Seen Terror of the Zygons.

TV Just as a sort of update to the WHO 50 entry of a few months back, about how I'd never seen Terror of the Zygons, I've now seen Terror of the Zygons. The dvd release having been put back to September and with a view to experiencing all levels of Doctor Who culture as I watch and listen my way through all of broadcast Doctor Who before the 50th anniversary episode, I ended up buying the original edited VHS release from ebay, which is trimmed together to turn it into a "movie" leading to the need for remade titles.  Unfortunately, the technology available back then means they're not quite as authentic as what's being done now with the dvds...

Which also means I've now seen or (in the case of the missing episodes) (!) heard all of Doctor Who at least once.  From here on in, it's all repeats, even The Twin Dilemma which I've never been able to face sitting down to watch on dvd what with all the bad memories of the original broadcast.  I think I actually cried when the Doctor attacked Peri.  Even though I ended up seeing the rest of it, it being the classic series, I think that was probably the moment when I spiritually parted company with the thing first time around.  Luckily, I'll be too busy reading the production subtitles to notice this time.

But yes, strange feeling.  What did I think of the story in the end?  Was it "good"?  Well, yes, yes it was.  Though it has one of the most low key companion dismissals since Dodo, what with Harry simply saying he's going to catch the train.  Benton, doesn't really get a moment either and he's been with the show as long as the Brigadier.  But Nike Courtney gets his moment.  Was he simply cold, did he have a cold or is that a tear in his eye as he notices the end of an era, the end of the UNIT era?  Oh well, mustn't daudle.  Planet of Evil awaits.

Before Midnight. The Press Tour.

Film Last Tuesday, amongst other things, I managed to see Before Midnight at the Cornerhouse in Manchester with a nice quiet, tittery in the right places, audience. It's a difficult film to talk about without destroying through spoilers, except to say that it is peerless, that the duration went extremely quickly and as ever it was over before I wanted it to be.

Including the Waking Life cameo, this is the fourth appearance of these characters and although cinematically, it's right that perhaps we should wait another nine years to greet them again, should Ethan, Julie and Richard be in the mood, or feel that they have something else to say, good god I wish they'd be back sooner (he says as he reaches for Julie's "Two Days in..." films as placebos).

As is customary, on the road to release, the trio have been appearing here and there. Since shifting over to unlimited broadband, I found that pretty much every topic you can think of has been covered by lengthy interviews and lectures and press conferences and Before Midnight is no exception. Here's the are being interviewed at close quarters by Anne Thompson, who's keen to tell them how it affected her personally:

Then there's the relatively famous Berlin Film Festival media conference, which is at least worth watching for the press reaction to Ethan's hair as he drifts on stage:

Finally, here the very curious Film Society of Lincoln Center summer talk, in which a slightly nervy (it seems) Film Comment contributor Phillip Lopate isn't quite sure when the three of them are joking and keeps leaping to Julie's defence (as though she needs it). This is the weirdest, actually, because it looks like a Q&A after a screening, but none of the audience have seen it yet, so they can't really talk about the film properly because of the River Song problem.

What all three illustrate is that actually, for all the ways the characters are different to their creators, the chemistry is *really* similar. Oh and the fantastically cagy look on Ethan face at the Lincoln when they're asked if he and Julie ever kissed. The romantic in me has always wonders why Julie included the Waltz song on her first solo album way before they decided to make Before Sunset (the song which ultimately appeared in the film), retelling the plot of the film and name-checking Hawke's character with a smirking pause beforehand.

Shakespeare's Globe's A Summer Hamlet.

Fun trailer for a documentary about the Globe's touring production in 2011:
"A Summer Hamlet follows the company and their director, Dominic Dromgoole (Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe) as they tour the production from opening night at the Theatre Royal, Margate to their final performance at Hamlet's own home of Elsinore Castle, Denmark. Remaining backstage with the cast for every performance, this first feature by director Helen Lawson offers a rare insight behind the scenes of the production. We glimpse into rehearsal room mayhem, pre-show high jinx and backstage nerves as the team battle with the elements and a temperamental Ford Escort."
Of course, what I'd really like to see is a recording of the production...

Lord Byron.

WHO 50: 1995:

Books One of the inherent problems with being a retrospective fan, or someone who’s returning to Doctor Who after an especially large gap, isn’t just the volume of stories to potentially catch up with, but actually being able to access them.

If they’re audio stories, that’s generally easy. Anything produced by Big Finish under the Doctor Who license is still available from Big Finish and AudioGo have a pretty good track recorded of releasing and re-releasing on cd and download even material originally released on cassette, even as part of the compilation Tales from the TARDIS (here, here).

But the books? Good luck. A search through eBay reveals a few of them, and a glance at the adverts in Doctor Who Magazine suggests there is some old stock available, but it’s not everything. Some texts are being republished as ebooks, but again there’s no particular strategy to this.

The prices, oh, the prices. Like comics, Doctor Who on the page has largely been an ephemeral work, and publication schedules, popularity and essentialness mean that some books are a couple of pounds but many are, really, really expensive, especially the Virgin publications from the 1990s.

Which makes the process of constructing collections of these books, to some extent reconstructing history like the eponymous antagonist of Stephen Marley’s 1995 novel Managra, a near impossibility. Or at the very least a deeply involving project.

For those of us without the funds, it’s a case of scouring charity shops and second hand book emporiums, glancing along shelves and hoping to spot the familiar spines, checking our lists, because we’re the kinds of people who carry lists of these things in our pockets to see if we already have them. Most often we do. Sometimes, oh sometimes …

The process has been made even harder since the show returned because there are so many of us doing the same thing, or less likely to part with our collections for nominal prices or to simply give them away to charity. Plus most of the Who books in these shops now tend to be nuWho spin-offs. Which we still buy anyway if we need to. We have lists of those too.

I found my copy of Managra in the second-hand bookshop on Mount Pleasant in Liverpool in the early noughties. As you can see from the photos its seen better days, its previous owner having decided to “protect” it by wrapping it in cellotape.

On the inside front page it’s been priced at £2 in pencil. A bargain. Though it’s worth noting that they’re going for an average of about £4 on ebay now which is nearer to the cover price. Not all of the Virgin Missing Adventures are that cheap.

Incidentally, I have read Managra, I read it when I bought it so my memory of its receded in the excitement of watching the new series. My plan is to read my way through all of these missing adventures from Virgin and the BBC knitted together with the TARGET novelisations in chronological order when I have them all, one grand project leading to another.

“When I have them all.”

Mutya Keisha Siobhan. Flatline. Review.

Music Here we go then:

Oh my goodness. So many good choices, so much good quality, integrity, a sense of the different voice and not just vocalists, singing to the same song sheet. Remember when Doctor Who's Rose was broadcast and amid the plastic Mickey and inability to work out of the Doctor had recently regenerated we could nevertheless make a list of all the elements which were right, all the correct decisions?

Well, here we are again. Siobhan's vocal up front as though to underscore that this is the original line-up back, back, back. Then giving both Mutya then Keisha their own individual bits that like Siobhan's demonstrate their individual vocal quality, so recognizable in a way that isn't always the case in girl groups.

Mores to the point to trust those vocals and to showcase the harmonies, which again, because of those individual sounds aren't anything like what you'd find elsewhere and in a way which became entirely lost as each of them pealed away from the Sugababes and especially in the later years when those harmonies, which were the hallmark of that group eventually gave way to an autotuned miasma.

Lyrically we're in Lewis Carroll territory with playing cards and kings and queens and big, obscure metaphores which again is good news, this was a hallmark of One Touch. In emphasising the vocals, the music doesn't slouch, with loads of interesting beat changes and the "oooohhhoooohooooohoooooohhhhhooo" thingy from Fred MacPherson of Spector as backing vocalist.

Dev Hynes, the writer and producer is to be applauded. A lot. Indeed, genre wise this is closer to Florence and her Machine, one of his other collaborators, but actually it doesn't really have a clear genre. It's not dance, though there are likely to be mixes. In tone its also in the area of Siobhan's solo albums. But it also isn't. It's like One Touch, but ...

So just as when Rose entered slow motion on the edge of the TARDIS we all, or at least those of us who care about these things, breathed a sight of relief, by the time this enters its finally phase with its twiddly-bits, and oh those twiddly-bits, there's a genuine sense of, we're back. The Sugababes, or whatever they're having to be called now, are back. Oh my goodness.

Temmosus Skyedron.

Science Over-production of Proteins in Escherichia coli: Mutant Hosts that Allow Synthesis of some Membrane Proteins and Globular Proteins at High Levels (.pdf):
"We have investigated the over-production of seven membrane proteins in Council Laboratory of an Escherichia coli–bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase expression system. Molecular Biology In all seven cases, when expression of the target membrane protein was Hills Road, Cambridge induced, most of the BL21(DE3) host cells died. Similar effects were also CB2 2QH, UK observed with expression vectors for ten globular proteins. Therefore, protein over-production in this expression system is either limited or prevented by bacterial cell death. From the few survivors of BL21(DE3) expressing the oxoglutarate-malate carrier protein from mitochondrial membranes, a mutant host C41(DE3) was selected that grew to high saturation cell density, and produced the protein as inclusion bodies at an elevated level without toxic effect."


The Island Princess (Arden Early Modern Drama). Edited by Clare McManus.

Continuing its policy of publishing more obscure but provocative examples of early modern drama, The Island Princess offers the work of John Fletcher at the height of his powers, if dating is correct, during the period when he’s been installed as Shakespeare’s successor as the in-house writer for the King’s Men and at liberty to experiment with dramatic forms, in this case continuing his investigations into the possibilities of the tragicomedy. Opening as a kind of swashbuckling romance in which the titular royal offers one of three suitors her hand in marriage if they’re capable of rescuing her brother the king from captivity, the story slowly becomes a disturbing discourse on corruption, conspiracy and religious intolerance.

Covering similar themes to Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Fletcher’s own The Sea Voyage, the story takes place against a backdrop of the spice-trade and islands in and around Indonesia, and the colonial clash between Christianity and Islam. In her introduction, editor Clare McManus explains how the playwright utilises this exoticism to reflect back to the audience the ongoing cross-cultural clash between Catholic and Protestantism and how even more than most plays of the period, our appreciation of the work has been diminished across time because of changes in our world view, how elements of language, even the removal of a beard however innocuous now, then carried great meaning.

McManus also moves to reclaim Quisara, the princess herself, as one of the great theatrical female heroines, noting that she may well have originated with Richard Sharpe who also premiered the title role in The Duchess of Malfi, indicating they’re roles of similar complexity. Throughout the play she oscillates between Amazonian confidence and victimhood, attempting to force a potential husband into converting for her benefit before agree to the same for him, sometimes feigning madness or at least giving the impression of such. This seems like another of those roles which is almost being held away from female actors because the repertory of plays still performed from this period is generally exclusive to one genius.

Nevertheless, McManus is able to dedicate a fifth of her introduction to the play's lack of theatrical history, at least in its purest form. Soon after Fletcher’s death, it found itself adapted under Charles II with the inclusion of allusions to topical events like the Great Fire of 1666 (which was the version Samuel Pepys saw three times).  French Huguenot Peter Motteux then utilised it as a source of a semi-opera, which due to its popularity became the form on which all subsequent revivals were based and is generally thought of as being enmeshed in the history of opera in that period, or until 1739 when it was retired from the stage taking the original with it, its bawdiness falling out of fashion.

There are only two recent revivals of note. In 1995 it heralded the beginning of the modern Shakespeare's Globe’s Read or Dead series starring Mark Rylance and Josette Simon and seven years later, an RSC production directed by Gregory Doran, a risky prospect in the wake of 9/11. McManus excellent commentary on this production demonstrates that theatre does not occur in a vacuum with scenes of Portuguese colonial violence that in the period of writing provided a context to the plays later descent into religious fanaticism being cut in case they're seen as being a “racist stereotype”. There’s an undercurrent of disappointment in McManus's tone, of how a play which has not been produced in many years was potentially undermined by the period of its staging.

The introduction concludes with what’s always my favourite section, the publication history. The Island Princess was published posthumously in the humongous first folio or "The Comedies and Tragedies written by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher" (1947) which as the academic notices includes the work of about nine playwrights since it includes their collaborations with others, though not, curiously Shakespeare (we'd presumably still have Cardenio if it had). This play seems to be the work of a printing house owned by Susan Islip, one of two houses whose labours are only recently being given critical focus. Perhaps, as more and more of the plays from this volume become available, their work will be illuminated too.

The Island Princess (Arden Early Modern Drama). Edited by Clare McManus. Methuen Drama. 2013. RRP: £13.99. ISBN: 978-1904271536. Review copy supplied.

David Campbell.

History Reprinted from the Tennessee Historical Magazine, Mexican war letters of Col. William Bowen Campbell of Tennessee, written to Governor David Campbell of Virginia, 1846-1847:
"I write today in great haste, having got to a new place, and as yet not fixed up with any comfort and 9 companies of my Regt. here, the remainder daily expected. A portion of the regular force under Genl. Worth moved off two days ago toward Monterey will go 80 miles and await the arrival of all the force that Genl. Taylor takes to Monterey.  I expect that my Regt. will be in the expedition to Monterey and Saltillio. We have no definite news about the Mexican army or force at Monterey.  Genl. Taylor is a very plain man, agreeable and decided, but he is evi- dently a man of ordinary abiHty. The great jealousy that exists here amongst all the officers and particularly amongst the volunteers makes the service disagreeable, yet I think I am so prudent that I will be able to get along without much josteling. I will write you before I leave here more in detail the plan of the campaign, etc. My health is excellent."

Justin Halpern from 'Shit My Dad Says' explains why the sitcom didn't work.

TV Interestingly, it was more complicated than "it's a television programme based on a Twitter feed". The problem was more that it wasn't based on the Twitter feed. At all:
"I realized this wasn't my father after I got the standards and practices notes when we turned in the first script and we couldn't say ANY of the words my father uses, nor discuss any of the things my dad discusses. My dad is a REAL dark dude; athiest, thinks humans are inherently evil, and all that stuff was in the original script, I believe, along with some language we couldn't use. That is not stuff you're really allowed to talk about on CBS. And let me be clear, a character always changes and evolves when it goes through the actor playing it, other writers, network notes, etc…, and a lot of times it actually makes it much better. This just happened to be a case where I couldn't really articulate to people why it wasn't working like it should without sounding like a whiny dickbag. So I just decided to work hard and try to help make this version of the character as good as it could be."


Music Oh, struth:

I'm not ready...

Barbara Wright.

Art Mosaics featured in Trinidad:
"Barbara Wright said in an artist's statement that she has “spent a lifetime developing the impressive array of skills and fanciful imagination that result in complex, luminous mosaics that put to shame the tile-covered coffee tables and egg-shell lamps of the 1970s family projects.”

"Wright found her passion for mosaics by constructing woven bead necklaces, but she soon found that her ideas outstripped the availability of the beads that she wanted to use. She decided that she would learn to make her own beads and was soon attending workshops and schools both here and abroad."

Ellie Taylor on married names.

Life Another of those blog posts in which the writer has obviously written something in rage and passion, hesitated, thought "fuck it" and clicked the "publish" button on their blogging software, to which I always have to say well done. I wish I had this courage:
" (then) my friends go and change their surnames and I hate it.

"I HATE it. It’s visceral. And it’s usually Facebook’s bloody fault. A day/48 hours/a week have passed since vows have been exchanged and FaceyB casually notifies me that my friend has changed her name. Just like that. In a meaningless notification. Like they are a Farmville request. A tiny insignificant notification to tell me that my friend no longer has the name that has defined her, no, been her, forever.

"And then I feel angry."
It's their choice of course, a symbol of their union, but it's also an antiquated historical hand-me-down, especially since it's not balanced. Men don't change their surnames the other way. Double barrelled, yes, sometimes, but why doesn't the man never, never adopt the lady's surname?

Jonah Hill's mouth.

One Touch.

Technology  The other day, after arguing with the semi-touch screen for quite long enough, I finally decided to replace the Orange Vegas pinkyphone which has been the bane of my life since I bought it in February 2011.

 The initial excitement, chronicled here, soon wore off as it became apparent the keypad disappeared when I made a phone call making the process of working through an automated service really complicated, even with the ability to bring it back again, having to write texts on a tiny keyboard using the onboard stylus and a general sense that I wasn't in control, it was controlling me.

In other words, I gambled on Vegas and lost.

Glancing through Amazon the other night, I bumped into this.

If the Orange Vegas is the cheap touch screen equivalent of the smart phone, the Alcatel OT-358 is the Blackberry lookalike.

It's nothing like a Blackberry.  There are no apps other than a couple of games.  It runs 2G very slowly.  When you take the battery out, it forgets what time it is.  I'm yet to discover if this also happens if it runs out of power.

But it does have a keyboard which means I'll be able to write texts quickly and actual numbers so I can make phone calls.

Plus there's the price.  It's currently £14.99 from the relevant shop including a £10 credit which really makes it £4.99, which for any mobile phone is a bargain.

So having reinstalled my usual ringtone, selected because it's film music which sounds like a ringtone even though it's not suppose to and it's from one of my favourite movies:

And wallpaper:

For obvious reasons.  I was all set.

Then on Friday, I was looking at the back of the phone (having already looked at the back of the phone at least a dozen times since I bought it with all the sim and sd card related jiggery-pokery) and spotted this:

Somehow, of all the phones in existence, I've managed to coincidentally (because it's not on the Amazon sales page) find one which just happens to be named after the Sugababes's first album.

For goodness sake.

Jo Grant.

History The Aspen Daily News reports on a project to build a local history of the area:
"Josephine Jones, Colorado Humanities program director, said her organization was looking for small-town museums that had interesting stories to tell about how inhabitants arrived.

“Aspen has such a storied past, with early immigrants from Italy and later the mining and recent resurgence since the ’60s,” she said. “We thought it would be a place to have interesting journey stories itself to tell.”

“Journey Stories” delves into the history of American travel, innovations in transportation, and the search for freedom, a historical society press release says. Immigrants, slaves, explorers and business tycoons are among those chronicled."

Chasing Rainbows.

Life Living in a tower block, one of the phenomena we experience is being above the weather. Sometimes we'll be above very low cloud and sometimes we'll have little idea of conditions on the ground so will wear completely the wrong clothing. But sometimes, just sometimes we'll be greeted by views like these:

Rainbow Intersection

Why did the rainbow cross the road?

That was a double rainbow, though one is only really visible, which hooped around the side of the building and down to the crowd so we could look down upon it as it sneaked across the road, hovering above like the bridge of Asgard.  Neither photo really does it justice.

Claire Rayner.

The Sunday Seven.
Keith Gow.

Keith's something of a friend of the blog, having previously contributed to Review 2005.  This year his Doctor Who themed show, Who Are You Supposed To Be? is at the Edinburgh Festival.

How did you become a playwright?

When I was studying Professional Writing and Editing, I took a class called "Performance Writing" - which a nebulous subject addressing different forms of writing for anyone to perform. It covered screenwriting, playwriting, performance poetry and writing for radio. I took the class expecting to specialise in screenplays, but got pretty excited about all the different forms the class addressed - and the class was taught by a playwright, Ray Mooney. He was quite inspirational in that first year of my course - and I went on to study playwriting specifically, the following year, with him as well. I'd always loved seeing live performance, but it still took me a while to consider writing plays, maybe because all the playwrights we study at high school are dead? Then you meet a real live one and think, "Why not?" And then the passion for writing for live performance came from there. In some ways, I was still distracted by wanting to write for film or to write a novel, but eventually theatre won out. Though I always hear the siren call of those other two forms - and I'll be making a short film soon.

What was the inspiration behind Who Are You Supposed To Be?

As with most of my plays, "Who Are You Supposed To Be" started with an image - that of a woman dressed as the character of the Doctor. And in this case, the title is the first line of the play, "Who are you supposed to be?" Asks an incredulous boy geek. And it was also inspired by the terrible "fake geek girl" meme that is insulting and, to me, just makes absolutely no sense - since most of my geek friends are women and my history with fan societies and groups has always had healthy female involvement.

I've been developing the show with actor Jennifer Lusk since December, so it pre-dates this recent talk of a woman in the role - but that was a discussion that happened when David Tennant left, too. So, for fandom, that discussion has precedence. I don't know how widely it was discussed by the public last time, but this time the discussion is happening outside of fandom circles, too.

A lot of my work engages with gender relations - and many of my plays are about women. But the show is about two geeks who meet at a science fiction convention, so I've also had a lot of fun poking fun at fans, fandom and various science fiction franchises. It's a really funny show, that just starts with an argument about a female Doctor and becomes a discussion on what society expects of us - and what we expect of ourselves when we meet someone else for the first time.

What was the trickiest element to achieve?

Because the show is still in development, this is a bit difficult to answer. But as far as the writing goes, early on we had a very clear view of Ash, our female protagonist - and not so clear of a view of Gene, our male lead. I think Ash's journey was clear, because she's the one that comes up against the resistance of Gene to what she's wearing and what she's doing and how she interacts with fandom. And we wanted a way to make Gene sympathetic, too - since he was that antagonist for the early drafts. Eventually we found a story to tell with him - and everything snapped into place.

Finding a balance between pop culture jokes and a dramatic structure that would propel the story forward was a balance not easy to get right, but I think we've managed that really well. It's hilarious.

Of everything you've done, what have you been most pleased with?

A show I had on last year that I developed with three wonderful local actors called Painting with Words & Fire. It was three monologues for women with a fourth devised piece that had these three very different characters meeting. The meeting was devised with the actors and the collaboration brought the three pieces to a really satisfying conclusion - both dramatically and thematically. The separate monologues have all had lives outside the collection, but together they make a really powerful night of theatre. I was also lucky to see a one-night-only reading of Painting with Words & Fire in New York last year.

How do you feel about how Tommy Westphall's Universe has become so synonymous with St Elsewhere, it's rare that an article is written now that doesn't mention it?

It's a little bit odd, though the concept existed before I catalogued the universe with my Tommy Westphall collaborator. The fact that it's still talked about is very gratifying, but it existed before me and now it exists without me. I love hearing about new TV crossover connections, even if the website remains static now.

Oddly enough, I've still never seen St Elsewhere, so for me the show is all about its ending - which was very controversial at the time and still is amongst some of its fans. I like that people keep discovering it randomly. It's pretty fun to search twitter for Tommy Westphall and see that people's minds are still getting blown by the extent of the connections between TV shows. And I still tweet as @crossoverman, so it's still a little part of me.

Who’s your favourite playwright?

I'm going to pick two, because this is a tough question in any case. As far as classic playwrights go, I love Tennessee Williams' work. I feel in love with his famous early plays, but I've recently started reading his more obscure later works and they're so thrilling, even if they never gained the notoriety of The Glass Menagerie or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Of current playwrights, I love the muscular language and unapologetic style of Neil LaBute. Most of his work is tough to watch, but it's visceral in a way that reminds me why I love text-based theatre. The Shape of Things, The Mercy Seat, In a Dark Dark House - so hard-hitting and powerful in completely different ways.

What stops you from feeling listless?

I'm not sure I ever feel listless. I felt like that more when I was younger but now I have a lot of enthusiasm for seeing theatre and making theatre. I don't think I'd ever have time to feel listless, but certain my energy for making theatre often comes from seeing great theate - on the mainstages or in non-traditional spaces. Seeing great theatre makes me want to make great theatre. And making theatre inspires me to go out and see more theatre. It's a happy cycle.

Who Are You Supposed To Be? is at the C venues - C aquila at the Edinburgh Festival from 14-26 August at 15:40 (Box office phone: 0845 260 1234). 

 If you want to help it into existence, there's also an Indiegogo fundraising campaign.