Metafilter thread in which the horde discover the Doctor Who Restoration Team features this heart stopping comment:
"Holy crap. I had a color videotape of this episode, recorded during its first run in US markets. It was great quality too, taken from cable TV via my local Public TV station, recorded on one of the first VHS decks that basically only did HQ recording. I bought the VHS deck just to record Doctor Who episodes.

Then sometime around 1983, my psychoexgirlfriend stole all my videotapes and threw them away. I had several of the legendary "missing episodes" on tape and she destroyed them. I am tempted to give her name and address to some fanatical Whovians."

Hamlet: The Game

Independent game producer mif2000 have produced an old school shareware point and click version of the play. A time limited version is available at this link, as well as a trailer. Author Deins Galanin has been interviewed by Joystiq:
One thing I'm proud of is the unique puzzles you won't see in any other game-they are very hard and extremely simple at the same time. However, my greatest pride is the way we managed to adapt the Hamlet story to the game's setting. At first glance, you may think that all the game and the play have in common is the title, but if you take a closer look, you'll realize that the game has all of the key events of the famous tragedy, as well as its main characters-although they're transformed nearly to absurdity.
I've not had time to play it yet, but the graphics bring to mind Ren and Stimpy and those other 90s Nickelodeon cartoons.


Life If I’ve seemed a bit discombobulated lately, it’s because, other than the heat (and where did that come from all of a sudden?), for the first time since 2007 I’m enjoying longer than three weeks away from work. A whole summer in fact. At the risk of offering some clues as to what my current work might be (in contravention of The Rules), I stopped work a week ago and won’t begin again – assuming I haven’t found a different job in the meantime – until September.

Looking at the calender, those three months seems like a very long time indeed. But already my guilt complex is settling in nicely, the psychological condition that suggests that whatever I’m doing, reading a book, watching a film, just well, nothing, I’m wasting my time. I shouldn’t feel this. I'm not a workaholic. I should just be enjoying the gap. In truth even as I type this, I’m wondering about all of the things I could be doing, even though this is the first time I’ve properly talked about myself here, in months, years even.

There are projects. Home painting to be done. I still have a few Hamlets to catch up on. There are the Public Art Collection In North-West England visits to complete, though I do seem to have left the territories on the outer rim to last. A random selection of books that have collected on shelves unread these past few years that I should probably do something about. Other adventures that might crop up in the meantime (financially viable suggestions welcome to the usual sources of communication). I will be busy. Yet, still, three months. And before I know it they’ll be over.
Elsewhere I've reviewed the latest (well, 2005) Penguin edition of Hamlet.

Hamlet (Penguin Shakespeare). Introduction by Alan Singfield. Text edited by Professor T. J. B. Spencer.

Who's There?

There’s something rather legendary about The New Penguin Shakespeare editions of his plays (for which a review copy was supplied). In nearly all of the television documentaries I've seen across the years, when actors are projecting at each other in rehearsal rooms they’ve almost all had an RSC now NT endorsed Penguin paperback sitting tightly in their hands or folding over by the spine. They’re very tactile, with their soft covers and thin paper, which make it possible to roll them up like scrolls and toss lightly to one side when the words are finally flowing from memory.


Clare Melinsky is a British illustrator specialising in lino-cuts in colour and black and white following the style of traditional woodcuts. She's provided elements for all of the new series of Penguin Shakespeares and reproductions are available through her website, hand printed at the cost of £90-£120. As an aside Melinsky's recently been asked to produce covers for a new edition of the Harry Potter novels.

Publication Data

Penguin originally published a slender edition in the pre-post World War II (which still survives in reprint I reviewed last week). The New editions arrived in the 70s and 80s, with a simple rendering of the text, uncluttered by the footnotes of more academic additions – which is probably what made them so attractive to actors. The commentary was at the back, ready for consultation when a disagreement develops about the meaning of the words, or as a starting point for the director’s interpretation.

The Text

Those elements are continued in this 2005 edition and indeed the play is exactly the same text, account and commentary edited by Professor T. J. B. Spencer that is also in print as part of the four tragedies omnibus I wrote about the other day. With other publishers rushing out new versions of the text, it’s interesting that Penguin are happy to stand behind a version from three decades ago for their main edition, though perhaps after four hundred years it’s the reading of the play which is important less than textual matters.

General Introduction

And an excellent introduction this provides. A new General Introduction brings the scholarship of Shakespeare’s biography in line with research into the mid-part of the past decade, happy to emphasise his work as a collaborator early and later in life and in the ensuing chronology though Edward III and Sir Thomas More are mentioned (at least as far as to point out that they don’t feature in the Penguin edition), Arden of Faversham isn’t and Cardenio is stated as being lost without allusion to Double Falsehood.

What sets Stanley Welles’s general introduction apart from others I’ve read is its willingness to go beyond Shakespeare’s death. The Restoration period of adaptation and veneration is covered and then his critical development from Coleridge through Hazlet and Granville-Barker. Such matters are covered only briefly, but Welles refreshingly makes plain that Shakespeare did not write books but plays and for the proper sense of the characters to be understood they have to be seen in performance.


Anne Bilson’s original play introduction is replaced now with far longer, more intellectual rigorous piece by Sinfield. But like Bilson, this new writer understands that readers may already have a wealth of criticism to hand, not least in the play’s commentary, and so decides to instead present their own individual impression of the text. Emerging from these dense pages is a writer who has a more holistic approach to criticism and who’s very willing to ignore or actively battle against orthodoxy.

Sinfield begins with arguments for and against Hamlet’s religious persuasion, and the extent to which that effects his ability to kill the king. Bilson went into similar areas, but Sinfield then cleverly turns it on its head by suggesting that actually Shakespeare doesn’t give enough evidence either way and may simply be relying on “us” or to put it more prosaically than he does, each individual audience member to decide with the young prince’s actions compare favourably or otherwise with our own world view, spiritual or otherwise.

He then turns that on its head by suggesting that actually, the “character” based approach to the play – as begun by A.C. Bradley – in which themes are developed through a character investigation, doesn’t work in Hamlet because the playwright seems to actively battle against making specific judgement in that way. Of course directors and actors must in order to make sense of a performance, but Sinfield argues that Shakespeare almost offers too many choices (which no doubt reflects the richness of the critical industry).

In other words, to attempt to apply a psychologically coherent expectation of character to Hamlet as we do with modern drama is a fools errand; whole books have been written about Gertrude’s attitude when in truth like many other characters (Angelo in Measure for Measure for one), after the closet scene it’s almost as though Shakespeare loses interest in her, like Ophelia she exists merely to demonstrate some aspect of Hamlet’s forward narrative motion rather than exist within her own being.

Play in Performance

A quick step through a mix of production history and dramatic choices, what to cut, how literal to make Elsinore, how to stage the Ghost and how casting choices effect characterisation. As a firm believer in Fortinbras and the political dimension, it’s shocking to me that all of that was cut well into the last century. Hamlet as a “simple” family drama can become a bit airless unless done well – Claudius the politician seems harder to kill just some murderer, underscoring the difficulty of Hamlet's mission.

Further Reading

A breezy look at the other editions available and some of the wilder excesses of criticism from across the decades which underscores the introduction’s reminder that by the play’s end because some it’s greatest mysteries, not least the origin and proper motivation of the Ghost are not explained, dozens of academics have felt the need to fill the gap in understanding. The tone is suitably mocking when required and the added context makes this rather more useful than the version from 1980.

How is it, my lord?

The newer Penguin edition will be perfect for someone intimidated by the nerdier excesses of the Arden or Oxford. My only suggestion, for future reprints, would be for the return of the original Bilson introduction alongside the Sinfield. Neither covers the same ground and though it would inevitably make the edition fatter, it feels important that these Penguins in particular should retain a sense of chronological critical continuity, especially considering their ongoing place within theatrical history.

Hamlet (Penguin Shakespeare). Introduction by Alan Singfield. Text edited by Professor T. J. B. Spencer is published by Penguin Books. £7.99 paperback. ISBN: 9780141013077.
Film Another email:
To: Odeon Marketing.


I was excited to read that IMAX is coming to the Liverpool ONE Odeon but I'm unclear as to the version.

Will this be the original huge screen IMAX as featured at the Manchester Filmworks and BFI in London, or simply the IMAX branded system as outlined in the link below which isn't quite the same thing?

If it is the latter (which reading between the ambiguous lines on this page at your website it might well be), you need to make this abundantly clear in the publicity because otherwise there will be a lot of very disappointed people, especially if you're going to be charging premium rates.

Take care,


Carl Sagan on The Pale Blue Dot.

Politics Exactly ...
"One reason some people vote Liberal Democrat is that they don't want to vote for the Labour party. And they don't want to vote for the Labour party because they don't agree with it.
I voted Lib Dem in a safe Labour seat which should speak volumes, and yet I've been curiously harranged lately by bitter Labour supporters (hear and there) unable to grasp the magnitude of their party's failure with lines like "see what you just did" and "aren't you pleased you voted in the Tories now?" to which my answer had always been -- "I voted Lib Dem and got Lib Dem. In government. Where are you now?"
Arts Lev Grossman encapsulates why I hate recommendation engines for Time Magazine:
"They don't take us out of our comfort zone. A recommendation engine isn't the spouse who drags you to an art film you wouldn't have been caught dead at but then unexpectedly love. It won't force you to read the 18th century canon. It's no substitute for stumbling onto a great CD just because it has cool cover art. Recommendation engines are the enemy of serendipity and Great Books and the avant-garde. A 19th century recommendation engine would never have said, If you liked Monet, you'll love Van Gogh! Impressionism would have lasted forever."
I want a recommendation engine to take me out of my comfort zone but they're designed not to. Which I why I allow the BFI to choose half of the films I'm going to received through Lovefilm each month and just yesterday added three years worth of Sight & Sound magazine's films of the month to the potential other half, an eclectic mix of Argentinian New Wave, Japanese relationship dramas and French socialist realism (or whatever). We need to be challenged [via].

Antony is emasculated by his love for Cleopatra.

Chrissy McKeon is attempting to read all of Shakespeare's plays or at the very least cover what hasn't been through already. On Tony and Cleo:
"Throughout the play, there are times when Antony is emasculated by his love for Cleopatra, and times where Cleopatra is, well, masculated, for lack of a better word. As a result of his love for Cleopatra, Antony becomes impotent in war and the ruling of his state. As a result, Cleopatra arguably becomes more potent as a ruler. In some ways, Antony and Cleopatra are epitomes of their respective genders. Antony is a renowned ruler, logical, and he broods male sexuality (I’m thinking…. Russell Crowe?) Cleopatra is seductive and powerful, but also emotional. But at the same time, they both embody very feminine and masculine traits.

Rewired and Reading: Sonja Sohn In Conversation at the Rodewald Suite, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

TV It’s very easy when considering The Wire to reach for hyperbole but unlike many so called classic television series, the hyperbole is warranted. There’s precious little modern drama that rich; as well as the social and thematic content, for those of us interested in the nuts and bolts of storytelling, its creeping narrative and balanced approach to characterisation is breathtaking. Like the best art, to watch all of those sixty episodes in quick succession as I did in January is to have a profound and meaningful experience.

But little did I realise that the experience would, five months later, extend to me sitting this evening just metres away from Sonja Sohn, the actress who played cop Kima in the series. I’ve not been to any conventions yet for television programmes but I expect that they’re something like this, with the star offering anecdotes about her time on the show to an appreciative audience of fans (as well as lots of drinking and dress up). These are real fans of The Wire. I'm an amateur.

She’s been the guest of The Reader Organisation (for which this was a charity event) and has spent the past couple of days meeting people in the local community, aiding an acting workshop for Merseyside Community Theatre who are about to put on a production of Romeo and Juliet. Their website has embedded to a comprehensive Channel 4 News report about the visit, including shots of her giving us her Juliet. The Daily Post also has a report.

In person she’s an electric, mesmerising figure. When she fixes you in the eye, time stops. Sonja began as a Slam poet and so is entirely confident with public speaking. The first half was supposed to be an interview but only a few questions were asked and in truth only a few questions needed to be asked as she spun the story of her life, from growing up in areas very similar to those depicted in The Wire, through to how her success as a poet led to her breakout film role in the Sundance winning film Slam, to her auditioning for the show.

Her philosophy and what she says has led to her eventual success is to try anything once and to listen to the little voice in your head if it’s telling you to do something. She almost cancelled her appearance in the poetry show that led to her first big acting role due to jetlag, she says, but ploughed on anyway (which is a lesson I know I should be heeding). Similarly she almost left the The Wire at the close of the first series, because her earlier life experiences were impeding her ability, she thought, to give a good performance.

Ringed by open glass windows, some of which open out onto the balcony, the venue for the talk wasn’t the most intimate of venues and yet her warm personality seemed to bring us closer. She was also brutally honest about her time on the show. The things I could type right now. Except she asked for our confidence and that’s what I’m offering. So I won't. Plus, I wouldn’t want to spoil anything in case you get the chance to attend a similar event. But, honestly, wow.

Sonja talked quite a bit about, ReWired for Change, the organisation that she and some of the cast have set up in Baltimore to try and help improve the lives of the kinds of young people who appeared in the show, in the same areas where The Wire was shot. They have experienced resistance in the city. The officials aren’t pleased with the image of Baltimore portrayed in the programme and that’s had a knock-on effect in how receptive they’ve been to ReWired’s aims -- which seems odd since those aims designed to make The Wire increasingly anachronistic.

My ignorance about the show came to the fore in the question and answer section. I asked an unsurprisingly boring question about the writing on the show and about how it trusts the viewer at the beginning of each season to have the patience to concentrate on where the story is going and how unlike other programmes, there really isn’t a core group of main characters pointing to McNulty becoming less important in one of the seasons.

To which everyone in the room and Sonja said, “season four”.

I finally knew how it must feel for someone who’s a relatively new Doctor Who fan to be corrected on which order the various actors played the timelord or who wrote City of Death.

Apparently when she and Andre Royo who plays Bubbles (they’re old friends) watched the pilot episode, they weren’t convinced either, jumping about the conference room were they’d been sitting wondering what they’d gotten themselves into. It was only, like us, until they’d seen the next few episodes that they realised what writer/creator David Simon was doing. Which is quite comforting really.

Other questions covered the moral centre of the show (Omar and Kima), how it was received in the lesbian community (well, but she was surprised the question didn’t come up more often), the fact that Baltimore hasn’t spun a tourism industry out for the show (no tour of the low rises or mugs) and the accent accuracy of Dominic West and Idris Elba (no and yes). And is so often the case with these things, there wasn't enough time and we could have listened all night.

excruciatingly-gained scars.

Work At the age of 19, Diane Shipley was staying with her boyfriend in Essex and decided to get a job as a waitress at the local cafe. It was an experience she would never forget ...
"Once I’d got the hang of all that, or we were all willing to pretend I had, I was trained in the use of the coffee machine, which quickly became my nemesis and source of several short-lived but excruciatingly-gained scars. Every time someone asked for a “frothy coffee”, I’d burn my wrist trying to manoeuvre the cup under a stream of boiling milk, attempting to jiggle both cup and nozzle just right so the froth would still exist by the time I got the cup to its table. Many times I failed and had to re-do it, sometimes more than once for the same customer, while my bosses sucked their teeth and shook their heads. I was considered such an unnatural, an imbecile, that I wasn’t even allowed milkshake machine privileges until my fifth week, and I wasn’t allowed cash till privileges ever.
Elsewhere I've reviewed Four Tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth (Penguin Classics). Introduction by Anne Barton. Text edited by Professor T. J. B. Spencer.

Four Tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth (Penguin Classics). Introduction by Anne Barton. Text edited by Professor T. J. B. Spencer.

Who's There?

A thousand page slab of a volume, the Penguin Classics Four Tragedies (for which a review copy was supplied), gathers between two covers Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth and the (according to a note towards the front “accompanying editorial apparatus” which is “faithful reproductions of the original New Penguin Shakespeare editions”, although the “text has been reset, with the textual notes placed at the bottom of the page for ease of reference, the text itself is unchanged”.


The section of stained glass window on the front is from the centre of the Betley window which is currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum and portrays a hobby horse from a popular morris dance that may have been contemporary with Shakespeare, although the closest connection is in notes about the window jotted into an edition of Henry IV, Part One by George Tollet who lived in Betley Hall where the window found its second home (the first having been demolished).

Nevertheless, its depiction of daggers positioned straight at the man’s head is emblematic of these four plays and of Shakespearean tragedy in general where few characters die noble deaths, generally murdered, often suicidal usually with daggers. In fact, Hamlet is one of the few plays in which daggers aren’t (as far as we can gather depending upon the stage directions) the weapon of choice other than when Hamlet almost takes Claudius’s life.

Publication Data

All four presentations are as detailed and incisively edited as you’d expect if a touch dated; the Hamlet commentary is from 1980, but Othello’s was written in 1968, Lear in 1972 and Macbeth in 1967. This collection was originally published in 1994.  The following review will concentrate on the Hamlet section, for obvious reasons. For a look at other aspects, please refer to the alternative versions of this weblog that I like to think exist in parallel universes.


The introduction offers a good general survey of Hamlet’s themes with an emphasis on the revenge aspects, opening with a short history of its antecedents followed by a discussion of sources for retribution. Whilst I don’t agree with everything writer Anne Barton (current Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge) contends, especially in relation to exactly how intimate Ophelia’s relationship is with Hamlet (which I think Shakespeare leaves open to greater interpretation than Barton suggests), she does point to something that I hadn’t noticed before.

To wit: Hamlet is a fan of the theatre and has an expert knowledge of its works, especially the revenge tragedies, and now he finds himself the main character within one, his realisation presumably at the heart of the “Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I?”. This is an extremely post-modern reading of the play which is worth pursuing, especially in light of the mountain of other criticism which has been published in relation to exactly why Hamlet dithers in his mission.

Hamlet is effectively Randy from the Scream films; he knows the ultimate fate of “heroes” within these kinds of fictions, and aware of the rules governing the plot in which he finds himself but unable to do much about the ensuing carnage. You could even compare the video night scene in which Randy enunciates said rules to Hamlet’s outbursts during The Mousetrap, pointing out the features of the revenge tragedy. Once he kills Polonius, his fate is sealed: “The readiness is all…” etc.

Further Reading

A good survey of criticism, covering a period from the 1930s through to the late 70s, stalking everyone from Jenkins to T.S. Eliot to Wilson Knight and A.C. Bradley. Stored in paragraphs, my preference would have been for a more bibliographic approach and lists though I can understand why that might not have been quite as useful in terms of space in the book’s original edition which would have already been lengthy because of the need to reproduce the play.

An Account of the Text

Neatly outlines the chronology of the early editions which runs similar to the one which has later appeared in the Arden combined edition of Q1 and F, but stops short of considering each of them to be a complete play in their own right, preferring to see them all as raw materials for an editor to put together what they think is the best approximation of what Shakespeare meant (which as I’m discovering can be very mutable depending upon the sensitivity of the relevant academic).

The Text

The resulting main text then, is a conflation, based heavily on Q2 but pulling in omitted passages and readings from F and Q1, though not the latter's exposition scene between Horatio and the Queen, preferring the pirates. Shifting the textual notes beneath the verse brings it in line with the Arden and Oxford, but concern themselves with enlightening the textual richness with a thread of sardonic humour than bringing in literary influences and other critical readings.

How is it, my lord?

Which is the main reason for recommending this edition; like every production of the play, every published edition has its own quirks and the New Penguins is to try and look at the play from a less orthodox perspective. It knows it is part of an eco-system of criticism and that it won’t be the only copy of the play that people, even students will read. So rather than being exhaustive, this Penguin offers the reader a chance to look at it from a slightly different perspective and succeeds.

Four Tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth (Penguin Classics).  Introduction by Anne Barton, edited by Professor T. J. B. Spencer is published by Penguin Classics. £10.99 paperback. ISBN: 9780140434583.

The Pandorica Opens.

TV “Ah shit, it’s not fucking Davros is it?”

Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a bit will know that out of all of us, I’m the one who tends to have the biggest emotional reaction to the franchise, at least during an episode. My reviews have been littered with paragraphs in which I admit to shouting, screaming, laughing, clapping and yes, swearing at whatever bit of dramedy is being thrown at us in the name of entertainment.

Sometimes it’s criticism, sometimes it’s disbelief, sometimes it’s desperation or in the case of the version of me from forty minutes into the episode who shouted the Davros comment, all three -- and many more idioms, because by then, all four lobes of my brain had formally announced hostilities, with the frontal and temporal finally getting the upper hand over my parietal. The occipital was just biding its time.

So expertly had Steven Moffat developed his mystery as to what would be in the Pandorica, so cleverly had he withheld that pesky narrative information, but also so used are we to cop outs and a lack of imagination that despite that build up, as soon as the Airfix Daleks popped into Henge’s basement my occipital made its move, drew victory against the other lobes and the Davros comment catapulted through my lips leaving a dirty mark my LCD tv …

… just as the Cybermen made their entrance, demonstrating that more cunning adventures were afoot. Not long afterwards, as we discovered a peace treaty had been signed between the monsters of the Moffat and Davies eras on screen, another was agreed in my head allowing the rest of my bemused form simply to sit open mouthed, gaping as the cliffhanger to end all, well cliffs and hangers and everything else in the Whoniverse developed in all its glory.

The reason my brain cells were in such a spin was because as with the rest of the series, this was an episode about questions. Who? When? Why? What? How much have you got? Much of Doctor Who is about that. It’s inherent in the title. All stories are structure around these questions – the good ones anyway. Much has been written about how the traditional companion role is to ask questions so that the Doctor can answer them. But a slight of hand which has served the series across the decades is that the timelord asks just as many questions himself.

The Pandorica Opens lays that mechanism bare. When a transcript of the episode is published, most of the dialogue will have punctus interrogativus plastered across the end of it and often in the middle. But unlike many of those classic stories, were because of the need to give Roger Delgado something to do, we were given answer to those questions as part of a parallel narrative, in The Pandorica Opens, we were as clueless as the leads. We all became the Doctor, full of questions. And without the help of an Immortality Gate.

Moffat had two options with these close episodes. He could have brought everything back down and told a small story that managed to answer all of questions, perhaps even in Amy's house, a natural sequel to The Eleventh Hour. He may yet still. But for episode twelve he needed to prove something to himself, that he could also do blockbusters, big speeches, big spaceships. Yet unlike Davies's space operas which still had character at the heart but rather random storytelling, The Pandorica Opens also had dense, mostly logical plotting.

Which means that each time I want to talk about about some of the best direction the series has yet seen from Who-newcomer but tv drama veteran Toby Haynes and the amazing photography of his long term colleague Stephan Pehrsson (neither of who has had much genre experience other than Spooks: Code 9 which hardly counts) I find myself asking a litany of questions - there's more going on this one episode than whole series of the old show, and that includes The Key To Time season. This paragraph was the last to be written so that I can warn you that yet again, the following will not be for fans of good copy editing. For example, this segway makes little sense.

Over the next week, much of the talk, and we fans do like to talk, will be about that climax, which is a shame because the teaser was perhaps the most audacious in the show’s history, vying for superiority with the team-up opening of The Stolen Earth (which feels likes as old as The Keys of Marinus at this point). Despite being one the most interesting of the series (Playback!), Doctor Who Confidential conclusively failed to explain whether all of these actors were brought back together or if, as I hope and expect, these little bits of scenes were included in the shooting schedule for the previous episodes.

The “Children of Time” turned out to in fact to be a bunch of people from near contemporary London and Cardiff because that’s were the timelord chose to land his TARDIS. This group of friends emerged from across the vortex to help this Doctor who sees all of time and space as his home. Unfolding like an adaptation of the next volume of Gary Russell’s The Doctor Who Encyclopaedia, we can now surmise that Vincent was driven to suicide by his vision the TARDIS’s destruction, Bracewell continued to work with Churchill and Liz Ten’s brain is still (just about) intact.

True, the fictional logistics were effectively a more prosaic version of the way River communicated with the Doctor in Time of the Angels, as was the coincidence of this incarnation just happening to be in the right point to receive the message in the right order but as he would later remark “There are more things in heaven and earth, Rory. Than are dreamt of in our philosophy.” Or something like that.

You might even question how all of the monsters would be able to lure the Doctor to this exact spot – did one of them put the idea for the date and location in Vincent’s brain because without that data being splattered onto a canvas, River wouldn’t have known were to bring the Doctor to and well, it's at this point we hit the door marked The Big Bang and an entry intercom that when phoned has a determined Scottish brogue on the end whispering “I’ll explain later.” But that can’t stop the questions.

Like, why was River Song already in the Stormcage Containment Facility? In our previous encounter, the impression was that she’d been sent down for killing a good man, the implication being that it would be the Doctor and in this finale, and yet here she is already kissing the penitentiary. If it was that simple to Cool Hand Luke it out of there, why didn’t she do it already? Was she waiting for Churchill’s phone call? Is she post Flesh and Stone but pretending to be the younger version of herself?

Alex Kingston’s delicious jaunt through time suggested perhaps that younger version but she was perfectly at ease with Amy and didn’t seem as bothered about how old the Doctor was and when they’d last met, less than usual at least. But this was the River Song that had been teased before, the galactic traveller brimming with wit and imagination and unafraid to use a second hand time ring -- which she must still have on her in the TARDIS console room at the close of the episode …

Is the underhenge conclusive proof after all these years that The Meddling Monk was lying when he said that he aided its construction via some anti-gravity doodah? Was the Pandorica in position while the Eighth Doctor and Sam visited during one of my favourite Short Tips, the atmospheric The People’s Temple? Or for that matter when Theshold transported the whole thing, lock, stock and stone to the Moon in the comic strip Wormwood?

None of these questions will have been in Moffat’s mind as he wrote this, which is probably for the best, because this spooky chamber was indeed more like something from an Indiana Jones film which shows his heightened aspirations for what the show is capable of. But this is a typically Moffat episode. Nothing is as it initially seems – and I don’t just mean that the stars didn’t really ride the horses (as we finally see one of a dozen shots which were originally rammed into our consciousness in the original exciting series trailer).

But even in here, even with the Pandorica business, the episode took a detour into some exciting Amy on Cyberman action. This crawling then walking homage to John Carpenter's The Thing offered one of the grossest shots of the series as its masked skipped open to reveal a skull, the reaction exquisitely played by Karen as she bashed it against the wall. Gillan had a great episode all round, one moment exhibiting child-like wonder and another getting excited about the Romans. Lacan would have had a field day with Amy.

It’s a mark of the Moffat’s understanding of Doctor Who and its audience that while us big kids are wrapping out brains around the big narrative brickbats, the kids can still be scared to. What are we meant to believe was the origin of this remnant? Was it left behind when the monsters dropped off the prison? Did an Uvodni or Roboform (or some other head Neil Gorton had lying around the creature shop) take a dislike to him? Left there by some future version of the Doctor so that it could stick Amy with the dart …

From scary straight into funny and the Doctor’s reaction to the sudden emergence of Rory. Some are already suggesting that this is Arthur Darvill’s best performance but if we assume that because of his mechanical make-up the character is a more vital presence, more acute with his banter, more forthright, perhaps a touch braver, the comparison is simply in seeing a different version of the same character, revealing a subtlety at the heart of his previous appearances.

proper Rory but other Rory, auton Rory

Funny the first time, these initial scenes develop even greater poignancy on repeated viewings now that we know it’s not proper Rory but other Rory, auton Rory. Unless they're both autons. Has Rory been an auton all the time, is that why his staff badge says it was issued 30th November 1990 decades before Amy’s date? Has he been quietly on Earth all of those years biding his time? Is that how he retains all of the memories of his death and resurrection? Why that photo wasn’t wiped from history too?

The Doctor’s pronouncement to the monsters of the galaxy was a summation of Matt Smith’s characterisation over the past eleven and a bit episodes, like his “battle” with the Atraxi, a demonstration that sometimes his best defence is the forty-odd years worth of history. Moffat likes this kind of posturing and after however many centuries of adventure, it’s only fair that he should be able to cash in his annuity once in a while. Pity that up in said spaceships the collective menace of the galaxy are looking at their watches and tutting about poor workmanship as they realise the Pandorica hasn’t opened yet and that they should come back a bit later.

Smith surprisingly still has his doubters (including Smith himself) but his mercurial magician act fits the mood perfectly, especially with River’s prophetic description about the Doctor being at the centre of many fairytales. His desperation as he realises that all of his worst enemies, in forming an alliance, had set the scene for their own downfall was as moving as anything in previous years, even if Murray’s emotive music didn’t quite match the shot of the Sontaran’s noble if determined potato face (Are the Rutans in this alliance? Who brokered that peace deal?).

The casting of Christopher Ryan as said Sontaran was a neat piece of continuity and another reminder that though Moffat has his own ideas about how Doctor Who is a fairy tale, ladedadeda, this is still the same series that produced The Sontaran Stratagem. One of the quirks of the Who franchise (and sci-fi franchises in general) is that character designs signed off on by a previous administration will end up having service for quite some time. The sudden emergence of so many aliens from the earlier era should be quite jarring – and quite purposeful due to the budget restrictions – it’s an easy shorthand for demonstrating the oddity of the alliance.

Of course, it would have been fun to have one of the throwaway aliens included, not least the Gareth Roberts created spin-off alien Chelonians or the Drahvins or the Zygons, but why would you spend the money if all they’re going to do is stand there and be upstaged by the Tonka Daleks anyway ala the Ogrons and Frank Butcher in Dimensions in Time? That said, the appearance of the Weevils is worth querying not least because we’ve not seen them show much in the way of intelligence before. Shouldn’t they be trying to gnaw the leg off a Hoix?

Now back to the ending and the reveal that it was never about what was emerging from the Pandorica but rather what would be placed in it which is a spectacular piece of writing from Moffat. The initial appearance of the Daleks was of course a classic piece of misdirection from Moffat which was supposed to make us all fear the worst (however much we liked Julian Bleach's portrayal last time) and of the kind which I hope will mean that in the finale it'll be revealed that all the plot holes in this series were indeed put there on purpose making all the reviews which consist of nothing but questions and nods to inconsistencies look a bit foolish ...

If this had been the previous era, my guess as to how the cliffhanger would be resolved would have included the cyber genes saving Amy, the space-time manipulator saving River and the Doctor escaping from the Pandorica because he’s the Doctor. But Moffat is too intricate a writer for that; he likes to produce second parts that are structurally and tonally unlike their predecessor and there are too many open enquiries about duck ponds without ducks, why Amy’s life doesn’t make any sense - rattling about in that empty house, who is manipulating the TARDIS and the origin of that raspy, ancient, but artificial voice with its deathly prediction: “Silence will fall”

Ah shit, it’s not fucking Davros is it?
Elsewhere I've reviewed last night's brain jangling Doctor Who.