Nature G1 reports on this "rain of spiders" captured by designer Erick Reis in Santo Antonio da Platina in Brazil. But as they explain, this isn't the precursor to some biblical disaster but a naturally occurring phenomena.

WHO 50: 1974:
Planet of the Spiders.

Magazines  Whenever I meet proper fans of the series, the kind who'll laugh at jokes about Monoids and know what a death defying role down a small verge looks like, I'm always slightly surprised when they tell me they don't read Doctor Who Magazine.

Um, but, I'll splutter, it's Doctor Who Magazine.  You're a Doctor Who fan.

Yes, they'll say, but there's in the internet.  It's a fiver a month.  It's just a load of old marketing.

At which point I realise there's no reasoning with them and begin to explain again why the Eighth Doctor's the best or some such.

Really, if you're a Doctor Who fan, oldby or otherwise, why wouldn't you buy Doctor Who Magazine?

The cost perhaps, it has just gone up to £4.75.

But for that £4.75, even though admittedly Gallifrey Guardian now reads like Yesterday’s Times, this month there's a long lost interview with John Pertwee full of stories even hardy convention visitors might not have heard before, Steven Moffat lists his favourite Who stories of all time, a Valentine's Day inspired article listing all the show's great romances (including Thara and Vana from The Krotons), an attempt to find the essence of Doctor Who via the TV Movie, the Eleventh Doctor meeting Ian and Barbara in the comic strip, a column about Christmas in a fans household and Gary Gillat’s blistering review of the dvd release of The Reign of Terror (yes, I agree, the animations are a disappointing failure).

And in the middle of all that The Fact of Fiction which this month, in case you were wondering, covers Planet of the Spiders.

When archivist Andrew Pixley’s archive features drew to a close, The Fact of Fiction arrived to fill the gap with a much more trivia based approach to Doctor Who’s stories, expanding out of the show itself into tangential material including general knowledge and spin-off media.

It’d be wrong of me to simply type up a list of my favourite facts because that would just be plagarism and writer David Bryher did all of this hard work.

But it is a classic of the form.  The authors of these articles, usually Alan Barnes but as we see here there are others, usually attempt to find material which hasn’t been in a Pixley archive or in one of the dvd production commentaries.

Sometimes there’s an element of wondering if they’ll mention this or that titbit or just how thorough, for example, regular boxouts about featured actors or the reuse of elements in novels will be.

Bryher folds some of that into the main text for a change.  Room is made noting the previous adventures of Gareth Hunt and for a jokey reminder of the effect Lawrence Miles’s Interference has on the story.  It is indeed complicated.

I don't expect I'm stealing anything if I mention that it reminds us that Planet of the Spiders has the longest chase scene in the show's history and one of its most pointless since one of the participants could have transported out at any opportunity.  Never mind the TV Movie, its Planet of the Spider which really captures the essence of Doctor Who.

The picture of Mike Yates on page 59 is almost worth the cover price of the magazine on its own.

But the magazine itself is genuinely worth the cover price, even in the internet age, even after all these years.

"the VHS recon of episode four"

TV Doctor Who merchandising's official site has announced the dvd (and blu-ray!) release schedule for the rest of the year:

February 25: The Ark in Space: Special Edition

March 11: The Aztecs: Special Edition (plus Galaxy 4 reconstruction)

May 6: The Visitation: Special Edition

May 27: Inferno: Special Edition

June 3: The Mind of Evil

June 24: Terror of the Zygons

July 15: Spearhead from Space Blu-Ray

August 5: The Green Death: Special Edition

August 26: The Ice Warriors

September 16: Scream of the Shalka

Shalka's the surprise, though really it shouldn't be given the lack of new content yet to be released.  Indeed the only story now outstanding in something like releasable form is The Tenth Planet which I now think they're saving for the anniversary when they'll bung it out with the VHS recon of episode four.  Unless they wait until episode four actually turns up.

They're probably also having a chat with themselves about The Underwater Menace which now has two episodes.  Ideally they'll add them as an extra disc with The Ice Warriors since it the only Pat story left but again, they're probably looking to extend the life of the range so we might have a dvd spine with The Underwater Menace written on it soon.

No sign of Curse of the Fatal Death, but like Dimensions in Time, as a charity event its status is a bit shaky.  There was a VHS release with loads of documentary footage.  Since it also has Richard E Grant as a Doctor, a twin with Shalka seems most logical especially since its only twenty minutes long.  But wouldn't be a great loss.  It's officially on YouTube anyway.

Nevertheless as this point it looks like, as promised years ago, the complete, available for release, Doctor Who range will be out by the end of 2013.  At which point they'll no doubt throw together a much cheaper complete box set just to piss off those of us who've been collecting them all for the past decade.

I must not stare at too much.

Life  After the attack of nerves which greeted my attendance of the press view for the Tate's Alice in Wonderland, I was relatively at ease this morning, taking time to put my belongings in the basement lockers, remembering to have some music with me to help me concentrate on the work at hand, or rather at face, and not becoming too distracted by the general hubbub of a Tate press view.  I think in general people would have seen me smiling, since it certainly felt like I was smiling a lot.

If nothing else it gave me a chance to add a few more people to the list of those whose work I really admire but I must not stare at too much.  But it really is difficult when someone like Paul Morley is wandering around, someone who probably knows more about music than I've forgotten about film and selected T Rex's Ride A White Swan as one of his half dozen best pop tracks of all time in that programme I once annotated for this blog.  But it would have been wrong to break his concentration by harassing him about the Sugababes reunion.

Similarly at work, and similarly not someone I'd want to harass was Hadley Freeman.  Oh my gosh, I would have wanted to say, I love your blog about 80s films.  I love your fashion columns.  I love Lost In Showbiz.  You're one of my favourite writers and a huge influence.  That would have been entirely unprofessional even if I wasn't technically at my profession.  Instead, I simply tried not to get in her way and just listen to the curator's introduction even when she stepped into my vicinity next to a display case.

All of which sounds like horrendous name dropping but during lunch I was chatting to someone about this blog and talked about how rare it was that I wrote anything "personal" any more and afterwards I realised it something I really should.  Do.  I saw two of my writing heroes today and that's huge and that's just the sort of thing I should be writing on here, even if it's so that in three years I can have a reminder of when it was.  I'll just try and not make too much of a habit of it.

Glam! The Performance of Style at Tate Liverpool.

Art Glam, or as the title of Tate Liverpool’s new exhibition has it, Glam! (the exclamation mark oh so very important in this context) is a movement that everyone knows and everyone knows best through its images and music. It’s David Bowie of course, and Marc Bolan. It’s Suzie Quatro and The Who. It’s platform boots and high collars. Angel’s wings. Leopard skin leggings. Lou Reed hanging around Andy Warhol’s loft. Flares but in an ironic way. It’s dandyism, crushed velvet suits and giant floppy hats. It’s The Man Who Fell To Earth. It’s the transitional moment between flower power and disco when identities were being created and deconstructed by the day.

All of which passed me by because as curator Darren Pih explained in his press briefing this morning, the whole thing was largely dead by 1974, in other words before I was born. Glam! is one of those movements, like disco and like punk, which exists within the vicinity of my experience, but which I’m only aware of through the prism of post-modern cutting and pasting, through biopics and BBC Four documentaries and rereleases and filtered through other pop cultural escapades. The first Bowie album I probably listened to was the soundtrack to the film Labyrinth (“You remind me of the babe!” “What babe?” “The babe with the power!” “What power?” “The power of voodoo!” “Who do?” “You do!” “Do what?” etc).

Which also means this an occasion when attending an exhibition is like visiting upon someone else’s subculture, picking out the iconic images that everyone else probably identifies  but knowing in your heart of hearts that you’re not as excited about the thing as someone steeped in the period, not in the same way as I was at that Kylie costume exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery or if by some remote chance the Tate decided to mount a show inspired by the music of the Sugababes featuring art inspired by the songs (Richard Long’s Being In The Moment, that sort of thing). But art should also to an extent be about education and to an extent I was educated. I'm listening to Bowie as I type and loving it.

Not that we not we of Glam! are left entirely rudderless. At the opening of the exhibition is a Glamscape filled with ephemera, magazines, album covers, posters, costumes which rather like the first paragraph to this review acts as a primer reminding the visitor as to the era under question and offers a sense of how movements are amplified from their first proponents to the wider public, through Harpers & Queens and Vogue, through T-Rex on tour, through designer outlets like Alkasura on the King’s Road. This was an organic movement that developed through a communication between media; there was no initial group meeting in a pub somewhere that decided what Glam! should be.

But as with the similar structured Alice in Wonderland display from last year, it’s important to remember the topic is being filtered through a Tate perspective. Whereas at the V&A, the exhibition might continue into the costumes of the period, original album artwork and a reckoning of how Glam! influenced pop culture in general with due deference given to Todd Haynes’s film Velvet Goldmine this filters Glam! through contemporary art, of how its concerns were expressed by photographers and painters either directly or imaginatively through thematic connections. Those connections are admittedly closer (justifiable?) than in Alice but my interest still wained in the latter stages just as it did there..

The exhibition is at its most comfortable, or perhaps I was most comfortable with the exhibition, when it’s reflecting the culture of the movement. Nancy Hellebrand’s photographic series captures fans of the music, their bedrooms covered in photographs of Bowie and Bolan snipped from music magazines and oddly in the case of “Delia” an advert for Green Shield Stamps (“Don’t Forget Father’s Day on June 20”).  Mick Rock catches their idols in similarly private moments, Bowie (in full make-up) and Mick Ronson having lunch on the train to Aberdeen (c. 1972) which explain some of the attraction of Glam!, that it had a performative aspect clashing the mundane or banal with the fantastic.

The biggest surprise is an appearance from Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, the one David Hockney painting for which I have a postcard having once travelled all the way to Manchester to see it at their art gallery where it was on special loan. It’s not an image I would have immediately associated with Glam! but given that Hockney was apparently embedded in the scene (he’s threaded through the Glam! chronology at the back of the exhibition catalogue), it’s possible to see the movement bubbling under the surface, in Mr Clark’s hair, in the pink of his wife’s jumper and their facial expressions, repeated in many of the other images in the exhibition, of contented superiority.

It’s beyond here, when, as the press notes suggest the exhibition uses Glam! as a prism “through which to view artistic developments in Europe and North America” that I became slightly restless. While it’s always welcome to see some of Andy Warhol’s exhibition tapes (Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and the luminous Nico) and anything by Cindy Sherman (her reimaging of a Jerry Hall Vogue cover in triptych), I’ll never be convinced by Allen Jones’s godawful sadomasacystic representations of women as furniture (this being the fifth time I've seen them), or Jimmy De Sana’s similarly repulsive photographic body horror.  Luckily, James Lee Byars, The Wings for Writing, two red silk cuffs with feathers are there to remind us that transformation does not necessarily mean degradation and can instead be rather fabulous.

There is a further Glamscape representing the USA, The New York Dolls, Iggy Pop and Star Magazine, a reminder that this was a global movement. But I expect what I would have liked to have seen at the end would have been a more V&A approach to bookend the show, a Glamscape about how the movement seeped back into culture, through Slade and Elton John (both of which are absent) and yes, I also do mean during the Pertwee era of Doctor Who, beginning with the costumes (the Doctor’s coat, Liz Shaw’s hat on the Silurians) and right into the alien antagonists from Autons to Axons, now filtered again by Paul Magrs in his Eighth Doctor audios (Horror of Glam Rock, The Zygon Who Fell To Earth) and his new cd series, Vince Cosmos: Glam Rock Detective.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t leave the exhibition without a sense that I should probably listen to some more glam, some Reed, some Bolan, some Quatro and get around to watching Tommy. That’s ultimately what these displays are about, curators passing on their enthusiasms to the general public and hoping enough of us will pass through the doors to allow them to wax lyrical about something else. At least I understand now why there was such excitement surrounding the sudden release of a new track from David Bowie, even if its contents had less to do with Glam! than reflecting human maturity.

Glam! The Performance of Style is at Tate Liverpool until 12th May.  Entry is £12 but concessions and family tickets available.


Food Perhaps unsurprisingly Quorn's own website has a vast array of recipes for their fungal meat substitute. Last time I tried it, I was unconvinced, but I do know some people swear by it. Here's their teritaki:
"Place the beef style Quorn pieces into a bowl and add a tablespoon of vegetable oil, the soy or teriyaki sauce, garlic, ginger, orange juice and zest and rice wine vinegar. Leave to marinate for 40 minutes, stirring from time to time."
I wonder how different the taste would be with actual meat, what part of the food mechanics process is to do with the interaction of flavours with something which isn't meat.  Any ideas?

The Tomorrow Windows.

Books It’s 2004 and pre-production on the televised revival of Doctor Who is in full swing with all of us wondering what the franchise under Russell T Davies would look like. But some of us, those of us lucky enough to have read Jonathan Morris’s The Tomorrow Windows (ie, not me at the time) would have been given a coincidental hint of what was to come and not just under Davies’s tenure but his successor too. It’s not unique in that respect, The Christmas Invasion as we’ve discussed is practically a re-imaging of The Dying Days but it’s one thing for the new series to be influenced by the wilderness years; quite another for similar approaches to emerge simultaneously.

It’s all here, all the makings of the trailer for the series, the celebrity cameos, a devastating explosion at a London landmark, a nerdy figure who’s a fan of the Doctor, dozens of strange new worlds with odd customs, half a dozen strange new beings with even odder customs, self-conscious literary pastiches, ghosts and above all a creative model somewhere between Kay Mellor, Monty Python and The Brothers Grimm. But it’s also heavily, as is usual with Morris, influenced by Douglas Adams, but as he urges in his acknowledgements, it’s not meant as a pastiche, more of a tribute to his narrative way of going about things, of highlighting humanities problems through metaphorical satire and hyperbole.

Good god I loved it, even more than his previous Adams pastiche, Anachrophobia. That was still somewhat shackled by the needs of a story arc. But with such things set aside beyond the bit of mystery surrounding Trix, Morris is allowed to let rip, splattering ideas, characters and bits of narrative all over the shop and will us to stay with it and watch it all coalesce together at the climax. After thirty pages I was on Twitter singing its praises and there wasn’t a moment after when I wasn’t surprised and delighted and gaping at the sheer brass balls on display. Five novels to go and I’ve found another one which I’ll want to read again and I’d actively recommend to anyone who just wants to see what these Eighth Doctor novels can be like.

I expect I should mention the story. The Tomorrow Windows are magical mirrors able to provide the viewer with the gist of what their future holds. Noticing a range of worlds on some galactic heritage list are due for an apocalypse, an alien scientist is hoping to utilise these looking glasses to suggest to each population that there’s another way, but unfortunately for him, he decides that Earth needs fixing, and sets up an exhibition at Tate Modern just as the Doctor and his pals drop in on contemporary London in the mood to see some art. Stuff happens and before long, the four of them are jumping about the cosmos hoping to save the planets on his list and get to the bottom of why the apocalypses are happening in the first place.

This is one of those rare novels which embraces the caravan narrative with their masses of mini-adventures within a framing device, though closer to the The Keys of Marinus than Seasons of Fear, and obviously extremely close to The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Galaxy, Morris having great fun introducing each world both from the moment when everything starts to go wrong and their ultimate end. Thematically he takes pot shots at everything from the kind of bad democracy where both “choices” agree with each other to climate change debates and causes to bureaucracym all the while testing our nerve to see if we notice which part of Adams’s oeuvre he’s being influenced by in each given chapter or page.

Of course not everyone has a tolerance for this sort of thing, which is why the Graham Williams era (with Adams at the helm) received such mixed reviews, the kinds of mixed reviews, which greeted this on publication though not interestingly Matt Michael in Doctor Who Magazine, a man not easily pleased but like me finds much to enjoy, especially what amounts an unexpected and affectionate (?) parody of Lawrence Miles’s Alien Bodies embedded in the middle. It’s quite surprisingly how little of that kind of self reflexive referencing happens in these novels between authors, some kind of gentleperson’s agreement I’ve heard, but with time running out presumably that’s become a bit flexible.

Example: remember back when writing up The Infinity Race when I was exercised about, amongst other things, how Anji and Fitz’s sections appeared in the first person for no good reason? At a certain point in The Tomorrow Windows it becomes apparent Trix is at it too, seemingly to provide some much needed character building or rather lack of since although there’s hints at some dark past, she’s changed her identity so many times she’s forgotten who she is. Except then it’s utilised for something else, becomes an actively important part of the storytelling and a device, which could only work convincingly in a printed format. Hooted, I did, hooted, even as the writing took a turn for darkness and then became even darker.

Not that there’s much proof that Morris is referencing The Infinity Race, but given all of the stories from across the franchise which are referenced herein thanks to the list of planets which the Doctor must save, I wouldn’t put it past him. As I write I keep remembering beautiful moments like the introduction of a Brian Blessed analogue doomed to repeat his most famous screen moment in a Flash Gordon parody (treated it has to be said with more respect somehow than in the talking bear film Ted). Or the character that seems designed to tenderly lampoon the production requirements of the classic series who’s fundamental nature is based upon the viewer’s suspension of disbelief. Or the very final page of the book, which knows it’s the final page.

This also features the Eighth Doctor at the height of his powers, entirely comfortable with his memory loss, the series happy to allow him to face elements of his forgotten past for fun (also referencing The Dying Days itself in the process).  More than ever he seems like the transitional incarnation between the classic and new series, steeped in the righteous anger of the Fourth Doctor but with the Tenth Doctor's constant state of wonder.  Similarly Fitz has rarely been better, though some of the directness he exhibited in Halflife seems to have remained, though to an extent it's a requirement of his most prominent portion of the novel, a Christie pastiche years before The Unicorn and the Wasp, which requires what amounts to being a second Doctor.

None of which will make much sense without reading the thing, but even if you’ve never read a Doctor Who spin-off novel but have any interest in Adams, Python or that sort of writing, this is well worth chasing down and particularly if you enjoyed Gareth Roberts’s Shada novelisation last year. My copy has £2 written on the inside front page; I think I bought it from the bookshop on Mount Pleasant in Liverpool. But there are plenty of copies knocking about online for relatively cheap prices. This is a near perfect expression of what the spin-off fiction was capable of in a way which wouldn’t be reflected again for a good few years after the return of the television series. Plus it has a Sugababes reference.  Four to go.

The Electric Banana.

Music  The surviving members of The Pretty Things continue to perform and in New Zealand last year, Dick Taylor gave this interview in which he lamented the bizarre publicity which misrepresented the bands music, the poor reception of some of their albums and the resurgence in interest. It's all so typically rock and roll:
Their subsequent career seemed filled with opportunities lost or innovation overlooked. Most famously was their ambitious but dark SF Sorrow album of late '68, the first rock opera beating the Who's Tommy by six months. 
"It needed to do well in America but by the time it came out it was through a dodgy dealing between EMI and Tamla Motown – the details of which I'm not legally allowed to talk about. But basically they had an inside deal with one another and it got released on Rare Earth which was a good attempt at Tamla to break into white rock . . . but they didn't market it properly.
“Apart from everything else they put it in a circular record cover and so you couldn't see it on the shelves, stupid little things like that.”

Future Shock.

Psychology Charlie Jane Anders on Future Shock:
"It's been four decades since futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler predicted a wave of "future shock," the sensation of panic and unease that happens when people are "overwhelmed by change." And, depending on who you talk to you, we're either in the middle of a huge epidemic of future shock, with people struggling to adapt to a world of iPhones and climate change, or future shock is a totally passe concept. But one thing's for sure: A lot of people are uneasy these days."
This is a well researched, thoughtful io9 post on something I think we're all dealing with, that we live in a perpetual state of ignorance because we can never know everything which available to us. If I'm suffering from "future shock", it would explain why I feel this way.


Nature Published in 1908 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology, Root-maggots and how to control them is a handy guide to deal with one of nature's scariest pests listing ever more invasive procedures:
"Hand picking, although laborious, has the merit of being effective, and is practised with considerable success by extensive cabbage growers, although not practicable on radish and similar crops. It consists in pulling up the young cabbage or cauliflower plants, examining the roots for eggs and maggots, and either destroying the eggs and maggots by crushing with the hand or by washing the roots in a strong solution of soap and then replanting. In most cases the plants show no ill effects from this treatment after two or three weeks have elapsed. By looking closely, the minute white eggs may be seen about the stalks of young cabbages, and if the earth be raked away so as to expose the eggs to the sun these will dry up, thus preventing the maggots from hatching. Afterwards the plants should be hilled."
No. Just no.  Ick.

"The status quo"

Journalism The trouble with female celebrity profiles and the men who write them. Just because it happens, doesn't make it right:
"The status quo results in pieces such as Chuck Klosterman’s “The Pitfalls of Indie Fame” (Grantland), which mercurially identifies musician Merrill Garbus as “a somewhat androgynous American woman,” and Tom Junod’s “The State of the Female Singer” (Esquire), which describes Lana Del Rey’s lips in fanatical detail, and relegates Florence and the Machine’s 2011 album, Ceremonials,to “something our wives can pick up… at Starbucks while waiting for Adele to get out of the hospital.” The latter goes on to shame Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Ke$ha, and Beyoncé for adopting stage personas—as if Kanye West and Justin Bieber don’t lay it on thick."
It's reached the stage where I tend to skim most interviews and profiles in general trying to find the sections where the given subject is actually talking rather than having to wade through a given journalistic opinion, in which a person is being objectified.

Which isn't to say there isn't a skill and some profiles can be entertaining and illuminating and there are some very good writers (as ever Elizabeth Day, Emma Brockes or Hadley Freeman spring to mind).

But sometimes I wish it was simply some preamble then a Q&A format.  If a person has nothing to say they'll be laid bare and as such allow us to make our own impression of them.  Similar the really interesting people will shine like beacons.


Books  Back in the day, all of 2003, BBC Books’s Doctor Who novels switched to a bimonthly schedule, an Eighth Doctor Adventure one month, the Past Doctors the next and ironically at around the time the new series had been commissioned and there could be a resurgence in interest and an uptick in sales.  Not reading either at the time, I didn’t have much of an sense of what that meant as a consumer.  Now having had to wait a couple of months for Mark Michalowski’s Halflife to be delivered through inter-library loan, I can entirely appreciate the frustration.  How could you stand it?  I could have bought it I expect, but with funds limited and second hand copies costing over a tenner and knowing I’d probably only ever read this once, I decided to wait.

Luckily, Halflife’s the first step in a new editorial policy of shifting towards a more stand alone format, only glancing towards extra-curricular mythology and finishing up a couple of niggling story elements from novels previous.  Which isn’t to say it ever really feels like a stand alone novel, not in the same way as a PDA, but by the close there’s a renewed sense of the Doctor and his pals having all of time and space in front of them rather than whatever bit of plot they’ve decided to investigate because Sabbath told them to and it is just one universe rather than several dozen or an infinite number depending upon how the author’s even interpreting the story arch.  Sorry, bear with me.  I’m a bit rusty.

As is the Doctor because as the novel opens he has amnesia.  Again.  Or rather he has more amnesia on top of the amnesia he already has.  Which is unfortunate.  He’s also not him really feeling himself, lost on the streets of the Terran colony world of Espero, smoking, drinking and swearing up the place, like, well, like Fitz.  Fitz meanwhile also has extra amnesia and finds himself wanting to get into the thick of oncoming mysteries and adventures, of night beasts roaming the colony, of a royal family with a touch of the Shakespeares (an aging ruler is being plotted against by his young wife and her son) and of apocalyptic disasters from all side.  Meanwhile Trix is stuck in the middle of it all enduring her own identity crisis not in control of all her faculties.

Halflife is Mark Michalowski’s only Eighth Doctor novel though his grasp on the mythology is exemplary and once again we marvel at how some authors are capable of treating characters and a storyline that exists only in prose on a page with the same order of research and observation as tie-in novels based the television version of the show.  If nothing else, Michalowski’s characterisation is right on the money in a way that some writers who produced several of these things never did quite manage and with the extra challenge of projecting, thanks to some in-story accidental genetics, elements of the Doctor’s personality and memories onto Fitz and vice-versa and still keep the integrity of both.

They’re certainly the strongest element of the novel.  Finally we’re talking about their memories in ways which should have been addressed trees worth of pages ago.  What can the Doctor remember?  What can Fitz?  Do they want to?  Thanks to an expert in memories (who the internet says may be his previous walking TARDIS companion Compassion though I didn’t get that at) and an organic ship from elsewhere, they’re forced to deal with their past.  The Doctor, it seems is happy not remember anything before he woke up on the train just prior to The Burning.  Fitz now remembers everything including that he’s a facsimile created by the Doctor about whom he now knows more than friend and is happy about that too because the shoe's on the other foot.

On the one hand this makes Fitz relevant again as something more than a companion.  For once they may be in a situation and it’ll be Fitz who’s allowed a modicum of exposition room rather than the Doctor simply pulling it from his memory and explaining it instead.  In narrative terms that should provide some interest for the final five.  You could argue that Fitz was a companion for far longer than he really should have been, but he’s been kept somewhat fresh through these subtle reimaginings, from real Fitz to Kode to faux Fitz to faux Fitz with a memory of some or all of his previous incarnations.  I notice as I’m writing about these books again I’m mucking up my tenses again too.  They were published in the past but they’re very present because I’m only reading them now.  It’s a brain jangler.

The Doctor’s choice is even more complex and I don’t know if it feels quite right.  He might be happy with who he is now, but given the choice to have his memories of everything else back, shouldn’t he take it?  Wouldn’t any of his other incarnations if it meant he could achieve his goals better?  It’s about the only element of the novel which feels like a story element being put to one side for later, or something which is being forced in to give this version of the Eighth Doctor a character trait lacking in his other incarnations as though a version with all of his pre-The Ancestor Cell memories wouldn’t be distinctive enough.  It doesn’t matter that much at this point – he’ll presumably get them all back in five novels, but it’s still a bit odd.

That said, it does allow Michalowski to put the audience in the same position as the Doctor in regards to one of the antagonists.  Throughout the Doctor keeps chiding himself for not being able to remember the Makers, the aliens who take control of Trix threatening to delete her personality and take control of her body, and throughout we’ve a nagging feeling that we should know who they are too as though they’re some returning presence from a previous novel or corner of the franchise.  They’re not, as the newly renamed TARDIS Datacore confirms, a website which exists because despite being fans not all of us can remember everything which happened in every story that we’ve read about the Doctor, just as he can’t remember every adventure he’s had.

The other strong element of the novel is the world, for once an entirely non-Caucasian mass of humanity through which our entirely Caucasion crew wander, another element of the shoe being on the other foot.  But for the most part there’s little Orientalism, they just happen to originally have travelled from the African subcontinent, the story isn’t about that, in a way that sci-fi and drama in general often has issues with (and yes, I mean you Star Trek The Next Generation’s Code of Honor).  The geography of the colony itself is pretty standard stuff, but in a way that’s also innovative; there’s a tendency in these novels to over develop the locale so that it becomes entirely unrealistic.  Sometimes space can be just as unremarkable as back down here on Earth with a few extra fantasy trappings.

If the EDAs had gone on a bit longer, perhaps Mark Michalowski would have become one of its strongest proponents and certainly the contemporary reviews I’ve seen are (were?) (damn) impressed with his writing if not necessarily some of the plot points.  With just five books to go, the series seems to be heading off with refreshed sense of purpose and of fun adventures ahead.  But on the Acknowledgements page Mark offers what I think is the first in print acknowledgement of the reason the series would be curtailed.  “And to Russell T Davies", he says, "for being lovely and for giving us all hope again.”  It’s just a pity that for fans of the Eighth Doctor novels that hope would have a slightly darker hue.  Five to go.

Blue Crystal.

Deceased directors.

Film In suitably majestic fashion, David Bordwell compares the work of two recently deceased directors, Tony Scott and Theo Angelopoulos:
"Both play games with narrative as well. As early as The Hunger (1983) Scott’s incessant crosscutting uses the soundtrack of one line of action to comment on another. The time looping of Domino (2005) and Déja Vu (2008) creates flashbacks, replays, revised outcomes, and jumping viewpoints. More sedately, Angelopoulos perfected the time-shifting long take. The camera movements of The Traveling Players (1975) glide among different eras. From scene to scene, Angelopoulos will provide few marks of tense. Scene B may follow A, or precede it by several years, and no Hollywoodish superimposed title will help us out. It may be several minutes before we realize that decades have passed.

"Yet the time-scrambling both directors enjoy isn’t wholly at the service of drama. Storytelling takes on a curiously subsidiary role in their work. Neither filmmaker, it seems to me, is centrally interested in probing what many of us take to be the core of narrative—character psychology. This isn’t to say there aren’t poignant moments and glimpses of inner lives. But each director also leaps beyond them."
Lately I've noticed the barriers between the mega-genres, between so-called mainstream and art house cinema to become less and less secure. Whilst its true that formally something like The Turin Horse and 2 Fast 2 Furious (to take two films I've seen recently at random) seem to have nothing in common, both share a narrative fracturing and require a very particular level of audience attention, though admittedly in the latter its because important exposition is either completely missing or being shouted through with such rapidity it's easy to miss.

The Postal Service in New Zealand.

Information Lately our postal deliveries have become inconsistent, with some deliveries not happening until the afternoon and none at all on days when a Lovefilm disc should be winging its way through. But I'm sparing a thought for New Zealanders, who're facing the possibility of their postal deliveries being cut to three times a week:
"The proposal, released today by Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams, seeks to cut mail delivery days from six to three days a week to allow "greater flexibility" in its services.

"During the last 10 years mail volumes have dropped considerably, with 265 million fewer items being posted each year compared to 2002. Within five years, mail volumes are forecast to be nearly half what they were in 2002," Ms Adams said."
Of course, in the long run, once digital delivery is at its apogee and everyone has access to the web via a tablet (it's coming soon), postal deliveries will become an outmoded concept and may even be reduced further across the board. But not yet.

Welsh mining village.

History  The slow decline of the Welsh mining industry continues with the closure of the nation's largest drift mine, Aberpergwm Colliery, with the loss of three hundred jobs:
“I say it’s a tragedy for the Welsh coal industry because demand for energy world wide is huge and we have the skills and resources in Wales to provide top quality coal.

“It’s alarming that an investment in a coal producing area has come to a halt with plenty of coal still underground.

“I cannot comment on the what has happened at Aberpergwm because I simply don’t know what the conditions are there. But what is needed is a business plan and the will to make a success of the industry in a traditional coal mining area."
One of the few vivid memories I have of primary school is a lesson about natural resources, and a text book with painterly representations of the world's natural resources and how there was only a finite amount of coal, oil and gas.

This was the 80s, well before green energy became a mainstream topic.  Now it seems that clean energy and climate change may well be rendering the existence of those resources a moot point but also leading to more people without a hope of finding a different job.