"So many of my highs and lows in Doctor Who are encapsulated by John pulling his pants down."

TV Today's The Guardian Weekend Magazine has a massive celebration of Doctor Who companions. Well massive, ish. It's not everyone and there's no surprise appearance from Jackie Lane or anything like that. McGann's represented by Daphne rather than India or Sheridan, but it's a fun old rattle through some of the same old stories, some you might not have heard before.

The illustrative fashion photos are hilarious, mainly screaming or action poses.  Page twenty-five has a shot of Bonnie going Queensbury on a column of text.  Page thirty-one has massive photo of Freema with an agate crystal dangling around her neck.   Much to my surprise during the rewatch I've realised Martha my favourite of the nuWho companions.

The gist of some of the interviews are in this accompanying video.  Billie never meets "anyone else" at conventions?  Is she going to the right conventions?  Bald Karen is still difficult to get used to.  It's a good pallet cleanser for what's presumably to come on the BBC in November - the tone is celebratory but not without some historical perspective.

The whole thing's introduced by Jenny Colgan, who encapsulates exactly what it was like when the show returned to television in 2005, how as the series went on, we weren't just pleased that it existed, but that it was good.  If that hadn't happened would The Guardian still have bothered with a piece like this on the last Saturday in September?

"Once more unto the breach"

Theatre This year I'm not enjoying at all a self imposed Shakespeare embargo. After all my celebrations in 2012 which included watching and listening to the whole canon (or what's available) and with Doctor Who being the thing in 2013, I decided to give myself a year off and so not one of his plays has passed by my eyes or in my ears. Yet. I may break the embargo depending on how long The Globe's touring Henriad is going to be up at The Space (don't want to miss that). I'm definitely going to break the embargo for Joss's Much Ado when the blu-ray arrives (or that).

Which isn't to say I haven't still been reading about the Shakespeare thing, which includes this rather good interview with Tom Hiddleston at The AV Club on the topic of his favourite play, Much Ado, which then strays into the process of acting in Henry V. He's very good here on exactly why Much Ado works so well:
"And I think the reason is that it’s about love. It’s about your last chance. You might have sworn off finding the right person and think, “Love’s not for me. Marriage isn’t for me. I will die a bachelor, or I will die a maid. None of your romance, none of your love poems.” It’s about these two old cynics who are like, “Nah, it’s not going to happen for me.” And it does. I think that’s just very redemptive and sweet. And there’s one extraordinary aspect of the play, which is that when Hero’s chastity is in doubt—it’s called into question because of the plot of Don John—an extraordinary thing happens, which is almost unique in all of Shakespeare, which is the man, Benedick, takes the side of the women in blind faith. So he says to Claudio and Don Pedro, I think, “What you’ve done is appalling. This is an act of brutality.” He doesn’t explicitly say that, but it’s an amazing thing where the leading male character takes the side of the women, and I think it’s, yet again, evidence of Shakespeare’s extraordinary compassion and understanding of human nature."

Still on Overload.

Music The Official chart website has a cute interview with MKS on the topic of their first single Overload, which includes a trivia quiz about the songs which beat it in the charts and a retrospective look back at Sugababes songs they missed. Example:
"Mutya left in December 2005, just before Red Dress was released as a single. The track was the third to be taken from their Number 1 album Taller In More Ways, and had to be rerecorded with new member Amelle Berrabah for release.
Keisha leans forward conspiratorially. “Mutya HATES that song!”
“Do you know what?” drawls Mutya. “I can’t lie, I hated it with a passion.”
“I think the different songs suited the different line-ups, didn’t they?” suggests Siobhan.
“Yeah,” agrees Mutya. “I mean it’s a good song…”
But just not ‘for you’, Mutya?
Mutya: Hmmm."
Now that the "Sugababes" have apparently split up, I'd say the the whole back catalogue is fair game for picking, choosing and rediscovering. Something like "About You Now". Despite everything, I do really like "About You Now".

WHO 50: 2007:
The Shakespeare Code.

TV One of the more delicious elements of The Shakespeare Code is that the writer, Gareth Roberts, chose to feature a play that, had it not been missing, assuming it ever existed, would, could and should have had a cliffhanger resolution.

Love Labour’s Won should have been the sequel to the extant play Love’s Labour’s Lost. A Journey's End to The Stolen Earth.

As anyone who’s seen the play will know, at just the moment when Shakespeare is about to write in all the expected elements of a comedy, the couplings and weddings, when the King of Navarre and three noble companions, Berowne, Dumaine, and Longaville are supposed to finally be with the Princess of France, Rosaline, Maria and Katharine, their festivities are cut short when word comes, that the the Princesses's father has died and she must leave to take up the thrown. The expected ending, just sort of, well, doesn't.

I’m assuming this isn’t a spoiler for a four hundred year old play. If it is, my apologies.

Although the king and his nobles say that they will remain faithful and monogamous, the ladies are unconvinced and so they all agree that the men should wait a further year and a day to prove that this isn’t some silly phase they’re going through.

And the play ends there. Rather like the Duke’s hanging proposal to Isabella at the close of Measure for Measure it’s difficult to stage because on stage there’s no fast push in, sound of drums or scream into credits especially since as things stand there nothing is resolved. We don’t know what happens next.

As a side note, I have found it otherwise interesting that unlike Measure for Measure, Love's Labour's Lost isn't considered a "problem play". It's always still listed as a comedy despite these elements which work against that understanding.

For all the talk of the title Love’s Labour’s Won being an alternative for the likes of Much Ado or The Taming of the Shrew, the potentially symmetry is too strong. The love that is lost at the end of the first play must have inevitably been won again by the close of the second.

With just forty-five minutes to play about with, writer Gareth Roberts doesn’t have time to offer his version. He does give himself the challenge of writing a few cod-Shakespearean lines but there’s not much in the way of plot.

My guess, judging by their behaviour through much of Lost, and the failure to keep the celibacy oath at the start, is that they haven’t kept their oath in the intervening year and Won is about them trying to convince these ladies to take them back somehow.

They have to “win” something for the title of the play to make much sense. Unless, there was some impediment, like the Queen’s regality which stops them from being able to rekindle the relationship at the end of the year and a day.

None of which we can really know.

But what all of this does demonstrate, as I suggested earlier in the year, that we should be happy that anything of Doctor Who exists in whatever form its in. Imagine if we didn’t have the audio elements. TARGET novelisations accepted, we might never know how The Moonbase or The Evil of the Daleks concluded and we’d never know what happened in The Myth Makers, not really.

Yet somehow, we do.

I'm a romantic. If Won was ever published, I still can’t imagine that even after four hundred years a copy won’t turn up mislabelled in an archive or the library in some ancient residence, that like some of Doctor Who’s missing episodes, it isn’t sitting on the shelf of someone who hasn’t a clue just how precious it is. Or the story is contains.

Cardiff Bay.

Geography Still available as a .pdf is this really handy walking tour of Cardiff Bay prepared by BBC South East Wales:
Roald Dahl Plass or the Oval Basin as it was formerly known was the seaward entrance to the West Bute Dock, once the biggest masonry dock in the world. If you look around the amphitheatre style construction you might still see the stone outline of the former dock. The dock was opened on 8 October 1839 and is said by many to be the day that the Cardiff that became the world's greatest coal port was born.

"The second Marquis of Bute was persuaded to finance the £350,000 construction as he already owned most of the land in the area. It was a huge amount even for the Marquis."

Mermaid Quayside.

Nature Mermaids! Mermen!
"Mermaids have long fascinated us. Humans have always wondered what it would be like to fly high above the clouds or dive deep into the briny seas. With nearly three-quarters of the Earth covered by water, it's little wonder that centuries ago, the oceans were believed to contain many mysterious creatures, including sea serpents and mermaids. Merfolk (mermaids and mermen) are of course only the marine version of the half-human, half-animal legends that have captured human imagination for ages (half-animals on land include werewolves, and half-avian creatures include harpies)."

Rubbish film comes to blu-ray.

Film Love Actually is coming out on blu-ray so you can relive the horror and as an extra sting in the tale it comes with a copy on dvd with less extras, which means its a repressing of the original release and plus one of those Ultraviolet versions of which I'm yet to meet someone who actually uses.

The new extras include "The Storytellers" which should hopefully be a four hour long exposition of what went wrong and just how much more footage ended up on the cutting room floor than the thirty minutes which they deemed necessary to release. Why does Jean Moreau appear as a background artist? What was Emma Thompson doing on stage during the deleted scenes we can see? Was there really a David Morrissey subplot excised in its entirety? How come the entire final portion of the film makes no temporal sense? These are questions were unlikely to receive an answer for in what's otherwise probably going to be yet another Richard Curtis hagiography.

The other BD exclusive is the godawful Robert Palmer parody featuring Bill Nighy.

Seriously, don't. Click here and here to find out why.

[The one redeeming feature is the commentary in which Hugh Grant, as he always does in his commentaries, comes across as a man who hasn't any more shits to give.  For years now I've learnt to live with him deciding to make things like Did You Hear About the Morgans? instead of playing the Doctor because I know at some point he'll be sitting behind a microphone taking the piss out of the thing.  "This music was just as good on Shakespeare in Love." remains a cherished memory, despite everything.]

Jubilee Pizza.

Food Back in 2007, BBC Radio 4's The Food Programme investigated the roots of Italian cuisine:
"Sheila visits the sites of Soho’s famous Italian restaurants of the 1950’s and 1960’s with Alasdair Sutherland, author of The Spaghetti Tree, including Quo Vadis, a restaurant which first opened in 1926.

"They then visit the original site of La Trattoria Terrazza, opened in 1959 by two former waiters Mario Cassandro and Franco Lagattolla, considered to be one of the first restaurants serving authentic Italian cuisine."
The synopsis is longer but the programme's only twenty five minutes and surprises are always good. Not so good is the accompanying photograph which will make you automatically hungry.


Nature Weevils to the rescue: Tiny bugs released in Union County (New Jersey) to attack 'mile-a-minute' weed:
"The battlefield lies in Union County, along a stretch of the verdant Watchung Reservation.

"The invader: a rapacious Asian weed that has spread unchecked since Hurricane Sandy, swallowing trees, hillsides and rocks and smothering all beneath it.

"The defender: A six-legged speck of a bug known as Rhinoncomimus latipes, a variety of weevil.

"Yesterday, the war began."
Dun, dun, daaan.


Nature Laura Davis of the Liverpool Daily Post remembers one of her favourite teachers:
"This was a good example of what sort of teacher she was. A boy in our class was painfully shy but knew all the names of dinosaurs so she made it the subject of our class’s “special project”, gave him the title “Professor Philidocus” (his real name was Philip) and told us to ask him for help with pronunciations of words like Pterodactyl and Pteranodon (I just had to look up those spellings, no longer having the Prof around for assistance)."
Apparently, though I only have a hazy memory of this but it's been repeated by my parents enough times, on the first day of primary school during the mass assembly we were asked for the name of a composer and I stuck my hand up and said Tchaikovsky. I hadn't heard properly and they'd actually been asking for a "local" composer and meant John Lennon (this was in 1979), but were nevertheless impressed that I'd even heard of the Russian composer let alone pronounce his name at the age of five. From that moment on I was encouraged by teachers just like this. Not entirely sure I repaid their faith in me, but there you go.