She Said, He Said.

TV Uploaded and broadcast after tonight's episode, She Said, He Said is a nuWho equivalent of the Troughton Web of Fear trailer filmed in the style of the Steve Lyon penned framing material with Ian Chesterton from the VHS release of The Crusade or with all that memorabilia Tom's Shada escapade ("Beat you cock!").  We're offered two contrasting approaches to the soliloquy, looking everywhere other than at the audience or addressing us directly, which means Jenna-Louise is left to uncomfortably talk into space until she's confronted by the Tussaud's version of the Eleventh Doctor.

Exposition wise, it's mostly a tease, offering a synopsis of what we already know, though it does illuminate something which has been bothering me for the past seven weeks.  Other than the Doctor, Clara's barely spoken to anyone else about herself in an intimate way.  There's the small child in Arkadin and the Professor in Cold War, and herself in relation to the TARDIS but most of anything she's done has been plot based, generic companion stuff.  In that sense, this is the longest time we've spent with her covering the existential essentials and we still only scratch the surface.  She loves him, but she's not sure why.

Although the unreversed "He Said, She Said" is a relatively common phrase, it does also give me the opportunity to recommend the underappreciated and generally ignored 1991 film of the same name starring Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Perkins as television journalists falling in and out of love, which utilises a Roshomon structure (cf, The Girl with Two Breasts episode of Coupling) to show the situation from their differing gendered and interpersonal perspectives, which is also, obviously what this prolquel is attempted to do too (and we're back on topic).

Nightmare In Silver.

“Target audience will hate it.”
“Who's the target audience?”
“People with eyes.”

TV So yes, that was rubbish. This exchange between Ben Affleck’s CIA operative and John Goodman’s fantasy film make-up man when asking about the quality of the work in the film Argo has been making me giggle for days partly because of the delivery but mostly because of how it satirically comments on the nature of some fantasy filmmaking and the assumption that people who like fantasy lack discernibility genes. Inevitably, as Neil Gaiman’s Nightmare in Steel unfolded, that quote wandered into my brain, not unlike the Cyber-Planner, and lodged itself there. Because wow, that was wow, and I don’t mean wow as in The Doctor’s Wife, I mean wow, how the hell did that happen?

The previewer’s word of mouth has admittedly not been good. Radio Times is especially scathing in this week’s ish, but friends “in the industry” had intimated things and so I’m willing to open up the potential, and just the potential mind, that I was watching it expecting a fail and it’s also true I did notice a few good things which will at least make it rewatchable. It was not episodes two to four of The Space Museum. It was not Time-Flight. It was not Timelash. It was not most of the first two series of Torchwood. It was not Torchwood’s Miracle Day. But as an example of the series taking its various elements and becoming the show that we fans spend more time than we should complaining that it’s not, it was just about perfectly crafted.

The kids! Oh damn, no, please no. It’s not fair to criticise child actors, so I won’t, but having only vaguely been set up in The Bells of St John and last week’s epilogue, we’re led to believe in between that the Doctor’s not only agreed to carry them in the TARDIS but taken them to this planet. But rather than amazed by the fact they’ve just been in a box which is bigger on the inside and gone through time and space, they’re bored and moody. You know that show in Twelve Monkey’s when Bruce Willis’s younger version is amazed at the concept of an airport all boggle eyed. See also Jurassic Park. Not bored. Boredom leads to an entirely lack of empathy. Imagine if the kids from The Sarah Janes Adventures had offered this reaction.

Having entirely not bothered to make them sympathetic figures in any kind of meaningful way, they’re then given the narrative agency of a third companion, inevitably becoming someone captured for the Doctor to save. But unlike a Jackie Tyler, they’re not especially funny because they’re being written as the kinds of kids who appear in these kinds of roles in this kind of drama so they’re literally just there to be saved and trespass and do all of tedious things that third wheel companions often do. Arguably, this is meant to contrast with Clara perhaps, who as we’ve discussed is in essence the “perfect companion” but I’m as bored with this paragraph as they are with being on an alien planet so I’ll move on.

The Cybermen! Oh Cyberman. Nightmare in Steel (and my brain really wants to put an indefinite article in front of that title) is supposed to be the big reboot for these monsters, the upgrade from the Cybus Industries models that have populated the series since series two. The upgrade seems to be to Borgify them even further, with Cybermites which act like the wiring that enters the body in Star Trek: First Contact, a Cyber-Planner who instantly co-opts an existing body and borrows its knowledge ala Locutus and who mass in great armies around castles. Sorry, that's Orcs, but my point is that in upgrading the Cybermen, Gaiman’s ironically drained even more of their individuality.

I had hoped that we might have had some kind of definitive suggestion that we were watching the original Mondasian Cybermen but instead we were given some new back-story reminiscent of the old Big Finish audio spin-off with its massive space battle and empire except the old Big Finish audio spin-off recognised their roots. Instead, the only Cyberperson allowed a modicum of individuality or character is still the Controller/Planner, which is arguably to some extent also true in the past but at least most of them were capable of philosophically speaking up for themselves when required and with something other than, “Installing upgrade” or some such.

But it’s a measure of a script overflowing with too many ideas, that it’s one notionally interesting thought, Cyberman as The Silver Turk, is dispensed with relatively quickly, so it’s lucky that an Eighth Doctor audio, The Silver Turk exists to do something with it instead. But everything about these models feels derivative, with the detachable hands all but doing the job of the absent Cybermats and a 180 head turn beat which is almost an exact repeat of a similar Dalek manoeuvre from Dalek.  The design is grand, but doesn’t work at all well as part of the static, pin like CGI hoards hoards ring the castle later in the episode. Is just having one of them turning to the camera, clenching a fist and saying “Excellent” too much to ask for?

The script! As I’ve intimated this is a script in which the writer has had several dozen ideas and decided to cram them all in leaving them mostly underdeveloped, handing ammunition to those fans who believe that the forty-five minute episode doesn’t work. In this case, I’d agree, it doesn’t. But there’s enough mileage in the idea of an abandoned whimsical theme park with its creepy attendant alone to fill forty-five minutes yet here it simply to becomes a backdrop for the travails of a punishment platoon (did we actually hear what crimes they’d apparently committed?) (if we did it was pretty much thrown away), who’re then backgrounded in favour of the Doctor’s Gollum-like battle for control of his own brain.

Sometimes the story idea pile-up, some might say shopping list, can work. It was the engine that powered plenty of the RTD era (werewolves, kung fu monks and Queen Victoria?), but more often than not they seemed to integrate better than this. The Doctor’s All of Me moments could and should have been at the centre of a tense, otherwise low key episode, perhaps even a two or three hander, one which would have made more of his brilliant lapses into impressions of his earlier incarnations, existential discussions about the nature of time and of Clara, something in the region of The Girl Who Waited. Instead, it’s at the nucleus of another rather tedious Lord of the Rings knock-off. Oh, wow, I really hated this, didn’t I?

But there’s no excuse either for how undernourished most of these characters are (though to be fair, that’s been an element of this whole series to some extent, especially Cold War). In The Doctor’s Wife, the characters of Auntie and Uncle were simplistic because they were fulfilling a narrative function, whereas Porridge is supposed to be a dimensional character we sympathise with, almost everything about him is carried by Warwick Davies’s charm and as Patrick Mulkern notes at the Radio Times, nothing about his character makes much sense. As president of the galaxy, just why is he hiding out in the torso of a defunct Cyberman on this dead planet? The tedium of power? Oh purlease.

Actually you should probably go read Mulkern’s review. It just about captures everything and it’ll save me repeating him. He’s right about Tamzin Outhwaite too. Once touted as a potential companion by Tom Baker for himself back in the day, here she’s called upon to play the poor cousinof Iain Glenn’s Octavian from The Time of the Angels or General Cobb from The Doctor’s Daughter (a comparison not helped by the barracks quite obviously being filmed in Newbridge Memorial Hall which was main backdrop to that episode). Perhaps given one of the more offhand major supporting character deaths in recent years, this was also an example of the series wasting some good casting and acting on an underwritten character. See also Jason “Webley” Watkins.

Reading back through all of that, because the process of writing this is making me depressed and I want to stop soon, it is possible that I’m damning it for being Doctor Who. Many of the same criticisms could be levelled at most of the Cybermen’s appearances in the 60s and Gaiman could be to some extent presenting his homage to all of that, albeit with much more whimsical tastes (the design of the Planner's prosthesis is reminiscent of the sculptural version from The Invasion). The problem is we’ve also had over three decades of evolution, upgrades, if you like, in-between, and it’s surprising to be handed something this unsophisticated in a lot of ways in the eleventies. Some should have handed him a copy of Nick Brigg’s Sword of Orion during the writing process to give him some indication of how to make the Cybermen really scary.

Nevertheless, despite all of this, it’s only fair for me to suggest a couple of positives. Matt really does work his socks off in the episode creating two distinct personalities (in contrast to The Almost People were his work was much subtler playing versions of the same). He’s not helped by the direction and editing though. Like I said, a big moment, like his impressions of the earlier incarnations should have been clearer. When he offering us his Eccleston, I thought initially he was taking the piss out of Clara. Plus the visit to the interior of his brain really disappointed (despite the appearance of many of the publicity shots from the classic series page with the wrong logo on the BBC website), mostly because it resorted, as the show so often does now, to CGI, when lighting effects can often be just as effective if not moreso.

Oh, that paragraph ended up being two thirds of criticism. Oh, um, I know Jenna-Louise. Jenna-Louise was excellent, wasn’t she, somehow managing to convince us that she could take charge of an army with little or no preparation and without the apparently nervousness of early Rose in taking charge. You could argue that it’s inconsistent with the person walking around in Cold War, but we don’t actually know how long she’s been travelling with the Doctor (especially as with Amy and Rory earlier in the season they're not having consecutive adventures – she goes home at the end). But it could also be part of the notion of her being this impossible girl. The perfect companion able to do what he tells her to, capable of anything he tells her to.

Weirdly, all things considered, Nightmare in Silver had some of the best scenes we've had between these characters, him trying to keep his obsession with her strictly "professional", she apparently not really understanding what he's about or sure why she's travelling with him.  Perhaps the audience might have warmed to her if they'd been allowed to spend more time together rather than being constantly separated; it's certainly true that all of the best scenes in this run have been when they've been together, but rather like the Turlough problem, there's only so long that they can be in scenes together before the Pink Elephant delegate in the Third Intergalactic Peace Conference becomes too obvious to ignore.

One week to go then. Who is Clara? I’ve seen theories as wild and wacky as “She’s the Doctor.” “She’s the Master.” “She’s the offspring of the Doctor and River.” I’m still on the side of her being some kind of perfect companion figure created for reasons unknown, by persons unknown and scattered across time and space like Scaroth or Bad Wolf, ready to be scooped up by the Doctor, who’ll find her intriguing.  Her decision-making abilities and general nouse are far superior to most of the Doctor’s companions and even to him in some ways and at key points in the series. But we’ve no real sense of the interior of the character. She rarely talks about herself, how she feels. She’s almost robotic. Dalek agent?

Now, there’s always the possibility, possibly that when I rewatch A Nightmare in Silver, I’ll like it a whole lot more. People whose opinion I trust have said they thought it was an excellent piece of work and they really enjoyed it which at this point means I’m in the rare state of being on the other side of the argument for a change. After slamming Planet of the Ood mercilessly on the night of broadcast, I warmed to its charms later if only because of Catherine Tate’s performance rather than the pointless chase scene. But at this point, just as Neil Cross was capable of Hide and then The Rings of Arkadin (as I’ve taken to calling it because it’s easier), Neil Gaiman is capable of The Doctor’s Wife and then Nightmare in Silver. Oh dear.

Holiday Camp.

TV BBC One's morning strip of daytime television should under normal circumstances be avoided like all hyper-addictive substances. Each utilises a similar structure of only ever presenting a snippet of a given "story" which forces the viewer to keep watching in order to discover what happened next. In the case of Homes Under The Hammer, we're shown the house, which is up for sale, the auction, we're introduced to purchasers and we're then made to wait half an hour to see if they've turned it into property gold, which if we're not careful we do. Even if it's a repeat.

Don't Get Done Get Dom takes that to a kind of hyperpleptic level, as between smaller consumer outrages, a complaint about a company spins onward for three quarters of an hour through minutes of padding in which the given consumer advice orientated problem is reiterated several times, presenter Dominic Littlewood is seen to make dozens of phone calls until eventually and usually the company puts out a statement of apology with some compensation for the given client. Which we'll still sit and watch and wait and wait and wait for, all the while tutting at the incompetence of the given company.

Yesterday's Don't Get Done Get Dom was a perfect example. A couple have a horrible holiday at Pontins after being given a chalet which judging by the photos looks unbearable, unlivable. Complaining at the time led to an upgrade to even worse accommodation. They complain, don't get anywhere, contact the BBC, and so the shows usual process of phone calls and padding and repetition begins. Except, none of it works. None of it. Dom's offering his usual "I'm from the BBC, hello!" and Pontins don't care.

That's a link to the programme.  Thanks to the iplayer you can skip most of it.  Essentially what Pontins, whose representative will be familiar to fans of a 90s docusoap about  a hotel in Liverpool, do is break the format.  They stonewall Littlewood, as phone calls go unanswered, messages are ignored and his usual final game-changing gambit of speaking to the CEO of the company gets him nowhere (I've only seen the odd episode by the way) (honestly).

Why does Pontins react like this?  Is it because they don't know the format?  If this had been Watchdog would they have had the same reaction?  Do they realise that their target audience are just the sort of people who might watch daytime television?  Either way, it's a rare example of a company not bending over backwards when someone from a BBC consumer advice show phones their press office with a list of demands, which makes it addictive television for a whole other set of reasons.

The Cure and Sugababes.

Music I'm not entirely sure what's being implied or achieved here, but yes, The Cure and Sugababes. Thank you, YouTube uploader.

WHO 50: 1987:
Delta and the Bannermen.

TV  There’s much that can be said about the so-called stunt or celebrity casting which inhabited or for some inhibited the closing embers of Doctor Who’s first run but what isn’t generally noted is how these choices usually aren’t the worst things about their given stories. More often than not they're a strength.

When you mention to a not-we that Nicholas Parsons once played a priest in Doctor Who they’ll rolls their eyes, because it seems to them to be the epitome of what went wrong in the latter stages.

Except, of course, we know he’s really rather good in The Curse of Fenric, especially in the specially prepared dvd version where his character’s given a few extra “moments”, becoming a rather tragic figure as the foundations of his faith are challenged.

Then there’s Ken Dodd in Delta and the Bannermen. During the wilderness years, comedy shows and satirical articles, when attempting to explain why Doctor Who should not return they’d print a shot of Dodd as the Toll Keeper and Sylvester McCoy in his original jacket.

Doctor Who Magazine even put a version of it on their cover like a badge of honour.

What those still images don’t illustrate because they can’t, because you’d only know this if you bothered to watch the episode, is that he’s perfectly cast.

The Tollmaster is only a bit part. In nuWho terms, it’s Phil Cornwell’s stallholder in The Fires of Pompeii or Bella Emberg in Love & Monsters. Local colour.

The character calls for a flamboyant figure heralding passengers into an exciting space adventure (which just happens to be pointed at Earth but nevertheless).

Dodd’s perfect for this, not least because some of the DNA of his screen persona runs through Sylvester McCoy’s due to the connection with one of his great admirer’s Ken Campbell which leads to some excellent on-screen chemistry.

When Sylv later played the fool in Trevor Nunn’s King Lear, Dodd’s influence is tucked away inside somewhere.

But the arguable highlight of his performance, because this is an acting performance, is in his death as he’s dragged away by Don Henderson’s Gavrok, and the look of appreciation when he’s under the impression that he’s being set free, grovelling as he tries to get away as quickly as possible.

Then the guttural scream and whimper as he falls. It’s horrible. Pantomime, in its own way, perhaps, but horrible.

Now, Hale and Pace? They’re a different story …

The Ultimate Foe.

Journalism Were you a student in York in the 1990s? Did you read one of the local student papers, The Matrix? Do you still have any? If so, York Press reports comedian Rosie Wilby wants to speak to you:
"Rosie has filmed video interviews with original members of the collective after tracking them down on social media.

"It’s been really fascinating to catch up again with some of these really inspiring women,” she said. “One or two are still in journalism, but we also have an academic and science fiction author, a clinical embryologist, an internationally touring playwright/poet, a former barrister now running a successful vintage hair company doing hair for films and more.”

"But she can’t find back copies of the magazine anywhere."
If you have any information, Rosie can be contacted via her website.

Adventures with the Wife in Space are done.

TV Best mark this landmark. Neil and Sue have finished, the Adventures with the Wife in Space are done. Completed. The final end and with this final, brilliant post about the TV Movie:
"And then the Master drops a bombshell:

The Master: The Doctor is half human!

Sue: Eh? Since when?

I pause the DVD.

Me: What do you make of that, then?

Sue: It makes sense, I suppose.


Sue: Well, he’s obsessed with Earth. He can’t keep away from the place. Why isn’t he saving Mars every week? There has to be a reason for it and that’s a good enough reason as any.

Me: I take it all back, you’re not a fan after all.
But she loves McGann, which is the main thing. As I've asked for the final podcast, I wonder if she'll be tempted to go off and listen to the audios?  Perhaps we'll find out in the book of the series which will be available shortly.

Terror of the Vervoids.

Gardening Not entirely seasonal perhaps (look! sun!) but last December the Kennebec Journal published the story of Maine's Christmas trees:
"About half of all Maine's Christmas trees begin at the same place, in the western Maine town of Fryeburg.

"Since 1917, Western Maine Forest Nurseries have raised conifer trees from seed. The company grows about 500,000 seedlings every year, some of which are sold for reforestation projects and private landscaping, "but a good chunk of them stay right here in Maine for Christmas tree production," said Rick Eastman, 57, the nursery's third-generation owner."
I've noticed in the past couple of weeks the waste ground on Smithdown Road where we usually buy our Christmas tree is currently being built upon. Oh dear.

Vigilante Copy Editor.

Art In this mini-documentary, Jay Dockendorf of the New York Times reports:
"In the sculpture park at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, one of the nation’s oldest art schools, a clandestine struggle is under way — over grammar. In recent months, a vandal (or team of vandals) has used permanent markers to correct grammar and punctuation mistakes on the informational placards near the sculptures."
Watch out for the moment when it's revealed how these typos happened in the first place...

Jennifer Lawrence photobomb.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Marion Cotillard's reaction is spectacular [via].

"No, never went through a punk phase. Tonight, I'm supposed to say yes, but no..."

An Origibabes update.

Music An Origibabes update while I'm here. PopJustice reports Mutya Keisha Siobhan will be performing some songs at Brighton Pride in August (which I suppose to increases the excitment of August as a calender based entity). Will they be new songs? How much longer will we have to wait?

Meanwhile, Amelle from the "Sugababes" has been asked about the reunion:
"I’m happy for them, especially since all three of them are very talented singers and I really respect vocalists who can actually sing. You know nowadays there’s a lot of auto tune going on and artists not singing live, so it’s nice to see three people getting together again and making some good music. I’m excited for them, and I’m intrigued to hear what they have. I wish them all the luck."
Yes Amelle, those of us who've sat through Sweet 7 know all about the auto-tune going on.  Then she's asked about her own iteration of the group.  Well there be a reunion?
"I think so. We’re still talking about it at the moment."
No, then.  I'm in a catty mood aren't it?  Sorry.

"the next really big months for the franchise will be August and September"

TV As the latest television series draws to a close with its many questions (Who is the Doctor? Who is Clara? Will the ratings improve?) I thought it was worth reminding the casual fans amongst you (I know, so patronising) that the next really big months for the franchise will be August and September because in August and September the big monthly multi-media Doctor Who franchise experiments reach the Eighth and Ninth Doctors.

This is incredibly exciting.

In the Wilderness years, the Eighth Doctor material was pretty much split three different ways. The BBC Books, the Big Finish and the Doctor Who Magazine comics.

Except in August, three other publishers will be having a go because they'll have to because they've decided to publish something for each of the Doctors.

So Puffin will be publishing one of these ebooks and given the slightly random choice of authors we've had so far each with their own often tenuous and hazy notion of what Doctor Who is, it's going to be interesting to see how one of them deals with a Doctor for whom most writers have had a rather tenuous and hazy notion. Will it be someone who followed the character through the wilderness years or someone whose entire research will be based upon the TV movie?

There'll also be the Eighth issue of the IDW tribute comic which will have this cover and be written by the Tiptons, who as you know I'm a huge fan of. Presumably they'll bring the same skill and accuracy they've brought to the other Doctor's incarnations (the First Doctor able to control his TARDIS, the Fourth Doctor saying "My Dear...") to the Eighth.

But on top of all that, his episode of Destiny of the Doctors, AudioGo's epic which I'm most excited about just because of the logistics. It's to be written by Alan Barnes who pretty much steered Eighth through his Big Finish adventures and in the comics, but the real mystery is as to who will read it. All of the other stories are essentially audiobooks with bits of acting read by a companion of each of the incarnations. Except Eighth's only on screen companion is Grace played by Daphne Ashbrook and as Big Finish, who're producing these for AudioGo have explained in the past they don't have rights because they're wrapped up in the TV Movie itself.  Unless AudioGo do still have right by virtue of having released the audiobook version of the novelisation back in the day in which case that's exciting.  But the other option is that it's going to be one of his audio companions and entirely set within the Big Finish timeline, which means that this really will be a celebration of the character even when it was off the air.

Then in September all of those questions are updated when the Ninth Doctor gets his first officially licensed stories since 2005 (give or take the odd IDW cameo).  So a Puffin ebook, an IDW comic and a Destiny of the Doctors with the added question of who's going to read that because there aren't that many choices within the parameters.  Billie Piper?  John Barrowman?  Bruno Langley?  With the added interest that along with the following two Doctors, they're the first nuWho related material produced by Big Finish (I think).


John Dorney's The Justice of Jalxar.

Audio Henry Gordon Jago and Professor Lightfoot, how are you, how are you? Are you well? I’m sorry it’s been such a long time, since the second dvd release of The Talons of Weng-Chiang, but I’ve not had the funds to purchase your many boxed sets produced by Big Finish and although I do have your two Sixth Doctor stories downloaded, they’re sitting to one side until I’ve completed my Who rewatch like everything else that hasn’t been sent to as a review copy. Anyway, gentlemen, as I asked, how are you? You sound very well. Ebullient. Well set up as the classic Who equivalent of nuWho’s Vastra, Jenny and Strax. Now, wouldn’t that be a team up?

Anyway, so yes, having missed all of their other adventures, I’m visiting this reunion with the Fourth Doctor in much the same way as the Fourth Doctor, meeting some old friends who’ve been carrying on the good fight in mine and his absence. Set ten years after Talons they’re pressed into service to investigate the movements of The Pugalist, a kind of steampunk iteration of the Batman/Daredevil/Rorschach paradigm, scourge of the Victorian criminal underworld, dodging through shadows handing out justice via gadgets and toys aided by, as the cover and title rather give away, a giant robot with Dredd-like tendencies.

All of which suggests this is writer John Dorney simultaneously channelling Mark Gatiss, Robert Holmes and Alan Moore.  Listening to The Justice of Jalxar in the wake of The Crimson Horror, it’s interesting to see a similar structure present itself, independent adventurers quite capable of holding their own, becoming secondary characters when the title character of the series asserts himself (both of his cameos in The Sarah Jane Adventures did much the same thing). But there’s nothing foul about this; judging by the greenroom larks in the post match interviews at the end of the cd, everyone enjoyed this excuse for a reunion, no egos bruised.

Dorney’s previously written for the spin-off and his experience with the characters really shows in annunciating their strength. Jago, the showman even away from the theatre, entirely enchanted by Romana at least until it becomes apparent that she’s an independent woman not easily swayed by his complements. Lightfoot, the scientist, principled, muddling through, slightly in awe but never cynical about the magic which reveals itself to him. Their double act, thanks to performances of Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter is a staggering piece of alchemy and it’s a crime that it never was repeated on screen. Thank goodness for Big Finish.

As the story elaborates, Dorney cleverly makes sure that it’s not simply about The Pugalist as an entity but his crusade and we’re called upon to consider if the ends ever justify the means. Small parallel is made between the Doctor with his gadgets and this vigilante as both face justice of one sort of another and Tom is at the top his game as he keeps the tone of his performance light whilst underscoring the horror of what’s occurring. Paul Magrs’s Starfall and Mark Morris’s Mr Invincible cover strikingly similar ground and this finds itself roughly between the former’s comic book tendencies and the latter’s gritty (well, gritty for Torchwood) realism.

Of all the stories so far, The Justice of Jalxar almost completely jettisons any attempt at being a recreation of the era with a Murray Gold style orchestral soundtrack and some rather grim horror, which under the Whitehouse gaze simply wouldn’t have been allowed back in the 70s. Good. Rather like the old BBC Books, although there’s a place for recreation, the writer should be allowed to take his story where it needs to go, maintaining the spirit if not the form. Plus if the plan was to advertise the thrilling adventures of Jago & Lightfoot to new listeners this more than succeeds and once I can afford to, it’s journey I’ll be looking forward to taking.

 John Dorney's The Justice of Jalxar is out now.  Review copy supplied.

Who is the Secret Actor? #4

Theatre Gender! We have a gender!

This column's about open calls and attend auditions which aren't a perfect fit. In the midst of which we have:

"On one occasion, despite knowing I am not an ideal fit, I decide to audition for a musical about hookers in the wild west and dress accordingly. I wear a very low cut top, showing a fair amount of cleavage ..."

Hello, secret actress. I was right all along.

Of course, The Guardian style guide prefers to ungender, so utilises "actor" much to the chagrin of commenters on most interviews with women in the profession, despite the fact as even the Wikipedia acknowledges:
"After 1660 in England, when women first appeared on stage, actor and actress were initially used interchangeably for female performers, but later, influenced by the French actrice, actress became the usual term. The etymology is a simple derivation from actor with ess added. The word actor refers to a person who acts regardless of gender, and this term "is increasingly preferred", although actress, referring specifically to a female person who acts, "remains in general use". Within the profession, however, the re-adoption of the neutral term dates to the 1950s–60s, the post-war period when women's contribution to cultural life in general was being re-evaluated. Actress remains the common term used in major acting awards given to female recipients."
So for the purposes of this exploration she'll remain the secret actor, because The Guardian says so.

Meanwhile, because this is an anecdote, and because it does have some specificity about it, it's the best column yet and has a funny punchline.

It still feels like it's Romola Garai but admittedly looking at her biography the timings don't fit.  Minnie Driver?  Gemma Arterton?

As for the show?  I've asked the Twitter hive mind.  I'll update this if I get any responses.

This is important because a timing could be extrapolated.  The assistant of the director of this was just about to tour Winnie the Pooh.  Is it the Disney Live version?


Film CNET meets some people who've never seen Star Wars. Then makes them watch it.
"The explanation I had the hardest time understand was that of Tami Fisher. A 32-year-old who grew up in Southern California and Utah, she said she just wasn't interested in movies about space. Then again, she also said her parents limited her movie watching to National Geographic and Care Bears films. As such, "Star Wars" was never a draw.

"And what did Fisher know about the movie, or at least the franchise? "I know the big reveal," she said. "The father-son relationship between whatever their names are."

"I tried not to tell her that she wouldn't be seeing the big reveal. That didn't seem fair."
With a slight warning that I don't think they quite pay off the promise of the article in terms of the reaction. But I suppose if you have never seen Star Wars, you're not really likely to have much to say about films in general anyway.

A Methadone-like substitute for #leveson.

TV I don't really know who Howard Kurtz is. I don't really know the controversy is that he's at the centre of. But I do know that this is one of the most exciting pieces of television I've seen in a while.

Kurtz presents a show on CNN called Reliable Sources and during this episode he apologises for his mistake and is then grilled by two rival media commentators about that mistake plus his other failings as a journalist.

For those of us missing #leveson, this is a pretty good methadone like substitute, especially in the moments when for all of his control, there are hesitations and slips when he realises the other cohorts are determined to cover topics he wasn't necessarily prepared for.

The clips isn't embeddable but you can watch it at Mediaite though don't read the post before it. As is their custom it's essentially a synopsis of what's to come.

Nieman Journalism Lab in Boston.

Journalism Nieman Journalism Lab has a typically forensic analysis of how sister websites, and coped with in the aftermath of the bombing, retaining their own identities while providing a much need local service:
With the split of the two sites in 2011, was supposed to become the place for local information, entertainment, and reader engagement. That proved true during the week of the bombings, as became a kind of community message board for the city, with readers posting how they were feeling, as well as people offering up rooms or couches for displaced marathon runners. “We’ve always been an outlet where people could vent, where they could share or find other like-minded individuals to talk with. That was just magnified,” Hanafin said.
There is the potential that the twin site option could become the norm. You could foresee, for example, The Guardian keeping the content which appears in the paper also paid for online with the aggregated elements on a free basis. I'm subscribed the to RSS feeds for G2 and the weekend supplements and it's always strange when their content is published the day before or sometimes whole days. I'll read something on Saturday then be surprised when I see it The Observer on Sunday.

The Mysterious Planet.

History The voluminously researched website West End at War has the message form reports of an incident at Marble Arch tube station on 17 September 1940 when:
"(A) bomb penetrated the station roof, pierced between two girders and plunged into the tube station below. It exploded in the tunnel, ripping the ceramic tiles off the walls and sucking its way through the tunnel and platform. The blast effect was magnified in the enclosed space, creating more casualties than usual for this type of bomb. At least twenty people were killed and over forty others were seriously injured."
The incident offered a valuable lesson in how to deal with mass casualties during the Blitz. But the necessary minimalism of the comments in these reports, scrawled in pencil must demonstrate the frequency of these incidents and the lack of time available to provide much detail beyond times and statistics.