Deep Breath.

TV Evening. Well then yes, ok, there wasn’t a possible scenario in which I wouldn’t write about Doctor Who on Doctor Who night, especially after Keith said such nice things in the comments. There was a moment when I thought, you know what, they can do without me, I want Doctor Who to be just about Doctor Who and not about spending the following two hours writing about it before bedtime and the fixing process during the wait for the ratings in the morning. Why can’t I just make a few weak jokes on Twitter, tut at Gallifrey Base for two minutes then go off and wait for it to appear on the iPlayer so I can watch it again in HD, my television still being one the ones which says it's HD until you try to watch Freeview and the true horror of the deception is revealed. Yet, it’s Saturday night and here I am typing along to Adele’s Daydreamer.  Again? Why? Why?

Well, because, frankly, there’s so much to write about. Even after nine years of being back on television, Doctor Who, the entity, the programme, the worldwide broadcasting phenomena, the franchise of franchises, still has the capacity, well the capacity to be old and new, borrowed and blue (actually with as slightly sepia hew but we’ll cover that in the relevant paragraph). It would have been very easy to simply continue the style and substance into the next Doctor’s reign, for the “Moffat era” to have a cohesive sheen ready for cultural theorists to pick over when the next person, sorry Mark Gatiss takes over, but like JNT when Andrew (one l) Cartmel took charge, or earlier under Graham Williams when Douglas Adams handed on to Anthony Root, the tone has changed.  It’s a different programme.  Except thanks to the differing mechanics of how television work now, it’s the same writer.

There’s a new executive producer of course.  But due to the differing balance of power now, this whole shift was Moffat’s choice. He’s been a bit cautious in the run up to publication/projection about exactly how he views the change other than to say it was important to refresh things, and all we've really heard otherwise from both opening director Ben Wheatley (that’s A Field In England's Ben Wheatley) (for goodness sake) and Jenna, was about a darker tone, the scenes being longer, being more like the classic series which seems like a decent structure for the next few paragraphs. There’s just a general sense, despite the presence of the Paternoster Gang and a familiar adversary from the past, of everything being in the air, of the last vestiges of what we might expect from nuWho becoming something which isn’t really, is something else. There’s a political analogy here somewhere, probably, but it escapes me in a way that it doesn’t.

Darkness is an interesting word. How is the show darker? Clara’s literally breathless escape attempt isn’t that different an action beat to Amy pretending she has her eyes closed in the forest even if the former lacks the Doctor’s comforting voice to guide her. Is it that we genuinely didn’t think for a moment that the Doctor wouldn’t return to save Clara? Is it that for a second we thought he’d done something unmentionable to the homeless person to gain his clothes? That he called him a tramp? That he was capable of piking the clockwork man? Notice that we didn’t see a human spontaneously combust, just the dinosaur. Is it that lots of the scenes are visibly lit darker? The new creamier hue to the photography over the previous blues and greens? I’m not sure that it’s much “darker” in terms of story than previously in the likes of The Waters of Mars. We’ll return to this I expect. At this point I’m not sure.  I'll get back to you.

Yes, the scenes are longer, and how. Whole scenes full of dialogue, characters talking that go on for minute upon minute without cutting away to something else. Which isn’t to say that in previous post-2005 years there haven’t been long scenes, and The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit springs to mind in this regard, yet here the scenes often play out in oners, on steadycams like some John Wells production or indeed the camera simply abides, with the action playing out within frame. That creates a new sense of unease as we expect a cut away to some other piece of business and yet there’s Clara going and having a look out of the window.  We’re not already in the drawing room with Vastra and Jenny. This post-credits scene is six minutes long. Clara’s confrontation with Vastra’s another four minutes. Clara’s initial meeting with the Doctor in Mancini’s is ten minutes before the lift starts.

Lord knows how this will work in a much shorter run time and there’s the potential that along with the simplistic overall story, it’s simply a function of Deep Breath’s duration (finally mentioned the title) and introducing Peter Capaldi (and the new lead actor) nevertheless there’s a genuine sense of taking mid-twentyteens sensibilities and reintegrating the pacing of the classic series circa the 70s and early 80s.  Even to the point that you can guess which bits might have been shot in the studio and which on film even though its all shot on HD.  Even to the point that you wonder if some of those interior shots which are supposed to be exterior are purposefully looking like interior shots which are supposed to be exterior (because they do) (the beach). I’m almost amazed they bothered to create a CG T-Rex and didn’t simply buy a Walking With Dinosaurs action model from Amazon and push it into frame.

Except the tonal shift runs deeper. After previous regenerations we've been slap bang into a story set "now" (or "year from now"), partly because it was to RTD’s taste and expectation of the need for audience recognition and then Moffat aping such as a way of settling the audience into what was his new house-style then. Yet, here we are again in Victorian London, a place which in the past couple of years has the same claim to being the show’s “contemporary” setting as well, a contemporary setting. This isn’t quite like the shift from Pertwee to Baker.  The Fourth Doctor was annoyed whenever the Brigadier dragged him back to Earth. It’s a shift in how the Moffat somewhat trusts the audience to keep with the show (more later) even when the setting doesn’t reflect their world, presumably because at this point the pretence that Earth-5556 has anything to do with the real world is unforeseeable.

But like The Eleventh Hour, he’s careful to provide enough points of familiarity, not least Vastra, Jenny and Strax being brilliant (and complaining about their screen time is like moaning about the Brigadier and Harry being in Robot a lot). Clara’s vital in this too, since as the other main tributary of continuity, she’s now shifted from being plot point in search of a character to fully fledged companion and viewpoint figure for the audience saying all the things we might potentially say about the new Doctor, perhaps voicing many of the comments that greeted Capaldi’s announcement in comment sections across the web. You could view that whole scene as Vastra telling such people to behave themselves and hold in their ageist prejudices. To an extent, that’s the bad cop approach, essentially saying “He’s the Doctor whether you like it or not…” and people will react to that the way that people will react to things.

Having always been a fan of Jenna Coleman, but understanding people’s resistance to her because of her status within the arc of the bottom eight last year, I was unsurprised by her luminance in Deep Breath. Having been hired because of her chemistry with one leading man, she’s continued that, albeit in a different way, with another and yes, I’m going to say it, in much the same way as Lis Sladen back in the day. Unlike Sarah-Jane however, this is arguably the same Clara. It’s simply, as we’ve discussed, she has tons more dialogue and character beats which aren’t about plot so much as giving her some extra dimensions. One oddity is her not apparently knowing who Amy is, or indeed the notion of regeneration which is which is at variance with what we saw in The Name of the Doctor, Clara and the TARDIS and The Ultimate Guide. Hmm….

The good cop approach is Matt Smith storming re-emergence at the end. This had been spoiled months ago by someone eavesdropping on set that day, but they’d surmised it was some message, yet instead here he was, the previous model interloping on his successors introduction. When was this shot? During the Time of the Doctor with Jenna filming the other side of the scene months later?  Pixley only know but if so, it’s seamless and again, a new approach to an old problem but a problem which has changed slightly also thanks to the reason why the show went on the transcontinental publicity tour. Matt Smith helped break the show across the world and to some extent it is for that audience to reassure them that this is the same character with a different face. It’s also for kids for whom he was their first Doctor to reassure them of the same thing, in a different way.

You could ask why this is necessary - Tom’s Doctor didn’t phone Peter’s companions to reassure them ("Hello, Adric? Is that you? Could you put Nyssa on, I want to have a chat about the new chap.") but like I said Matt Smith is, or rather was as much a part of the brand as the TARDIS and sonic screwdrivers and although the show has always sold internationally it was nothing like this. Even the New York Times today ran a Capaldi interview and I haven’t seen Twitter speaking with one voice to quite this degree outside of proper news stories since the 50th. More than ever this is a managed transition and if those closing moments resemble anything, it's a US presidential inauguration albeit with a time and space machine being handed over rather than a country, and a single fictional constituent who didn’t vote for change to be convinced that it’ll be ok.

Having just rewatched that scene back it’s notable just how well directed and edited it is. When Twelfth asks Clara to look at him, his eyebrows and the rest of his face fill the frame but when we cut back to Jenna it’s from a side on view, then back to Capaldi’s face and it’s like we’re viewing him together and I bet there were a few of us who did finally accept him as the Doctor in the moment when she finally hugged him (though given the complex cleverness of his performance I expect it was much earlier than that). In an episode which if Extradential is anything to go by was shot in continuity, we can see the actor learning to play the character on screen as the character discovers himself and in those moments it is as though the performance reaches a nexus point (having toured a fair few Baker and Tennant-like moments along the way). He is the Doctor and I like it a lot.

Which would be the perfect conclusion to this thing I wasn’t going to write especially since it’s gone midnight, but what to make of the ending after the ending? Having said that the story arcs would be on the low-low this year here’s Michelle Gomez dressed as Eliza Doolittle and claiming to be the Doctor’s girlfriend Missy (“I mean Mom.”) (no scratch that, wrong telephone box) in what looks like the garden simulation from The Girl Who Waited. It seems like a classic misdirect from Moffat to cause to us moan about the adherence of the repeated Melody-Lem but if she is the one who's helping to keep these two together, whatever could her motive be? All will be hopefully be revealed in time for the 51st anniversary, give or take a couple of weeks. Has the Doctor given up on his quest for Gallifrey or will she turn out to be the vital clue that leads to its resurrection?

The Feeling Listless Soundtrack 1.0: Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen).

Written by Mary Schmich
[from the single: 'Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)', EMI, 2000]

Five pieces of music which make me cry:

(1) ‘The Leaving of Liverpool’ – The Spinners
(2) ‘Moonlight Sonata’
(3) ‘Abide with me’
(4) ‘Dignity’ – Deacon Blue
(5) ‘The Sunscreen Song’


Five more pieces of music which make me cry.

(6) 'The JCB Song' - Nizpoli
(7) 'This is Heaven To Me' - Madeline Peyroux
(8) 'Closing of the Year' - Wendy and Lisa
(9) 'Claire De Lune'
(10) 'Into The West' - Annie Lennox]

Free Shakira.

Music Musical artists having their music given away free has a range of implications, so it was with a deep breath and heavy sigh when I was notified because I'm on her publicity mailing list that Shakira's new album is being given away free to people who download her iphone app.

But I still quite like Shakira (having been there since just on the cusp of Laundry Surface) but had entirely forgotten to buy the album. Now a mobile phone company has paid for a copy for me. Which is fine.

You can have a free copy too if you download the app and follow the instructions. They do ask you to fork over your email address and mobile number so I suppose it also depends on how squeemish you are about that sort of thing.

The track Empire has the lyric"And stars make love to the universe ..." if that helps.  Rihanna's on one of the other tracks too.

"Where's Earth-1?"

TV While I continue to ponder what I'll be doing after Doctor Who on Saturday night, here's what's happening in some other mythology trying to tie-down the rules of how their universe works as though that's a good thing and won't end up handcuffing or more accurately straight-jacketing creatives and fans for the next few decades. Some notes:

(1) The best thing about the video is the presenter's t-shirt. That is a very cool t-shirt.

(2) Where's Earth-1? Is that the pre-52 Earth? Why's it not on the map? Or is the whole Flashpoint thing supposed have changed the whole of the multiverse?

(3) In this context, presumably "Earth" means "Universe"? In which case what about Krypton?

(4) So Hades is also the phantom zone and it exists outside of normal space. Does that mean all of the various Kryptons in all of these universes send their criminals there? Can these criminals meet each other and interact? Isn't there some duplication? What about the good people sent their by the Justice League of super-villains?

(5) I like all of the maneuvering in trying to crowbar in all of the monotheistic and polytheistic religions, though its notable that its essentially "heaven" and "miscellaneous land".

(6) I do like the classical philosophical vibe.

(7) How does this fit in with the Omniverse?

(8) Haven't DC readers suffered enough?

"an utterly beautiful expression of human achievement"

Dance Find above the opening ceremony for the current Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing which I watched this afternoon, and, frankly, it's awesome. Empty theatrics in comparison the London 2012 achievements, but still an utterly beautiful expression of human achievement. The first hour is essentially the admin, flag parade and speeches and you can skip that if you like, but shift to minute 1:08 and prepare to gape. If the dance version of Andrew Graham Dixon's Art of China doesn't do it for you, the chunk after that really should.  Wow.  Oh and watch on a big screen if you can, yes definitely.

Confidential Extra.

TV You will have read about this everywhere else already but in an unexpected or not unexpected move, the BBC, or more specifically the iPlayer which has quickly turned itself into a new television channel via the back door (and the line leading BT Wholesales junction box) have announced they're resurrecting Doctor Who Confidential Cutdowns, sorry Doctor Who Extra:
"The BBC has today announced Doctor Who Extra - a brand new series, exclusively on BBC iPlayer. Doctor Who Extra is much more than a ‘making of’ show as we follow Peter Capaldi every step of the way throughout the creation of his first season as the Doctor. Over the course of 12 programmes we trace the highs and lows of Doctor Who’s most ambitious run of episodes yet, getting the inside take on series 8 from the people who made it."
Or the "lows" as far as we can tell you now because let's face it you'll have to wait another twenty years when everyone's left the programme and the extra features on the super enhanced version of the show on whatever medium its delivered on for the real dirt about fallings out and actors being grumpy on set (but not too much because we've all still got to meet each other in Big Finish's green room) (in the unlikely event they have the license for nuWho by then).

Of course the real question now is whether I'll watch this before I write each review, assuming I am going to review the next series.  I still haven't decided.  Sometimes I quite enjoyed myself post episode knocking together an opinion.  But sometimes it was a real trial and part of me wants to be simply be able to watch them to watch them, rather than having the need for an opinion knocking around at the back of my mind right the way through.

"everything is just about Doctor Who"

Books More proof, as if you needed it, that everything is just about Doctor Who. Not having read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, I didn't have any idea that there was a character called Jamie. On the occasion of the tv adaptation beginning transmission and Fraser Hines being cast, Doctor Who News has highlighted this post on the author's website about what inspired her to write the series:
"I rarely watch TV, but at the time I was in the habit of viewing weekly PBS reruns of Doctor Who (a British science-fiction serial), because it gave me just enough time to do my nails. So, while pondering the setting for my hypothetical historical novel, I happened to see one very old episode of Doctor Who featuring a "companion" of the Doctor's-a young Scottish lad named Jamie MacCrimmon, whom the Doctor had picked up in 1745. This character wore a kilt, which I thought rather fetching, and demonstrated-in this particular episode-a form of pigheaded male gallantry that I've always found endearing: the strong urge on the part of a man to protect a woman, even though he may realize that she's plainly capable of looking after herself.

"I was sitting in church the next day, thinking idly about this particular show (no, oddly enough, I don't remember what the sermon was about that day), when I said suddenly to myself, Well, heck. You want to write a book, you need a historical period, and it doesn't matter where or when. The important thing is just to start, somewhere. Okay. Fine. Scotland, eighteenth century."
The character's full name is Jamie Fraser, but she says he didn't know what the actor's name was until ages after she named him because the episode's credits were missing.  Now, that is weird.  Three sleeps.

"and Steven Moffat"

TV In an surprising move, the BBC's official Doctor Who site has released this complete episode guide to the new series. Previously fragmentary lists have appeared in Radio Times, and it might well me that something similar will be published tomorrow which is why this is up tonight so that people who don't want to fork out their £1.60 don't feel like there's content out there they won't be privy to (even though it's being copied and pasted elsewhere as we speak) (seriously, it's already up on the Wikipedia). Either way, it makes for intriguing reading.

For one thing it means that none of these titles offer spoilers of the magnitude of "Bad Wolf" or "The Wedding of River Song" a couple of notoriously omitted titles of the past. Part of me wished I'd not seen any of them but boy if a couple don't make me giggle. I'll not actually say which ones just in case you want to keep entirely spoiler free.

I think I'm safe highlighting that three of the episodes directed by women which is all to the good. I would have been even happier if some of them were actually written by women, for goodness sake, but it seems Helen Raynor remains unique, at least in nuWho terms, in that regard.

The other headline of sorts is the number of writing credits Steven Moffat has.  In previous seasons he's written about five or six episodes himself - and if you count Deep Breath as two (which most people seem to be on the strength of its duration) then this year it's five.

But he also has a number of co-writing credits, on Phil Ford, Gareth Roberts and Steven Thompson's episodes.

As anyone who's read The Writer's Tale will know, Russell T Davies extensively rewrote other writers, even Mark Gatiss.  Some of them come across as near page one rejigs, knocked out at 3pm amid emails to Ben Cook.  But only rarely did he take a credit for himself; in my memory its only the 2009 specials were that was the case.

So what's the jig here.  Did he present an outline which they completed or did he redo their material and take a credit because its as much is voice as theirs?  What was the division of labour here?  It doesn't matter that much, especially if the episodes turn out ok, and we don't know who really wrote what in the last few years anyway, it's just interesting to see Moffat's name as well as theirs and with authors who have previously worked on the show, not with newbies.

Five sleeps, everyone, five sleeps, then deep breath and ...

Amnesty Local.

Politics The one occasion I gave in to a chugger was outside the old Blockbuster Video on Allerton Road. It was a rainy day, I was in a fresh, romantic mood and she was working on behalf of Amnesty International and needed to do the bare minimum to convince me to hand over my debit card details. I'm not sure what good my £5 does each month but I always like to keep an eye on what Amnesty is doing.

Now they're in Ferguson, Missouri. The situation in Ferguson, Missouri is now such that Amnesty International observers have moved in. From Buzzfeed:
"Jasmine Heiss, a senior campaigner with Amnesty who is a part of the team in Ferguson, said the use of the “cross-functional team” — which she said included community trainers, researchers, and human rights observers — was “unprecedented” within the United States for the group."

Rumour Has It.

Music As well as watching the extraordinary performance of the Team GB athletics people at the European championships this afternoon, I was having one my regular clear-outs of Twitter people, the followed, because having reached the two thousand limit I can't really justify keeping an eye on anyone who's only tweeted a couple of dozen times or once a month.

Manageflitter was a pretty decent aid in this, with its many sorting option helping to ferret out feeds that I'd followed after having met a person at a thing five years ago but who hadn't tweeted since or who'd been part of someone ongoing news story the context of which I'd forgotten.  Managed to lose a good hundred and fifty, though I with I could just follow more than two thousand people.  That would be easier.

In the midst of all this I was reminded I was following Adele (official), whom it ranks as "inactive" and "quiet" but who in a rare moment tweeted the following news which I'd entirely missed and has been widely interpreted as the singer suggesting a new album is imminent:

Doctor Who's back on Saturday and as you might know I usually review whilst listening to Adele's first two albums. Lately, I've been straying and had the Haim album on in the background because my familiarity with 19 & 21 and meant they'd lost their creative potency.  But there's only one of that and the utility of the Adele albums is that I know that I can usually write a whole review within their duration and if I'm still writing in the middle of Someone Like You, I've gone on too long.  25 could be just the thing.