The Atlantic and some other people, in general, agree that Love Actually is rubbish.

Film Love Actually was broadcast again on mainstream television, on Christmas Day on ITV1 and again on ITV2 on the 30th December. If listings magazines and websites are good for anything, it's giving fair warning for such outrages.

But earlier in the month, presumably also in anticipation of such broadcasts, Christopher Orr of The Atlantic offered his own evisceration. It's a bit woolly, goes so far as to say, "a few of the subplots, I will grant, work pretty well" (you might, grant) but is pretty much spot on about the film's dodgy gender politics notably that the only two female main characters have unhappy endings for no good reason.
"Which brings me to the film’s final message, which is, essentially: If something, God forbid, does go wrong—well, you’re screwed. It’s probably best if you give up on love altogether and get on with the rest of your life. This message is transmitted via the two storylines that do not culminate happily: the Linney-Santoro fling and the strained marriage of Rickman and Thompson. After pining interminably for Santoro, Linney finally gets her big opportunity after an office party, luring him back to her apartment to have sex. (Again, the idea that they might actually talk first—perhaps over a glass of wine?—is foreign to the movie’s whole conception of how love progresses.) Alas, their amorous coupling is interrupted by a phone call from her institutionalized brother, and then a second. Clearly, it’s hopeless—and not merely this particular date, but the relationship altogether. The idea of trying again another night is not even entertained. It’s not as though she’s caring for her disabled brother full-time: He’s in a state facility! His phone calls to her can’t be that great an inconvenience. (They do not, for example, prevent her from holding down a regular job.) But by the molehills-to-mountains calculus of Love Actually, Linney appears doomed to an early spinsterhood."
On the same day, coincidentally, The AV Club posted an appreciation which is entertainingly delusional:
"Other filmmakers have attempted to make the big holiday-ensemble movie work after the success of Love, Actually, with both Valentine’s Day and New Years’ Eve trying to lock down a piece of the same territory. Both are atrocious, which only underscores Love Actually’s achievement."
I've not seen New Year's Eve, but say what you like about Valentine's Day, at least it gives its female characters both some narrative agency and happy endings (even if like Love Actually, it's not all about romance, oddly, given the title). Plus it ignores He's Just Not That Into You.  The hyperlink genre/narrative structure's essentially now been reduced to supporting these endless quasi-romantic comedies.

A couple of days later, Michael Kozio a reporter for PolitiFact offers what he thinks is a spirited defense for The Guardian which becomes a backhanded complement, as he attempts to suggest that it's ok that the female characters have a raw deal because they have more depth.
"But as people, they are much more complex and compelling than their male counterparts. Take, for example, Sarah (Laura Linney), who has been in love with her drop-dead gorgeous co-worker Karl for “two years, seven months, three days and, I suppose, an hour and 30 minutes”. Their courtship is agonisingly interrupted by the needs of her mentally disabled brother, upon whom she lavishes unrelenting care and attention. This is a woman who has bricked up her own desires and devoted herself entirely to the service of someone who is rarely capable of expressing his gratitude, and it says a great deal about the power of unconditional love."
He ultimately undoes himself here:
"In the end, I suppose it’s about what you demand out of art. We often place needlessly high burdens on individual pieces of entertainment, as if somehow every film should embody all that’s right in the world and always subscribe to our view of the ideal. Or perhaps I’m expecting too little."
Yes, yes you are.

 Like much of Curtis's self directed work (I haven't seen About Time yet so this is under advisement) it smugly pretends to be one thing whilst simultaneously doing something else. The Boat That Rocks is a creepy and insidious piece of work which also confirms and to some extent promotes the normalcy of the patriarchy and it's no good saying that as a period piece it simply reflects periodic behaviours.  Go watch something like the superb Love Field, then come back and tell that period piece can't both reflect and challenge historical attitudes within a nostalgic construct.  That the people involved with The Boat That Rocked let the bed trick scene through, that Curtis wrote and directed it and Nick Frost etc thought it was funny, continues to reflect badly on all of them and the journalists who don't seem to have asked for a justification.

Anyway, back in Love Actually, Curtis himself in The Guardian explained what went wrong under the auspices of explaining what went right:
"Although all the strands come together in the airport at the end, it still felt like making 10 separate films. It was a massively difficult edit. The order I originally wrote it in didn't work at all, so we had to reorder it completely. It was a bizarre four-month game of 3D chess."
Which explains why Christmas Eve in the film seems to go on for ever...

The sequel received its trailer:

Which is funny but not nearly long enough.

Meanwhile, Orr at The Atlantic was feeling embattled enough to produce another article defending his original review AND the subsequent piece posted above against various critics and defenders who are all ulimately wrong.
"I think there are two flaws common to many of the defenses of Love Actually I’ve seen in comments, on Twitter, and elsewhere on the web. The first is attempting to defend each subplot on an individual basis. I agree that (with one notable exception) any given storyline is perfectly defensible on its own merits. The problem, rather, is the patterns that emerge when you consider the film as a whole. One subplot about an older man wooing a much-younger subordinate? Fine. But three? And on it goes: not one, but two gags (three, if you count the Colin subplot) about how the only possible way a man could overcome heartbreak is with the assistance of one or more supermodels; two storylines in which women (never men) see their romantic lives shattered by obstacles that ought to be surmountable; and, most important, upwards of half a dozen subplots in which characters go directly from initial physical infatuation to (presumed) happily-ever-afters, without remotely bothering to get to know one another in between. These repeated themes are not coincidental."
In other words, much of December felt like open season on the film, which was a nice Christmas present. Jezebel moved into the territory, making similar points as my dissertation and The Atlantic but funny:
"Okay. Seriously. Is this Colin Firth storyline actually about human trafficking? Colin Firth shows up in France and this woman just gets dropped off at his house and he "falls in love with her" even though they cannot communicate and the only thing he knows about her is that he's really, really into her butt. But it's "love"! So he just "has" her now! She's "his"! Colin Firth decided they should be together without ever saying a single word to each other, and so that's what happens. Congratulations, now you have a weird stranger who lives in your house and fat-shames you in Portuguese. "Love."

"This entire movie is just straight white men acting upon women they think they "deserve." This entire movie is just men doing things."
Eventually npr released this:

Nope, I won't stop fighting about Love Actually, actually.  I mean wow.

Dustin and Danes.

TV The last series of Homeland began well, fell into a trough that it now appears occured because of the contractual requirement to serve some actors and their regular characters, before triumphing phoenix-like in its final few episodes when it essentially became 24 with a college degree. Which isn't to say Claire Danes wasn't entirely impressive throughout, especially when the material allowed their to sour. Now here's an artifact: it's from last month's Interview magazine and its Danes being interviewed by one Dustin Hoffman, whose clearly a bit of a fan of Homeland but never seen her earlier work or knows much of her back story so she has to fill in the blanks and of course it's how she fills in those blanks, what she decides is important, which makes it interesting. Here she is on My So-Called Life:
"It's kind of fun to watch My So-Called Life when it comes on, though. There are only 19 episodes, which actually seems like a lot now that I do 12 episodes a season on Homeland. But it was a strange, cult thing where we didn't even do a full season, but the episodes that we did do got picked up and were rerun by a bunch of different cable networks, so the show was on for years and years and years—and was discovered by different generations, which was extraordinary. I guess I knew it was special back then, too, but it was my first big gig, so I had no sense of context. But I became close with a lot of people involved—and I am still. It was a seminal experience for me, both professionally and personally. The writer of the show, Winnie Holzman, is still a very dear friend of mine. She's kind of my mentor—my fairy godmother, I call her. But that was wild because I was the same age as the character, and there was an incredible symmetry between us—unlike Carrie Mathison, who in no way resembles me. I would be the worst case officer on the planet. I am so ill suited to Carrie's vocation. But Angela Chase was just another high school student."
There are also the moments when there careers and contacts intersect in interesting ways. Good interview. Also dying to know when they both felt they were being inhibited by directors whose vision didn't quiet match theirs.

Fifteen years.

Film In an attempt to make the most of the various by-post and streaming services I'm subscribed to, I've instituted a process or a rule, so that in between physical rentals from Lovefilm, in order I'm watching something from Lovefilm Instant, then the BBC iPlayer, then Netflix then something I actually own with the proviso that it has to be something which is only available or exclusive to one of those services first.  There are some extra processes or rules within that. It has to be the oldest film available on the iPlayer that I haven't seen, for example, and I'm working through Netflix's own exclusive content first (or at least I will be once I've finished the BBC''s House of Cards). Oh and if its expiring first it gets watched first. All of which removes most of the over-excessive and debilitating element of choice that leads me to silly watching challenges (#oscarwatch) whilst also still being also being a silly watching challenge.

Of course, it's the over abundance of available content which has led me to this. Perhaps I would have been happier in the 70s, when you had to be in front of television while something was being broadcast or in a cinema but when what was available still had excessive variety. But as The Guardian's From The Archive today reveals, in 1976, in an attempt to help the ailing British film industry,  the Writer's Guild suggested that instead of the five year wait before cinema films appeared on television which was in place then, it should be extended to fifteen years. As The Guardian itself calculates that would have meant 22 of the 47 movies shown by the BBC over the 1975 holiday season wouldn't have been available for broadcast, "including Women In Love, Carry On Up The Khyber, and Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid."  Oh and that the cost to broadcast the film should be increased to half the amount it would have cost the channel to make the thing themselves.

Five years seems excessive with hindsight and indeed I was surprised to see films from 2011 receiving their terrestrial premiere over Christmas (though the windows are becoming even shorter when it comes to content part financed by the television channels themselves).  But imagine if the fifteen year rule had been put in place.  Assuming we're dealing with whole years, that would mean The Matrix, The Phantom Menace and Magnolia would only just be available to broadcasters and the big Christmas Disney movie on BBC One this year would probably have been A Bugs Life or Mulan.  Thank goodness home video came along and made the whole thing seem ridiculous even if it didn't really save the British film industry as such which eventually simply turned itself into branch of Hollywood, producing material which is pretty much the same thing but with a different accent, much of which, to be fair, I'll probably end up watching on Netflix or Lovefilm.

My Intention.

Life Try and as I could (yes, I know, do or do not, there is no try, but nevertheless), I couldn't manage to work this into Review 2013. In the middle of the year, FACT Liverpool included an installation called "10 intentions" which asked visitors to select one or several of the philosophically or thematically offered keywords or "intentions" and asked visitors to free associate on the topic, either through the supplied microphone or keyboard. The results were combined and posted to a website and I'd entirely forgotten about it until I was ego searching a few weeks ago and stumbled upon what I'd written. Here it is:

Pessimistic soul, aren't I?

The Interstellar Enterprise.

Film About half way through December, Paramount released the trailer for Chris Nolan's new film Interstellar. Given that he's the new Spielberg in terms of expectations and genre games, I was excited, and it is an exciting trailer, and mysterious, giving little away about a film which isn't going to be released for quite some time. Here's the trailer:

If that all look vaguely familiar, watch this too:

Chrisopher Nolan's secretly making a Star Trek prequel.

Review 2003 review.

About Review 2003 trundled around and so the annual tradition began of filling December on this blog with some kind of seasonal thematic series of blogs on the same or disparate topics with the text supplied by me or reader or invited guest bloggers. As the introduction and epilogue to that short series of posts explain, in 2003 I decided that I’d email people who’s work I’d mentioned on the blog that year and ask them five questions about their year. I was young, na├»ve and blogging was still a bit voguish and what amounted to the social media of the day outside of the various IRCs, LiveJournal, email and the comments sections of community blogs, so I was fairly confident that someone would agree. Go and read the whole thing now, it’s seven days worth but it shouldn't take you too long.

I think it’s ok now to unveil the weird secrecy of that epilogue and explain that the first person or organisation I emailed was Weta Workshop in the hopes that Peter Jackson would reply not expecting that he would. He didn’t. But I continued and as you can see the reply list contains some astonishing people, including several authors one of whom would go on to write for the revival of Doctor Who, an Oscar and Emmy award nominated and winnings filmmakers, musicians, critics and plenty of really good friends. Which was and is frankly amazing and as that epilogue intimates what was supposed to be an attempt to save me from writing on the blog too much over that festive period turned into an all consuming passion as I kept contacting people and then to my astonishment receiving a reply.

My initial plan for this review was to email all of these people again (I still have the original replies) with five more questions one of which was to ask them what they thought of the answers they gave ten years ago but given the increased profile of some of them and the fact that there are few people in there I’ve not spoken to in years anyway, I felt it best not to go around pesteriing them. I also thought about repeating the exercise with a whole new crop of people but blogging isn’t a voguish as it once was so the whole notion would have looked a bit weird, plus I remember how much work went into it last time and after everything which has gone on this year I decided that a few days of pre-writing the month’s posts at the beginning of December would be more than enough which is roughly how the Not The Doctor thing happened. Give or take a week.

It would equally be unfair of me to stand in judgement and comment on other people’s answers even after a decade. What I will say is that as should be the case they’re a bit of a time capsule of what the world was like ten years ago both in a big picture way and also in the detail of people’s lives. In other words, the Bush references and mentions of film franchises like The Matrix which were still in-stream. Weird to think that here we are again in the middle of a Tolkien trilogy. Some of the predictions for 2004 are amazingly prescient even if some of them took a few more years to come about, especially VOD which has now practically destroyed the physical media market and how television is watched now that the technology has caught up.

None of which is to say I can’t stand in judgement on my own answers which I’ll reproduce below as well for ease. As I’ve just said to a previous participant on Twitter, glancing through these made my brain split open and there are a couple of details I completely forgotten about probably for a very good reason. Whatever you do, and this is solid gold advice, don’t keep a blog for over ten years. For comparison, if I had to answer the questions for this year instead the results would probably be that I woke up from my hernia operation, my surgeon and my hernia operation, realising that having a hernia wasn’t the end of the world, the way my body healed after the hernia operation and that hopefully 2014 won’t include another hernia or anything else which requires an operation, fingers crossed. Anyway, onward:

What was the best thing which happened to you in 2003?
At the beginning of the year I didn't dream that my answer to a question like that would be a trip to Leeds. I'd all planned to go to London, finally see Shakespeare's Globe and Tate Britain and see a movie at the Odeon Leicester Square. But weird finances caused a change in those plans. But I'd never really gotten over my time at University, forever thinking about how I could have done better, enjoyed the experience more, have more stories to tell. But ten years later, standing in the university hall and outside the two houses that followed I realized that actually it was exactly what it should have been, for me. If it had been all lovely I might have left with an inability to see the big picture and would missed those pieces I really did enjoy. I might chide myself for not going out on this night or that night, or following my heart instead of my head at other times, but perhaps what followed could have scared me away from taking the risks I took later as a reaction to my timidness then and missed these later experiences. I mostly learnt that everything balances itself out .... eventually ....
That it’s ten years since I revisited Leeds is inconceivable and not just because of my fond memories of the visit but because it also means its twenty years since I was an undergraduate. Now, of course, I wonder if I would have made the trip at all thanks to the wonders of Google Street Maps. I’d like to think I would and actually have considered a repeat but having glanced at Google Street Maps realised that everywhere still pretty much looks the same. I would eventually see Shakespeare’s Globe and Tate Britain and actually see two movies at the BFI in 2009 and would return to university in 2005 where I made many of the same mistakes, also didn’t feel like I’d made the most of the experience (this time due to having to commute) and also entered a post academia state of career uncertainty and miasma which continues to this day. I’ve been trying to remember if something else was actually the best thing which happen in 2003 since this seems like a placeholder answer but my mind’s gone blank.

In general, which one thing in 2003 will have the most lasting consequences?
My life laundry. I was always something of a hoarder. Going through the process of getting rid of so much stuff was very cathartic, if not actually relaxing. But working out which videos and books to get rid of meant I was at times justifying my taste in something. In High Fidelity, Nick Hornby writes about how you're more than what you like. Effectively what you like is not what you're like. Did having every series of Star Trek on video define who I was in some way and did the wholesale ditching of the lot via twenty handy bin bags have some other symbolism? I finally decided not to think about it and just enjoy all the space I suddenly had about the place.
Yes, which lasted about six months and then the space began to be filled again with other stuff so the consequences didn’t in fact last too long. Dumping all of that television was cathartic and as it turned out something we’d all end up doing with the advent of dvd boxsets which take up for less space on the shelves and subscriptions to Lovefilm and Netflix. But the Star Trek space is now filled with Doctor Who and the books that went have been replaced with the Shakespeare. Perhaps I should go back through the remaining VHSs and be even more ruthless especially since I’ve not looked at most of them in years, probably since I had the 2003 clearout in fact. Oh and the real answer would have been working at Liverpool Direct because that’s what led to me saving to go back to university, though to be fair the lasting consequences of that are also ambiguous.

Who was the best new person you met in 2003 and what was the first thing you talked about?
It occurs to me that all of us probably meet many interesting people everyday. We sit next to them on the bus or train, we walk past them on our way to work, they sell us our lunch or see them in the lift at work. But we never have time to stop and talk, always rushing about, probably missing out on learning something new or making a brilliant new friend. But to choose that smashing girl who works in Boots would be missing the point. So instead I'll say Nancy from my World Music course, because she's studying accountancy by day so that she can help those who have none when she graduates, which sounds inspiring to me.
That smashing girl who worked in Boots!. I loved her. Or rather fancied her quite a lot, always disappointed when she wasn’t working and always taking my meal deal through her till when she was working. She disappeared after a while, I assumed because she’d moved on, and I last saw her standing outside Chester Station where we shared a smile of recognition though I expect she was just being nice and hadn’t the faintest idea who I was. Notice how back then this blog was rather more personal then than it is now? Oh the wonders hidden in these archives if you’re brave enough to look. The last but one time I saw Nancy was after bumping into her at a screening Y Tu Mamma Tambien at the Box in FACT Liverpool and then going for an awkward coffee at the recently opened and still a novelty Starbucks on Bold Street with her afterwards. I wonder if Nancy was eventually able to help those without accountancy. I think you can see why this blog’s rarely personal now.

Describe the one thing in 2003 which made you stop in your tracks and say under your breath 'That's so cool...'
Of course there are a hundred things which could be listed here, from the stella improvement in CG special effects to the alarm clock I got for Christmas which projects the time onto the ceiling so you can see what time you're being woken up without even moving your head. But overall in terms of how it's made life bareable since March, it would be the FACT centre in Liverpool. Here is an arts centre and cinema which I never thought I would see in my city. While I haven't loved every exhibition which has appeared in the gallery spaces, they have at least been consistently interesting, trying something new. Where else, for example, could you find a piece in which an artist had edited together similar moments from throughout Starsky and Hutch so that you could pull a VCD off the shelf and watch every time Hutch burst into tears or somebody drove through some boxes. Just as I'd all but given up seeing anything not created outside Hollywood, three weeks after it opened I was watching a Kazakhstani film about a folk hero. Despite a stodgy patch when the three main screens closed for business it's consistently tried to offer the kind of programme which you'd expect at a London Cinema, a good mix of populist and art house. I saw The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King there the other day with their THX approved sound system, which sounds populist, until you consider that on the small screens they're showing Noi Albinoi about a drop-out from an Icelandic village who dreams of escaping from his remote fjord with the girl from the filling station, as well as seasons of the work of both Jacqui Tati and Yasujiro Ozu. This is a love affair which has only just begun.
The clock lasted about a week before the LCD display broke removing its distinguishing feature. FACT’s still there thank goodness, which meant I can still see films if I’m desperate with a half decent audience (apart from the Dorito muncher I had to cope with during the quiet moments in Gravity). The Starsky and Hutch piece description is a reference to Jennifer & Kevin McCoy’s Every Shot Every Episode which sounds like it invented what we now call supercuts and features ironically in this YouTube video  and has various catalogue pages here,  here and here, though sadly, if understandably, the actually videos themselves aren’t available. It’s fair to say that after the Film Council funding ended after a year the choices became a bit more populist than Kazakhstani and Icelandic cinema but they do still show the odd thing which is out on tour and offer some repertory cinema though times are hard and that’s true of cinemas in general, even in London. People are just as happy to watch world cinema at home and the variety is staggering and Noi Albinoi is still very much available even if I don’t remember a second of it so can't tell you if it is any good.

What do you predict for 2004?
First of all I want to look back at my five predictions for 2003. Out of the following list, which one do you think would be the one most likely to happen?

*Eighth season of Buffy, with or with Buffy
*New TV series of Doctor Who
*The more obscure Shakespeare plays get movie versions (especially 'Measure for Measure')
*Less talk of the past, more of the future

Who would have thought the real joke on the list, the one about a Timelord would turn out to be the biggest success? At the start of the year it wasn't clear that Angel would be carrying on that universe - Eliza Druska had yet to find her Tru Calling instead of continuing the franchise in Faith and as far as we knew Alison Hannigan was interested in Willow. Glancing at the Internet Movie Database, there where two new Othellos, and a Hamlet in German. Classic TV showed a seventy year old version of As You Like It in smudgy vision, but that's not really the same thing. All everyone seemed to do all year was talk about the past - it was a year of anniversaries and celebrations of one form or another, which is why this review seems to have fitted in so well. I did have a naive hope that the world wouldn't go completely mad but of course it did, as the responses in this article have proved. It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. But I don't want to continue on a pessimistic note, so here are my predictions for 2004.

*A Starbucks will open closer to work
*More crossover in music across Europe. French, Spanish and German music will start to appear in our pop charts as the kids finally start looking for something different.
*There will be new governments in the UK and US. Neither will actually be much better or worse than what we have now.
*A second e-commerce boom will begin, with entrepreneurs learning from the mistakes of the past
*Something really extraordinary is going to happen with long lasting consequences effecting all mankind in a good way for a change

I know I'm hedging my bets with that last one. But peace didn't happen last time so why not try and go one better? We'll see at the end of 2004.
Actually most of these predictions, from both years, came true eventually to some extent. There was an Eighth season of Buffy eventually in comic form come 2007. Doctor Who etc. There’s a film version of Cymbeline starring Ethan Hawke due out next year (still waiting on Measure for Measure). “Less talk of the past, more of the future” was foolish but not as foolish as predicting "peace". A Starbucks has opened close to work. French, Spanish and German music have appeared in the British pop charts but not in the way I imagined – it’s simply that we’ve appropriated producers and styles of music though the US influence is still the most powerful. A few new governments since 2003 and well, in a word, fuck. E-commerce (which sounds about as archaic a term now as twerking will be in about ten years) has gone into overdrive and taken over the world. Twitter happened and that was a thing though I ducked out of choosing anything from 2004 the following year.  See you next year.

Talking About The Regeneration.

TV Happy New Year! I hope you’ve enjoyed the almost Doctor Who free month on the blog, though it’s fair to say that the one review I posted, that review, was the busiest post by quite some margin, not that I pay attention to such things obviously (over a thousand!). Now that last year’s over with, I’m going to try and find some measure of sanity about that. This was never meant to be a Doctor Who blog. It just sort of became that last year, just as it becomes a blog about the Liverpool Biennial now and then or Shakespeare, or everything, or nothing. Usually nothing. Nevertheless, Happy New Year!

Anyway, back to Doctor Who and after cogitating on it some more since the broadcast and the iPlayer rewatch, I’ve decided that actually The Time of the Doctor is a thrilling, extraordinary piece of television even if it’s not a thrilling, extraordinary piece of Doctor Who. To put what amounts to a meditation on aging and mortality on Christmas night between Call The Midwife and Eastenders masquerading as family drama (which to some extent neither of those are) was a very brave and commendable thing to do, even if the result was by turns baffling and uneven. Like some other episodes, its reputation will no doubt grow over time.

Something I didn’t address in that original review, mostly because it was already three thousand words long and I’d spent the best part of Boxing Day writing the damned thing, was the mechanics of the regeneration. As is so often the case, my theories about how all of that would be dealt with through the utilisation of River Song’s energy in Let’s Kill Hitler proved to be wronger than a wrong thing which is wrong about everything, proving to be far simpler and indeed for more old school Who with the Doctor merely being granted a whole new regenerative cycle by the Time Lords, which is what it is.

The method of revealing the Eleventh Doctor’s mortality was interesting, simply having him divulge it in the middle of the episode, though to be sure that was dulled somewhat by Moffat himself “revealing” as much beforehand in interviews right down to the inclusion of what amount now to two different incarnations of the Doctor both played by David Tennant. We’ll talk about that in a moment. But the point is, like so much of the episode, the really exciting stuff, the stuff which should have been a major discovery or at the very least been revealed dramatically was sectioned off into reported speech and exposition.

That’s especially true when you consider the range of options available, like pretending the metacrisis regeneration didn’t count so that all of this mortality stuff sat on the shoulders of the Twelfth Doctor (thereby making sense of the business at Lake Silencio) (yeah, right), chasing around the universe fully aware of what’s happening (though it’s true by making the Eleventh Doctor the last one it does make sense of the business in Let’s Kill Hitler). We can be wonder exactly when Moffat decided this was the Doctor’s last incarnation. When he thought up the War Doctor? Before then?

My preferred option, at least in terms of the melodramatic options, was for the Doctor to assume he’s dying then regenerate anyway and for him and us be left with the mystery of exactly how he managed to beat the rules. Had he miscounted? Was the rule only meant for him? This would have added an extra level of jeopardy because he’d never quite know if the next time he regenerates it’ll be his last. We’ll know different because we know the thing will continue for, y’know, like, ever, but it would be a constant reminder to the Doctor of his own mortality and also temper is god-like status somewhat.

Yet in the end, this is probably the best of the lot. Choosing something from the show’s history and thereby underscoring how in the show’s fiftieth year that history has now become an even more integral part of the revival, it elegantly kicks the problem ahead another thirteen incarnations so that whatever production team is working on the show in fifty years time (or whenever) will essentially be faced with the same problem and gifted the same story opportunities which could just as well include any of the ideas in the previous few paragraphs in whatever format Doctor Who is being made then.

What’s interestingly been misunderstood by a lot of viewers is the mechanics of this particular regeneration. The actual regeneration happens when the Doctor throws his arms out and destroys the alien fleet with the flames, in a scene which seems to deliberately echo the similar scene with Melody Pond in Let’s Kill Hitler with the Nazis when she’s still in her regenerative cycle. The scenes in the TARDIS afterwards are when the Doctor’s body is breaking in the new regenerative cycle, which is why he looks young again, he’s rebooting. The shift to Capaldi is that new regenerative cycle kicking in.

The Stolen Earth/Journey's End have been messed about with too now, I suppose.  The Time of the Doctor gives us confirmation the the Tenth Doctor did regenerate then but kept the same face and apparent personality.  But does this mean Tennant effectively and perhaps unknowingly played two different incarnations of the Doctor?  That the one who was running around in the 2009 specials is a different man and yet the same man?  Would the Tenth Doctor pre-metacrisis have made the same decisions as he does during The Waters of Mars et al?  Shouldn't there be two Tennants standing here?

The other thing I didn’t talk around in the review was Trenzalore and the extent to which the Doctor’s changed history. The Doctor hasn’t changed history, I don’t think. Trenzalore is still potentially in his future ready to be robbed by whoever makes off with his actual remains ready for the auction in Alien Bodies. It’s just that it didn’t happen during The Time of the Doctor. So everything which happened in The Name of the Doctor still could and should. Unless I’m completely wrong and misunderstood the ending just as I did with The Day of the Doctor. Presumably it’ll be explained away in some exposition in the next season.

Right then, onwards with the wild speculation about what Capaldi’s first season will contain. One of his first lines is, in relation to the TARDIS, “D’ya happen to know how to fly this thing.” Assuming this isn’t just some old fashion post regenerative malaise, Moffat could take that single line and run with it. What if, when a Time Lord has been gifted a whole new regenerative cycle, it also takes much longer for them to gain their memory back. So when the “Eleventh” Doctor talks about remember every moment of when the Doctor was him, the irony is that he doesn’t, that like the Eighth Doctor post The Ancestor Cell, he only remembers bits.

That opens up all kinds of interesting narrative possibilities. If, for example, the TARDIS, which has shown a surprising amount of self-awareness post The Doctor’s Wife, practically has to fly itself or at the very least land itself, so that her behaviour is very much like it was fifty years ago screen time, the Doctor and his companion never knowing where they’re going to end up next (even if, as with back then, its usually some time in Earth’s history anyway). This would also take away the idea of the TARDIS as taxi service and make it a genuine lifeline and jeopardy magnet just as it was in the old days.

Plus if the Doctor can’t remember his own history, perhaps he’ll have to rely on Clara who’s somewhat seen it all, creating a shift in the dynamic of the classic companion relationship because it’s the Doctor asking all of the questions of his friend about what to do to fight the antagonists and how to work his sonic screwdriver. This will be even more acute because “Eleventh” so assiduously went about removing himself from history apparently so “Twelfth” can’t even really rely on own legend. If the Daleks do know who he is now though, that makes them an even greater threat because they know what he’s capable of but he doesn’t.

Which makes the loose arc of the next series about the Doctor getting his memory back so that he can control the TARDIS again. There are some reasons this is also unlikely. If you’re Capaldi and finally able to play the Doctor, would you want to play a version who doesn’t remember his own history? Also we know the Patternoster gang are back thanks to the Blue Peter competition and unless the TARDIS somehow manages to land in their company in its random trip through the universe it seems unlikely we’d go there unless the TARDIS and Clara decided that they needed their help.

Either way I think this is the kind of out of the box thinking which Moffat should be heading towards if he’s going to reimagine the series again. As has been pointed out to me by separate people in different places, Moffat has pretty much undone most of what Russell T Davies wanted to do, which is probably as it should be. But what I would like is a return to old fashioned Who storytelling, of simply landing in a place with no other reason than random curiosity and heroics which aren’t about filling in the gaps of a story arc. In other words, more of The God Complex and less of The Rebel Flesh. Oh and no more sodding time paradoxes.

"Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame."

Dr Who reception

(Happy New Year!)

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Predictions.

That Day We reach the time when I assess how well I predicted the ups and downs of the year and look forward to the next. Here we go again:

Lab/Lib coalition in the UK by the end of the year.

No, in a very real, profound sense of being wrong. If anything the Con/Lib coalition has become stronger, even to the point that a figure like Sarah Teather's had enough of it. No marks.

Paul McGann in Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary television special.

Paul McGann in the prequel to Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary television special. As with the Sugababes last year, this was the joke entry which turned out to be sort of true and actually true since Paul McGann was in The Day of the Doctor albeit, oddly, in archive footage. So one mark. N'yer.

BBC announces new complete works of Shakespeare.

Nooo and indeed I think there was even less televised theatre on the BBC this year than last which is saying something.  No marks.

Andrew Stanton hired to direct Star Wars. Aaron Sorkin works on script in some capacity.

JJ Abrams hired to direct Star Wars.  Probably writing most of the script too.  Stanton's directing Finding Dory, the Nemo sequel and Sorkin's making good use of his time on The Newsroom.  No marks.

Liverpool artist wins Turner Prize.

French artist wins Turner Prize.  No marks.

One out of five this year and only because I was somewhat loose with my interpretations.  Seems fitting that it's the Doctor Who one which turned up trumps though.

Right then, for next year let's see if I can be even more specific.

A Lovefilm app launches on the Roku 3.

The Mutya Keisha Siobhan album is finally released.

Stella Creasy is promoted.

Moffat announces he's leaving at the end of the next series of Doctor Who.  Gatiss takes over.

Time is a Great Dealer.

Well ish.  The last one is from a postcard on my wall and essentially all I'm asking is for next year to be profoundly brilliant.  The rest is about me daring fate to be wrong.  Or putting the jinx on some people.  Either all.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Not The Doctor by Alanis Morissette.

Music Not The Doctor isn't my favourite track on Jagged Little Pill and it's probably not yours. Less showy than All I Really Want, less controversial than either version of You Oughta Know and less worthy of midnight drunken discussion than Ironic ("That's not ironic!" "Yes it is! I often need a knife and all I can find in the kitchen drawer are spoons. I mean you can butter the toast with the handle but it's not ideal..."). Plus it's another list, one of several hundred which Alanis would set to music across her career (Under Rug Swept begins with a track called 21 Things I Want In A Lover and good god do we hear them all). But it does have two key elements going for it. It has a really rather amazing hook of the kind Mike Oldfield would be proud of, four acoustic guitar notes rotating from top to bottom, between A and E which the rest of the melody hangs off, and acts as the engine that motors the rest of the song through the end. There's also the rather caustic lyrics in which protagonist is essentially saying to her man, no look, man, sort yourself out, I'm not your mother, I'm not your everything. Find your own way to exist as a person, I'm not in this relationship simply to be your nursemaid. Clearly it's about a real person, it's autobiographical and it's raw, and not that surprising considering what happened to her in the run up to recording the album and when the lyrics were written (see here).  All in all considering what else was apparently recorded in the Jagged Little Pill sessions (hello Superstar Wonderful WeirdosDeath Of Cinderella and the impressively noodly No Avalon), it's well worth another listen.

I don't want to be the filler if the void is solely yours
I don't want to be your glass of single malt whiskey
Hidden in the bottom drawer
I don't want to be a bandage if the wound is not mine
Lend me some fresh air
I don't want to be adored for what I merely represent to you
I don't want to be your babysitter
You're a very big boy now
I don't want to be your mother
I didn't carry you in my womb for nine months
Show me the back door

Visiting hours are 9 to 5 and if I show up at 10 past 6
Well I already know that you'd find some way to sneak me in and oh
Mind the empty bottle with the holes along the bottom
You see it's too much to ask for and I am not the doctor

I don't want to be the sweeper of the egg shells that you walk upon
And I don't want to be your other half, I believe that 1 and 1 make 2
I don't want to be your food or the light from the fridge on your face
At midnight, hey
What are you hungry for
I don't want to be the glue that holds your pieces together
I don't want to be your idol
See this pedestal is high and I'm afraid of heights
I don't want to be lived through
A vicarious occasion
Please open the window

Visiting hours are 9 to 5 and if I show up at 10 past 6
Well I already know that you'd find some way to sneak me in and oh
Mind the empty bottle with the holes along the bottom
You see it's too much to ask for and I am not the doctor

I don't want to live on someday when my motto is last week
I don't want to be responsible for your fractured heart
And it's wounded beat
I don't want to be a substitute for the smoke you've been inhaling
What do you thank me
What do you thank me for

Visiting hours are 9 to 5 and if I show up at 10 past 6
Well I already know that you'd find some way to sneak me in and oh
Mind the empty bottle with the holes along the bottom
You see it's too much to ask for and I am not the doctor

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Neil Brand's Sound of Cinema: The Music that Made the Movies.

TV For about three weeks in September, film music expert Neil Brand bestrode the BBC's schedules like a colossus, as every network offered programmes celebrating film music, turning up everywhere from Radio 3, actually mostly Radio 3 to Radio 4, to The One Show to well everywhere offering his thorough knowledge of everything from Disney musicals to the John Williams via Bernard Hermann. The programmes themselves were glorious with their composer interviews, most especially Vangelis as he deconstructed exactly how he's able to produce such unique sounds and Brand visiting various locations and archives with a clear sense of excitement as he was able to run his fingers across the original notations or visit a studio's scoring stage. The three programmes are only available in the illicit places you'd expect, but the BBC's own websites still contain a wealth of material, from extended interviews with contributors, 6 Music's various slots including a whole programme about David Arnold, Brand's own genre based discussions for The Film Programme and his podcast series on a similar themeIn Tune's Sound of Cinema podcastsRadio 3's conversations with Directors and Film Composers, Composer of the Week episodes about British Film Music and the Golden Age of Hollywood. As a variation on a theme, here are five of my favourite pieces of film music, three themed around Brand's programmes and two others. See if you can work out which one is my ring tone (don't phone, it's just for fun).