The Angels Take Manhattan

TV Where do we go from here? More’s to the point where do I go from here? As I type it’s half-eight, about twenty minutes since the episode ended and I’ve little or no idea what to write or at least how to write this. There’s the autopilot version of course and you’ve been subjected to a few of those in the past, but at this point I’m not entirely sure what I thought of the episode and just this once pretty thankful that I’m not writing about it for a professional publication because then it really would be the autopilot version. Or the autowriter. Is that a better word? Is that even a word? As you can see my confidence is shot to pieces. So I’m just going to keep typing and hope that something emerges.

Did you cry? I cried. Of course I cried. More than any other series, more even than classic who, the loss of a companion’s always sad and it’s not happened for a bit. The last time a companion left the series was Donna in 2009 and we all remember what that was like. Well ok technically she was back for The End of the World but she wasn’t the same character really and anyway it for the Tenth Doctor’s moment. But the loss of a character in a franchise you love is like losing a friend if the fiction’s been rendered cleverly enough and the Ponds have been oh so cleverly rendered. Indeed, more than most companions in recent memory, despite everything which has happened to them, they’ve been the most realistic, least larger than life.

We all know an Amy or have done. We all know a Rory or have done. In writing both, too, Moffat rose above his previous tendency to make them glib, a trait he’s surprisingly carried over to Sherlock too. As identification characters go, they were the formula one racing car of companions. Or are. The tenses in this are going to become confusing too. Incidentally also I’ll offer some apologies for any cracked punctuation or missing links. For the first time in ages, I’m just going to write this stream of whatever it is. I hesitate to use the word consciousness since that create too many expectations, but yes, as it stands this is going to be posted as it is. Unless there’s some glaring factual error in which case I’ll just add it in at the end.

Sorry I’m straying off point. Amy and Rory and why we loved or love them and why we care that they’re gone. Of course they were technically gone before at the end of The God Complex. Back then I asked us to imagine if that had been the character’s final moment in the series (even though they were clearly going to be back the following week) and part of me wishes it had been. Functionally, the closing moments of The Angels Take Manhattan simply restate what was said back then and it was just as melancholy in its own way. Part of me wishes this had just been a repeat of that, the Doctor had just dropped them off home one final time without some last minute cruel twist. That happened surprisingly often in the old days.

Part of me also wishes this had been a bit of a Dodo. What if they’d simply not appeared in the next episode or just wandered off in the middle with the flu/VD. Imagine if for episode five he’d just turned up with some other companion, possibly Oswin, and then bravely never explain what happened during his final adventure with Amy and Rory. We’d always wonder. Fan fiction would be written an in thirty years officially license books or audio plays would be written to explain the gap. Big Finish are telling us again the Sixth Doctor’s first adventure with Mel. What if, like the time war, we simply received little breadcrumbs here and there. Hints and allegations. I used to travel with these friends, don’t any more. That sort of thing.

Not necessarily satisfactory for Karen and Arthur of course, both of whom didn’t want to return but it’s not uncommon in series television. Mandy from the first series of The West Wing simply didn’t come back. We don’t even know if she survived the shooting in the season finale and while long forgotten characters turned up for cameos in the final few episodes six years later, Mandy remained the character of which they simply don’t speak. When some of those characters dropped randomly from the series across the years they were affectionately described as going to Mandyland. Mandy never returned from Mandyland. CJ simply took over her duties as if they’d been hers for the whole of the first series, as though a new timeline had been created.

The problem is the loss of any companion isn’t satisfactory. That’s why Doomsday ended up as a rehearsal, Martha had an extensive afterlife beyond Last of the Timelords and Donna’s mind wipe seemed so inexplicably cruel. Structurally too, because of the design of this series with its stand alone stories, there’s not been that much build up to the moment either, no thirteen episodes of portents leading up to the given plus one not dying. You could drop The Angels Take Manhattan directly after Asylum of the Daleks and the emotional beats would be much the same. Hell, you could have put it before Asylum and it would have largely meant much the same, apart from the obvious references to the Ponds aging.

I’ve just remembered the Doctor’s Adric speech in The Power of Three. Well perhaps that adds an extra level of sadness to this. Now Rory’s Dad’s all alone wondering if his son will ever return. Unless Rory wrote him a letter too, just as Kathy did to Sally in Blink, explaining what’s happened and asking him not to grieve. Perhaps there’ll be an episode in the final eight in which the Doctor pops back and passes on the message himself, though of late Eleventh’s seemed less and less thoughtful in that way. He never looks back in that way. He could drop in on any one of his old companions if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. He won’t. That’s what School Reunion’s about. But we’re in danger of forgetting that someone’s writing this. Again.

If The Power of Three was a celebration of the Russell T Davies era, The Angels Take Manhattan was Steven Moffat giving himself a similar service. Rory waiting and dying. Amy waiting. The Weeping Angels. River Song. Time paradoxes. I was talking to a friend earlier about how I wished Moffat would stop doing this, and perhaps he will. But if you’re going to steal from yourself, you might as well steal from the best episode you ever written even if you’ll never quite manage to reach that pinnacle again and you somehow know that. Maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt and wonder if he decided that if he was writing these characters out, he might as well do so in a way that commemorates the narrative they’ve lived in.

The nuts and bolts of it. Well, like I said, I sobbed. The gutsiness of utilising suicide as a plot device again and also in a way which means they must have had some fun with BBC compliance which they must know will draw complaints from a right wing press attempting to deflect attention from the things which matter in the world. Perhaps the BBC’ll point to the fact that it might have worked in theory, but in practice the web of time still had its revenge as it so often does, just as it did in The Waters of Mars. Time can be rewritten but there are always consequences. The mechanics of how they could remember time changing weren’t really explained but it’s wibbly-wobbly isn’t it? Timey-whimey?

Notice how the gravestone didn’t have dates so we’ll always wonder when exactly they made their new home. I suppose the extra tragedy is that Amy lived on for five years after Rory’s death, unless she dropped in five years before him and they died together. Or the fake dates of birth they chose didn’t quite match. Perhaps on reflection I was reading more into that than I need to when it provoked the extra blub. Who makes these choices? Was it in Moffat’s script or the design team? Props? Did they even think of the implications of the date mismatch anyway? Like everything else in this episode, in every episode, such details will be poured over until some production subtitles on a future dvd release reveal the answer.

Sorry, I forgot to talk about the scene on the roof. It paralleled strongly the “I waited 2000 years for you” conversation in Asylum, roundly criticised because in pointing out his sacrifice, Rory tainted it somehow. I didn’t disagree, but this moment certainly redeemed it. The acting’s superb. Every time we assume we’ve seen everything these two can accomplish, they accomplish something else and that achievement’s ever the greater because thanks to the vagaries of episodic television production this forty-five minutes was filmed before The Power of Three. Which reminds my of Tasha Yar’s exit in Star Trek’s The Next Generation in which her rubbish death episode Skin of Evil oozed out before Symbiosis.  I still love that she waved away in the back of her final scene, grinning directly to camera and they left it in.  Unless its been edited out for the blu-ray.  I hear there's some of that happening.

Perhaps this exits a bit Katarina. The Doctor didn’t really get to say goodbye. Neither he or we certainly didn’t get to say goodbye to Rory who popped back in time for the shock value, though he arguably got his big exit scene jumping off the building. Amy did but again, as I’ve said, no great episodal build up, no foreshadowing as such. But they’re not really gone. Like River it seems, who’s older version of herself popped in at the close of The Wedding of River Song after The Time of the Angels in her personal timeline, we can visit the characters still through blu-rays and the pile of spin-off media which most of us won’t have had a chance to catch up on. I’m yet to pick up all but two of the novels.

The autopilot version of this ramble would have talked about New York and it’s important that I still do, I think, because the first five or ten minutes are as blissful as the location shoots for City of Death, these characters in such familiar settings. Painted the image would be extraordinary, yet there they are wandering around the real Central Park. Where once Noughties production team were just pleased to have some plates from Doctor Who Confidential and a wall which looked relatively similar to the one at the base of the Statue of Liberty, this found them crossing the real Time Square. The rationale was apparently that it was just as expensive to shoot there than recreate the thing in Cardiff. Good rationale.

I’m amazed at just how Doctor Who’s penetrated the US psyche in the past few years. Even though its still only watched on average by a million and a half people on BBC America, it’s now become as much a part of the genre discussion as the big US franchises with jokes turning up on sitcoms and most bizarrely in the promo for Sesame Street, Grover and Cookie Monster dressed as the Doctor and Amy menaced by an inflatable Dalek. If they’re being parodied by Sesame Street, they’ve made it. Hundreds apparently turned up for the New York shoot, even more than for some of the Cardiff shooting early on. That’s extraordinary and really sold the idea that the scenes in the past were still in New York.

Perhaps that’s the oddity. For all the preview photographs, much of the episode is set in the late 30s on the eve of World War II. Is that disappointing? Perhaps it is, but understandable since there’s presumably more period buildings around Cardiff for pick-ups, though without Confidential to guide us its difficult to tell exactly what was shot anywhere. But more importantly the Angels fitted in well with the 30s gothica, where such architectural details seem more present rather than hidden amongst the modernist hell of the gleaming glass skyscraper. The Angels battery farm wouldn’t necessarily have been as scary if it had been one of those quasi-hotel residential nightmares which are becoming the luxury norm.

Is this it for the Angels? Have they been “done”. As is often the case with returning monsters, the battery farms is another strategy we’ve been introduced to, as was their emergence in other designs including the statue of liberty, somehow, but arguably, yes they have. To an extent Blink was the final word too. As was Jonathan Morris’s novel Touched by an Angel, with its One Day structure. The potential for living ones self to death is still horrific if done as well as in the teaser for this episode (another 2001 reference this series, a younger man meeting his older self) but it has been done, probably because it’s a more prosaic end than extermination or assimilation. Perhaps as well as the Ponds this’ll be the last hoorah for the Angels.

I’m flagging by the way. It’s ten minutes past ten now. What next? River. She’s a professor now and watch the look in the Doctor’s eyes as he recognises the significance of that (nicely remembered and played by Matt). She lacks some fans, but I love River Song just as much as she loves the Doctor. Partly its because I’ve fancied Alex Kingston since e.r. (and wasn’t she a joy on Who Do You Think You Are The Other Week? “This morning I found my inner Jew, and this afternoon I found my inner whore.”) but mostly because there are few characters on British television who’re both emotionally and narratively complex. Unlike US tv, with shows like Fringe, we tend to choose one or the other.

Some had considered that this might be her final episode too, but that’s too much baggage for forty-five minutes. When and if we reach the moment when the Doctor turns up on her doorstep for a final time (this is where I broke off and wrote the final two paragraphs) (I’m back again now) they’re going to want to have give it the necessary significance and make it count. That she had been given her professorship suggests he is heading towards a resolution, she’s not going to linger about for years like the Brigadier but hopefully not until she’s met Oswin. I’m already salivating over the scenes when she explains her origins or at the very least the Doctor tells her about Donna. We’ve not seen that conversation yet either.

So yes, Mike McShane. The chains around the Angel would seem to indicate his character Grayle is a lo-fi nod to Van Statten in Dalek, as would his testing of the statue to see if it felt pain. He’s another example of what would have been the Olivier effect if JNT had gotten his way, the well respected actor in a tiny role because it needs to be eye catching. He really just exists to be a point of contact for the River and the Doctor, but he is entertaining and he had a decent pratfall and death screen. Having previously appeared in pretty much every major tv show on either side of the Atlantic, it’s nice that he’s finally made it into who even in this small role. Yes, I did run out of things to say here.

Well this is all feeling terribly inadequate and self-indulgent. I should probably be watching The Thick of It instead. I’m glancing at Dan’s review at The Guardian and he’s noticed, presumably because he’s had longer to think about it thanks a preview viewing, River’s timeline’s a bit of a mess and that Amy and Rory could travel to a different city in the past and be picked up. But I’m guessing because New York’s still an epicentre for the time disturbances, the time paradox would still have an effect there. Or something. That’s also about the only Sting track I can stand. I’m afraid Daleks in Manhattan probably still happened too.  It's set earlier.  So the bizarre inclusion of a football goal still stands.  And the pigs can have a life too ending.

There’s probably much to say about the mis-en-scene of the episode, how what are presumably the fingers of River in the future writing the episode are superimposed over everything providing the episode titles. The sepia pallet like the fading pages of one of the pulp novels River’s writing contrasting with the very realistic colour of the contemporary scenes. The production design too is another triumph from Michael Pickwoad who’s become an indispensable asset in the production design department. Oh and Nick Hurran’s direction, utterly understanding the terror inherent in blackness, timing perfectly Rory’s match scene for maximum scares. Oh and Murray, dear Murray, recalling all of his major musical themes.

You know, I think I am going to get this posted and go and watch the Thick of It then regret having run roughshod over this whole process. Expect more paragraphs appended to the bottom tomorrow or whenever I can trust myself to see it again. Perhaps I’ll just watch those blissful opening minutes in Central Park again and again in a loop. They’re a reminder of just how perfect the chemistry between these three actors has become and how much we’ll feel the loss come Christmas, even more so than last Christmas because we know they’re not returning. How will Matt’s performance change? Will we see him, like Tom, change emphasis over the period of his tenure. More sober? More manic? We’ll see.

I’m writing this final paragraph now so I’ll know how I want to end it. Everything between the second River paragraph and here is filling in. Anyway, it’s with little Caitin on her luggage. Oh the discussions we had about that in 2010. When she looks up to the sky and grins, was it a dream sequence, or was she being visited? How did Amy have all those stories about her raggedy man, enough to make toys at least after just that brief visit. Fish fingers and custard? Well now we know. Oh Moffat, you brilliant, brilliant writer. Does that mean Amy knew about her adventures before she had them? Why would she be the girl who waited in the rebooted universe with all the cracks filled in?

Such questions are “unimportant”. The point is Moffat found a way of wrapping up Amy’s story without wrapping up the Doctor’s. We still don’t know how Silence will fall when the question is asked – it can’t be just the Dalek’s reaction it has to be everywhere else. Why are the opening credits getting progressively darker? What about the ducks in the duck pond in Leadworth? Why is the Doctor becoming quite so morally ambiguous and will simply having someone travelling with him solve that? And how will Oswin appear? Who is she? We’re still nine episodes away from the 50th Anniversary. Now I’m going back up a few paragraphs to fill in the gap. I’ve not even talked about Mike McShane yet. I wonder what it will say/will have said.

Liverpool Biennial 2012:
The Tea Factory (4)

Art  As is so frequently the case with these curious missions, attempting to apply order invariably still leads to some chaos.  There are still some museums or art galleries in the north-west which are still not quite appraised because they were closed for renovation when I visited.  Many Hamlets have been too far out of geographical reach.  In 2010 I never did quite manage to see the Raymond Pettibon piece.  So imagine my lack of surprise, having chosen to visit the Biennial venues in the official map key's numerical order, as I stood in front of the shutters at number four on the list, The Tea Factory, understandably closed because of a cracked window, lights off, unpersoned.  Fortunately, some of the photographs are available online, so I have at least been given a taste of what lies within.

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In a surprising coincidence, it’s the nature of the “outsider” and the distance which separates a photography and his subjects which underpins Sabelo Mlangeni’s Men Only, the railings and glass separating this visitor from his photography.  Mlangeni is a South African documentary photographer whose subjects are as diverse as the countryside gay community and abandoned or ghost towns.  As the Biennial pamphlet explains “his images focus on the grey area between opposing forces, such as acceptance and discrimination” both of which he experienced when he moved from his birthplace at Driefontein near Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga to Johannesburg in 2001.

The one photograph I was able to see clearly is from the Men Only series.  Man Tehuis features two males, one wearing a leather jacket, the other a shirt, both open revealing their chests, outside the George Goch hostel on the East Rand of Johannesburg.  As the photographer's website explains, the artist spent a few weeks at the hostel, living with and shooting the routines of the inhabitants.  Although originally opened in 1961 to house migrant mineworkers, the hostel is now used by new arrivals in Jozi working their first jobs as taxi drivers or security guards.  Only male residents are allowed and they all predominantly have a black population underscoring that some elements of apartheid are still in evidence.

One of the men grins at us, a cigarette in his hand.  The way his other hand links with the other man we might assume that they’re gay but it’s impossible to know for certain.  Along with the other photos in the sequence we are able to see just how close the artist came to the residents as he’s able to capture what seem like appalling conditions not unlike British slums and workhouses, people living in rooms also akin to modern prisons.  That this man is able to smile is a surprise, though like a prison these men are living hand in glove and so at least have the comfort of human companionship however intrusive that may be.  Perhaps Mlangeni’s showing us that sometimes, we’re not “outsiders” for very long.

The new Home cinema in Manchester.

Film  Manchester's Cornerhouse now with added Library Theatre has a new name.  At the organisation's new location, it's to be called:


Which is fine, in fact, in an alt.culture way and apt since for a lot of people, the old Cornerhouse is like a second home.  If I lived in Manchester I expect I'd spend a lot of time here.  It's also not the semi-acronym I was expecting, CoLT.

But consider what's going to happen when people are agreeing to meet there.

There will be the question:

"How about going to Home?"

Someone might think that meant their actual house.

Or you might be asked what you'll be doing one evening.

"I'm going to see a film."
"Oh where."
"At Home."

And if it's a new release, the questioner might wonder if its been acquired through dubious origins.

Plus if you Google "home cinema" I wonder how high up the page rankings this is likely to be.

Of course all of those scenarios are unlikely.  They lack context and the conversation will probably include that context.  So:

"How about going to Home, you know the new Cornerhouse."


"At Home, the Cornerhouse's new place."


"home cinema manchester cornerhouse"

But there will still be a lot of people who call it Cornerhouse because it's easier.

So again, I ask, despite the injection of theatre, why not just stick with ...


Especially since, if this photo is a guide, it still has a corner.


Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who: Assimilation 2, issue #5.

Comics Sigh. Of all the crimes committed by Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who: Assimilation 2 against actor likenesses in tie-in comics across the past few months nothing quite prepared me for seeing this on page eleven of issue five:

Yes, that’s supposed to be Rory. Reading the issue on the bus home this afternoon, on turning the page I swore. Out loud. The person I was sitting next to gave a peculiar look and I had to put my hand over whoever that’s supposed to be so I could get through page ten without the distraction. How does that happen? Was a picture of Daniel Radcliffe accidentally mixed in with guide photographs the artist was working from and he couldn’t tell the difference?

Just for some balance, some of the art in here’s pretty good this week. The close-ups in general do look more like their television counterparts, especially Guinan, the Doctor and Amy (oddly - she's had an even worst deal that Rory up until now). Some of the lighting effects in particular are lovely. But as soon as we’re into the comic art equivalent of a mid-shot or master, either Picard gains massive black eyebrows and Barbara Cartland’s eye shadow or Riker’s being played by one of the Gibb brothers.

As ever such inconsistencies are also reflected in the script. This is a better issue than the previous four but to an extent that’s like saying the Immortal Sins episode of Torchwood’s Miracle Day (the one with the flashback) is the best of that series. The inherent structural problems remain and while these twenty-two pages has something like a goal orientated story, the chance of it having any great significance across the rest of the series is slim because none of these issues really does.

The main thrust of the issue is about the Doctor convincing Picard to talk to the Borg which suggests that he’s somewhat being privileged with narrative agency in the odd numbered instalments, though issue three barely counts since it's mainly a flashback and arguably Kirk was in charge. It’s not much of a story but at least it feels like a clear direction of travel rather than the start/stop approach of previous instalments.

If there’s a problem, it’s that over two thirds of the issue happens in the Captain’s ready room. Such production behaviour is understandable in network television were budgets are tight but its simply bizarre that in a comic book we should get endless two shots and over the shoulders when there’s practically an infinite budget available. Idiom wise, it’s perfect, of course and probably why #5 feels superior to previous editions. But it’s also pretty frustrating.

Anyway, so we’re back after last month’s cliffhanger with the Doctor suggesting they talk to the Borg, Picard wondering if the Cybermen are all that bad and the massed constituencies of the two franchises wondering why they’re even having this conversation. We’re quickly and pretty accurately ushered into that ready room and before long in the midst of a long expository scene in which the Doctor and Guinan explain their antagonist’s plan without much in the way of evidence.

This is a conversation which takes just over nine pages, nearly half the issue. In the middle the writers spend three pages in what they think is the voice of Guinan offering a synopsis of the Best of Both Worlds for the none of us, including Who fans, haven’t seen the key text of The Next Generation which is visually arresting but outside of television where this might have taken seconds comes across as time consuming and superfluous.

Much like the previous Guinan monologue in the last issue we’re not gifted new information, indeed there’s a lot of explaining of who the Borg and Cybermen actually are, how they must have seen each other as “kindred spirits” but fell out when they realised that the Trekverse wasn’t big enough for the both of them. It’s difficult to see who all of this is aimed at and again this is half an issues worth of material that was adequately inferred over a couple of frames last month.

When Guinan does make a key supposition that the Cybermen are attempting to convert the Borg collective for themselves we reminded again that the writers seemed to have forgotten the medium they’re writing. They can afford to show us this and yet its rendered through an admittedly lovely portrait of Whoopi Goldberg. Allowing our imaginations to do the work is fine on television, but comics are an inherently visual medium and we know already that the artists are ok with spaceships.  Show don't tell.  Please.

By the close of the conversation because he doesn’t need to be for the issue to have a point, Picard’s still not convinced and continues the ship’s course back to Earth. We’re now at page ten and we haven’t left the bridge. It’s probably an unfair comparison but by page eight of this month’s Angel & Faith, Willow’s thrown a mountain at the Whedonverse’s equivalent of the Balrog. I don’t read a lot of comics but even taking pacing into account that seems like a lot of comic spent in one room.

New room. Oh it’s sickbay and Harry Potter’s swapping remarks about the advanced medical technology. Rory has exactly two speeches here and neither of them have anything to do with the main story unless in a couple of issues he’ll be utilising his nursing skills and neither of them sound like anything Rory would even say. Since he hasn’t been assimilated yet, that seems like the only option left for giving him something to do.

Finally Amy has something to do. In a conversation which as Allyn identifies “is reminiscent of her conversation with Kazran in “A Christmas Carol” and Lorna Bucket in “A Good Man Goes to War”, Pond explains why the Doctor’s a brilliant planet saver. The characterisation of Amy’s surprisingly good in these three pages and just briefly Karen Gillan’s even on the page rather than a non-descript red head.

However brief, it’s charming and also has reminds us of what could have been and should have been earlier. It’s not about exposition, it’s not even about telling us information we already know. It’s about character and though we aren’t entirely convinced why Picard wouldn’t yet have been more curious about the blue box on the holodeck, does fairly naturally lead in to the moment we’ve all been waiting for.

When Picard steps onto the TARDIS he does and says everything you’d expect him to and so does the Doctor. But for once there’s a magic which has otherwise been lacking and that continues as the Doctor takes the Captain into the future, Pyramids of Mars style to show him the devastation which would be the result of the Cybermen being given a foothold.

The time mechanics of these types of scenes have never really convinced me. Time ebbs and flows but typically in Doctor Who, unless the Doctor specifically goes out of his way to change events once he’s witnessed them, they can’t be. It’s why he doesn’t whisk Rose back a year in Aliens in London and why the intricate storytelling in Blink just about fits together.

Except here they both are looking at the future pretty close up, the Doctor even makes a point of saying that it’s real. Which means that as in Pyramids, he’s showing Picard something he hopes will be changed by their intervention in the past when really if it had already been changed it should reflect that. My head hurts. Either way it’s a rare occasion when the writers and artists make full use of the comic book format.

Oddly, The Doctor shows Picard the results in both the Trek and Who universes which suggests that the Cybermen can slip easily between the two and mores to the point the Doctor can too which doesn’t make much sense given how he was supposed to be visiting this universe by mistake and the difficulties the TARDIS has in traversing such divides in the Tenth Doctor years.  Unless we're supposed to assume the two universes are merging like the Doctor's memories but at the close the Time Lord refers to "each galaxy, each universe" which suggests they're still supposed to be separate.  The writing's simply not clear enough.

After which Picard’s finally convinced to talk to the Borg and there’s a trailer of the next cover image of the Doctor shaking one by the hand and we’re another issue closer to the end. About the only flaw, as Allyn also suggests, is that the Cybermen simply haven’t ever been this powerful. In between the gold and the sonic screwdriver, the Doctor’s always been able to vanquish them pretty easily.

Which is all fine.  Except in story terms this whole issue's bunk. By now, on television, the Doctor would have been in the TARDIS and landed in the middle of the Borg collective, force field on for safety, having a conversation. He doesn’t need Picard or the Enterprise crew and as the close of the episode explains the TARDIS is in full working order and there’s been nothing stopping him using it, not even a couple of security guards.

Perhaps he imagines the Enterprise will go some way to explaining why he has all of the new memories (something which isn’t touched on this month) but that’s not established in the text. Because of all the pointless exposition in the ready room, there’s no time given for the Doctor to have much of a conversation with his companions. Has he even said yet exactly why he’s still on the Enterprise?

But the main overall problem at this stage is that there’s no sense of personal threat. There’s the galactic problems with the cyber-divorse and the close of the issue ramps up that tension. And I know the Doctor doesn’t generally need it, he’ll get along with saving anyone or anything. But the writers haven’t taken any opportunity to ramp up the tension.

None of the usual stand-bys have been employed. No one’s been captured for example, and Rory being assimilated would have been the expected example, or the Doctor which would have been more interesting and dangerous. The Doctor and his companions haven’t been isolated from the TARDIS or the crew haven’t lost the Enterprise. There a definite lack of jeopardy.

Thinking on, maybe the problem is that the underlying story is too huge.  Maybe the writers would have been well to have told a much smaller story, perhaps with the Doctor his companions and the crew of the Enterprise both isolated from their ships on some planet with a bunch of issues worth of suspicion before they decide to work together, in other words a base under siege story.

Or the Doctor and his companions losing their TARDIS and having to covertly become part of the Enterprise crew during a space battle with all the fun of the Doctor in a Starfleet uniform, Rory in sickbay and Amy waitressing in Ten Forward or exploring the family parts of the decks.  That's another problem.  We have a Doctor who's great with children on a starship filled with families and he hasn't met any of them.

But like I’ve said before, perhaps I’m expecting too much of what’s now a hundred and ten pages and I should just enjoy seeing the Doctor and his companions walking around the Enterprise saying stuff. Except none of it is fulfilling the promise of the original preview covers and although we’ve no real idea of what’s happening next, it doesn’t seem to be due to clever storytelling and more to do with the writers not knowing what kind of story they’re trying to tell.

Liverpool Biennial 2012:
28-32 Wood Street (3)

Art  Much as we can agree that the new Open Eye Gallery at Mann Island has an infinitely superior display space, I’ve really missed its old haunt on Wood Street which was just in the right place for popping into during my weekly walk down Bold Street, especially since its programme tended to change with greater regularity than FACT up the road. So I’m very pleased Liverpool Biennial’s chosen to inhabit the old building for a few months and with a piece which is just the sort of thing which used to appear here, oddly covering similar themes to the Open Eye’s own official exhibit in 2010. But it is just a shell with the offices at the back turned into display spaces, fulfilling the same kind of display function as the Europleasure/Scandinavian Hotel or the Wood Street garage back then.
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In the visually complex video work Making Chinatown, artist Ming Wong remakes or “swedes” key scenes from Roman Polanski’s film with himself in all of the main roles as Jack Nicholson, Fay Dunaway, John Huston and Diane Ladd, all in costume in sets that recreate the original locations with some digital augmentation. Fans of the film will instant recognise these moments, but it’s worth adding that if you haven’t seen Chinatown yet (what is wrong with you?) that it’s best ignored until you have because Wong’s work is laced with plot spoilers and definitely gives away the ending. Happily because I’ve seen too many films, I was instantly absorbed and marvelling at Wong’s ingenuity in reproducing John A. Alonzo and Stanley Cortez’s camera work especially with the requirement of being in the same scene as himself.

Luckily for me, Wong has himself written a very lucid explanation as to the underlying themes of the work. As he explains, he’s reacting to the pulp fiction of the 1950s which utilised oriental settings for its detective stories, from the Fu Manchu novels through to screen portrayals in the likes of The Lady of Shanghai, The Big Sleep and Mysterious Mr Wong. But this kind of nod to “the other” stretches back even further than that to Edwardian fiction and the works of Conan Doyle amongst others (there an excellent Matthew Sweet documentary about the topic in relation to Limehouse in London on the newer dvd release of Doctor Who’s The Talons of Weng Chiang, itself a homage to these kinds of fictions). Of course it’s notable that the majority of the later neo-noir isn’t actually set in Chinatown, which has greater mystical significance.

But Wong’s homage works because he’s noticeably a very good actor himself and goes out of his way to provide decent performances throughout without direct impressions of the originals, he doesn’t offer us his Nicholson, preferring instead to supply his interpretation within certain limits. After a while it becomes apparent that he’s purposefully holding up a mirror to how Caucasian actors might have approached playing characters of oriental descent in 1950s albeit without the kinds of gross stereotyping committed by the producers of the film version of The Mask of Fu Manchu or later in the Mr Wong or Charlie Chan series (and arguably Michael Spice in the aforementioned Who story thankfully “explained away” because he’s playing an alien in disguise) (sorry, is that a spoiler?).

A display area at the back has original posters advertising some of these films and its impossible not to grimace at what used to be the norm in Hollywood. As the wikipedia’s thorough history demonstrates, there are still a few rare instances of similar tactics, but more regularly yellowing up tends to be utilised to comment on past stereotyping or most often a previously Asian character being written to accommodate a Caucasian actor perhaps most outrageously in 21, a true story of an incident which happened to an all Asian group of people all of whom were recast as other ethnicities. Wong’s work is a timely reminder that however much we might think our sensibilities have been enlightened, if we’re not careful we’ll simply create a different mistake by remove the Asian image out of the picture altogether.

Will Gompertz vs. JK Rowling.

Books Will Gompertz is doing that metablogging thing he does, on this occasion with JK Rowling, in which he writes about the process of creating the television interview rather than simply regurgitating the content. As ever it's a wayward pleasure, especially the moment when he compares JK to Walter from Breaking Bad:
""I'm sorry," says the bemused writer, "I don't understand what you are asking". She is being generous; the twitching muscles around her mouth indicated a laugh being suppressed with the utmost difficulty.

"Have you ever seen Breaking Bad?" I ask awkwardly.

"No," she says.

"It's about a school teacher- a Mr Chips type who becomes a crystal meth dealer."

She explodes with laughter.

"I see," she says, hugging herself. 'So I'm Mr Chips who's now selling crystal meth?"
Not in the text but in the video is the admission from JK that she wished she'd had more time for write some of the Harry Potter novels, one of the early ones, one from later which she says were created "on the run". Then she makes a squirmy face about reading some of the prose. Which goes to show that even best selling authors aren't entirely happy with the work which is published in their name.

Mind Expanding Pop Culture Collision.

TV There continues to be a black hole in UK television's schedules where Sesame Street should be. Much of my formative language development occured watching Big Bird and his colleagues and especially the informative animations, particularly ...

... which also made me love pinball for the rest of my life. Sesame Street also had the duel purpose of introducing my young mind to a world beyond suburban Liverpool to a place where accents were even rarer but with children experiencing much the same problems.

With that in mind, imagine my awe on watching their latest promotional video for Entertainment Weekly for their latest series.  Keep watching ... keep watching ... and oh my gaaad, how did that happen?

Don't look at the tags below this post if you don't want a spoiler, but that's and he's singing about that. and there's one of those and that's, and he's wearing one of those so he's doing an impression of.  Well, goodness.

Since I can't embed that, here's an equally seminal moment.

If only she'd been in The Avengers.

Claire Danes's career transformation.

Film  Two years ago, Claire Danes was endorsing paint:

Here's that quote again:
“United States Artists (U.S.A.) is a fantastic artist-advocacy organization. I’m pleased to be working with Valspar and U.S.A. to bring Stephen Burks’ beautiful installation to Grand Central. I appreciate how color can transform a space and I’m excited to use Valspar’s new, richly colorful Hi-DEF Advanced Color System paints.
Now she's an Emmy Award winner again.  For Homeland.  And starting memes.  Well done, you.

Updated  10/10/2012  It's also worth noting that Mandy was playing a eunuch in the critically derided musical Paradise Found, a role for which he shaved his head:

There's hope for us all.

Guesses as to how Amy and Rory leave and other things.

TV  It's been a weird day and evening so here we are at 23:06 with a midnight deadline for the daily blog post so I hope you'll indulge me on two Who related things.  There may be spoilers so I'll leave a necessary gap just in case ...