"Things in the film world are actually really exciting at the moment..."

Film With Wittertainment in summer recess, here's Kermode speaking passionately about how there's no one good or bad period in cinema and that to say that film, and especially serious film is a dying art is misnomer - it's just the commercial end notably in Hollywood.

Horrible Histories: Blitzed Brits at the Imperial War Museum Manchester.

History Petra's statue.  Today being the first occasion for alighting at the Media City tram stop in Salford Quays and being generally oblivious to, well, everything most of the time, I had absolutely no idea that the most direct route after stepping from the platform in straight into a recreation of the original Blue Peter garden.  Signposted by large Blue Peter badges it's exactly as I remember it, with the pond and patio and worm house and the hands and pawprints of various teams from the television series and in the corner the statue of one of its famous pets Petra.  She was a bit before my time, Shep being from my era, but as a permanent fixture of the garden, I well remember seeing in the background during Percy Thrower's slots.  Even if the rest of the trip to Salford had been a wash, I could at least say I'd come away having seen, entirely unexpectedly, one of the icons of my childhood.

But my trip to Salford was not a wash.  Far from it.  I was invited by the Imperial War Museum to preview their new exhibition, Horrible Histories: Blitzed Brits, a highly successful attempt to marry their collection with the popular educational franchise.  I was greeted by the person who invited me from the marketing department who was kind enough to give me brief explanation of what the museum and is and what it does.  Being something of a pacifist if asked, I had assumed that like Leeds Armouries, I'd be slightly repelled by the militiristicness of the whole thing, but as he describes the remit of the museum, which began in 1917 during the "great" war, is to document the human consequences of conflict.  Although they have large objects, tanks, planes and such, the focus is on the people who controlled those tanks, flew those planes and also the lives of the public who were acted upon.  The organisation has the second largest collection of British art in the country.

Horrible Histories: Blitzed Brits is at the apogee of that, explaining to children and it has to be underscored us adults, what it was like to live in those dreadful times through objects and testimonial from the period as well as interactive spaces (which I don't want to spoil too much) based around the style of the books, one of which, with the same title has also been turned into a successful stage play.  Being just too old when they began publication and not having children, my impression of the franchise is through the television series, and I had expected that a proportion of the display would simply be screens showing relevant excerpts and songs which would have been fine, but the museum and HH have very careful thought through the tone of the exhibition relying instead on appearances on the walls from the tv character Rattus Rattus to guide the visitor through the exhibition, otherwise keeping the tone relatively calm.

All of which is a pretty sombre description of a really excellent and exciting show.  Entering at about 11:30 this morning, I didn't leave for two hours, there being so much to see and do, to read and experience.  The sections cover various aspects of the blitz, from the blackout to Christmas to the grow your own campaign and clear-ups after bombing raids and throughout there's loads of trivia and history which I've previously simply been ignorant of, demonstrated through objects.  There's the macabre, toy soldiers made in 1930s Germany of Hitler and Goering watching a parade of the Hitler youth.  There's the legendary, a flag which was attached to the plane which flew Chamberlain to Germany for his ill fated meeting with the Fuhrer.  There's the innovative, black out light bulbs where the glass is almost completely black so that there's only just enough light to go about your business lest the Germans use a street lamp as a target.

There are plenty of clever ways of making the material accessible.  For the youngest visitors there's also a "survival guide", a workbook to guide us through the exhibition which of course I followed and filled in and during which I was reminded that I can't draw, especially my own portrait, but I am quite good at counting.  Most of the stories about Blitz experiences are from adults recalling their childhoods amid the bombs but it's usually the stuff ignored by television documentaries such as toilet arrangements in shelters or how children were chosen by potential homes during evacuation, a grim process related to assessing behaviour.  Stories of bravery, in which children put their safety aside to aid the effort and save others.  Little things, like the dolly that was given to a little girl who'd lost her home and her family at Christmas by a friend in the street who then kept it on her sideboard for the rest of her life.  Statistics, that 38,000 children were unclaimed at the end of the war due to their parents losing track of them, abandonment, or simply no longer having a family or home to return to.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the Blitz which is what prompted the exhibition.  Later on, this evening, I realised that I was born just thirty years after the end of the second world war.  There was actually less time between those dates and my birth (during the dying moments of the Vietnam war) and now.  My Dad was born in 1942, Mum in 1947 so although they were just on the fringes of the conflict, they grew up in its aftermath, through the continued rationing.  Talking about my day's "discoveries" with them earlier, they already knew about much of it because they were there.  Presumably the experience of children visiting the exhibition with their grandparents will be even richer, assuming they're of the attention span to enjoy their company.  But even without, knowing how strong my reaction was, I hope and I guess kids really will respond to what they see and in a way which offers some perspective on the way they and we live now.

Well it wasn't Marco Polo...

TV And here we are again. The next series of Doctor Who begins 19th September 2015, which with twelve episodes puts the finale on the 5th December which is astonishingly late in the year, assuming it's not a bloody split season. The trailer is what it is, the usual confusion of images, some of them intriguing, others confusing and one shot in a familiar cave based locale which probably is supposed to be somewhere else.  Very dark and blue.

The overall impression is to stress the Doctor as being a much more positive figure.  Definitive talk of the Doctor "saving people" which is a step up and a lot of shots of him smiling, which I know he did a lot last time despite everything but this seems more upbeat as though he's enjoying being in his own skin.  More heroic somehow.  Which perhaps suggests the production team have seen the criticism from last time and decided to try something else.

Right then, Maisie Williams.  If previous years are anything to go by it'll probably turn out that the Doctor's simply reacting to seeing a character of the week, but just in case ... younger version of Clara or a new incarnation of a familiar Time Lord, so River, Jenny, Donna, The Rani, Romana, Iris or Susan.  Or another family member we've not met before like Susan's mother or the Doctor's actual wife.  They do seem to be making a big thing of her casting. Old man, look at my life ...

With Lucie Miller: Season Three.

Audio As you can see I'm pretty well rushing through this series now. With shorter story durations and faster pacing, they're very easy to "boxset" in a way which wasn't the case with the longer stories in the earlier iteration with their ponderous duration, leisurely spreading their stories across two and a half hours filling two cds. But it's worth nothing this series sees another structural change with the fifty minute stories giving way to two half hours with a cliffhanger in the middle, seemingly at the behest of the BBC who ran the radio broadcasts one of these episodes at a time, filling up the rest of the "fourth dimension" with some other reading. Which makes it all the more strange that they would subsequently then miss some of them out. With only Orbis, The Beast of Orlok, The Scapegoat and The Cannibalists being transmitted in 2010 (which is why, as I said last time I waited until now to listen to any of this).  There'd be a three year gap before series four turned up, broadcast on a daily basis during two weeks in January 2013 as part of the anniversary celebrations.

The overall deliberate theme of the series appears to be sequels featuring monsters and villains we haven't seen for a while outside of non-Who licensing or the novels though it's odd that two of the choices happen to be insect based.  At a certain point, someone has to write a story about the Wirrn invading Metebelis 3 and attempting to impregnate the spiders, indeed it's amazing Big Finish haven't commissioned that for the Tom Baker series.  Imagine the arguments between a Wirrn Queen and The Great One with Tom refereeing.  There are other recurrences too.  Lucie's possessed or threatened with possession a lot again (to the point that she references it herself in the final episode).  Two of the episodes are underpinned by very similar backstories.  There's also a slightly darker tone for much of the duration, even in the notionally more comic stories.  But overall it simply underpins what I love about this franchise at its best, the sheer variety of stories and its constant ability to reinvent itself.  Same incarnation, vastly different approach to the storytelling compared to even Storm Warning.


It's The Time of the Doctor and Eighth has amnesia again were my primary thoughts by the end of the first half of Nick Briggs and Alan Barnes's script and didn't ever really leave.  The similarities to Eleventh's regeneration story are striking as his six hundred year stint on the eponymous planet sees him befriend different generations of the same jellyfish family to fighting off and negotiating for that local population in the meantime.  Of course, there's a certain winking element to adding these centuries to the Doctor's age when the television version was going about saying he was definitively nine hundred and something years old (often in a trailer friendly tone).  Only recently has the whole idea of him offering a definitive age become anathema, the notion being that when he does provide an estimate he's either guessing or flattering himself.  By my reckoning if you include this, the Earth arc, the business in The Sleep of Reason and other odds and sods, the Eighth Doctor's incarnation lasts over a thousand years.


"Aaah it's The Invasion of the Krynoids or the The Krynoid Invasion." "Caption: The Seeds of Doom."  Jonathan Morris's script does the usual business of Who sequels of taking the original idea and developing it further so on this occasion we have a more powerful human hybrid and an environmentalist antagonist (with shades of the sci-fi series Continuum in that the things he's fight for aren't wrong it's just that his approach is as Lucie might say,"Well dodgy.")  Lysette Anthony's really bright as a kind of proto-Kate Stewart in the first episode (sounding a bit like her too) even if her fate diverges somewhat.  The arc for the series is also reinforced as Big Finish attempt to do the post-The Ancestor Cell forgetfulness, his six hundred years of relative solitude now leading to him having to deal with a certain Capaldi-like misunderstanding of humanity and lack of memory when it comes to Terran customs like driving with Lucie in the Clara role of caring so he doesn't have to, though he's rather more gidding and good natured about it so we'll see.

The Beast of Orlok

Nicholas Briggs introduced some of the BBC Radio 7 broadcasts of these episodes and apparently has to declare an interest beforehand.  Before Orbis he explains that he wrote some of the episodes including that one and produced them all.  But his sheepishness about the whole thing only increases in from of The Beast of Orlok, when it becomes apparent that not only is he introducing it, he's the first acting voice heard and then he appears over the title music announcing what it is and who the actors are.  Maximum Briggs.  Written and directed by Barnaby Edwards, it's an entertaining twist on Hammer horror in that it somewhat abandons the whole notion of being that in the second half, replacing it with something akin to Delta and the Bannermen.  Finally gives Miriam Margolese a Who credit, the television version having omitted to include her even in the revival.  She's the gloriously named Frau Tod and one of her contributions to the story is simmered down, the TARDIS Datacore to, "She saved the Eighth Doctor from being boiled in tar."  It's that sort of story.

Wirrn Dawn

Clyde!  The TARDIS Datacore notices, quite rightly, that Daniel Anthony was the first black actor to play the Doctor, albeit not his own incarnation but Matt Smiths.  Here he's called upon to play a grunt with a soul in a homage to Starship Trooper featuring the giant insects from the Ark in Space.  Written and directed by Nicholas Briggs, after some brilliant Gravity-like spacesuit action (and years before the release of that film) (and in audio where the special effects cost nothing) and the odd burst of action, it's mostly a talky, philosophical affair about the nature of war and why we fight.  Notable at the time of broadcast for being the first Wirrn story since a BBV production there are some useful developments to the mythology, including how the insects appropriate the psychology of hosts which means that if the hosts are cows, they become basic themselves.  At this point, the Doctor's initial forgetfulness post Orbis seems entirely forgotten and his relationship with Lucie is just as it was last year, albeit that the tone of the stories is a touch darker.

The Scapegoat

Hobbled by having a resolution which is essentially a reimagining of Wirrn Dawn which isn't necessarily writer Pat Mills's fault but it is interesting how these two stories were released one after the other and no one noticed that the ultimate justification at least for what's occurring is roughly the same.  Not helped either by Mills writing Lucie as though she's utterly unhinged or at least very drunk which is enunciated by Sheridan who plays up the comedy.  Features Paul Rhys as the eponymous and romantic hero of the title which isn't something which happens much any more, and Samantha Bond and Christopher Fairbank as goat people which just adds to the slightly (slightly?) unhinged tone.  As a side note, for years I used to say "scapeghost" instead thanks to seeing an advert for the old PC text adventure, this being the first place I'd ever seen it and no one corrected me for years...

The Cannibalists

Something I was especially curious about before listening to these audios was why Wirrn Dawn failed to receive a BBC 7 broadcast but something called The Cannibalists would sneak through.  Now I know it's because the former features some truly gory body horror, whereas this is the relatively innocent story of sentient server robots similar to The Autonomy Bug from the Doctor Who Magazine strips (with a dash of the Tenth Doctor novel The Pirate Loop).  As with a lot of Morris's work, it's impossible not to think of Douglas Adams here, especially when one of the robots is spouting poetry in hexadecimal and an entire action sequence featuring sacrifice and explosions turns out to have been entirely pointless because the Doctor didn't happen to ask the right question.  Phil Davis is clearly having a diode of a time as the eponymous android whose sole purpose is to strip his peers down for parts.

The Eight Truths / Worldwide Web

Another epic season finale in the mold of the new television series with a global threat (that's pretty easy to guess once you've heard about the cult, the crystals and you look at the title but I think you're supposed to) and what's now a pretty contemporary setting (made in 2008 it's set in 2015).  As ever writer Eddie Robson is really on point with his characterisation of the Doctor and Lucie with the former displaying all the bravery and also wit which turned me onto him being my favourite Doctor in the first place.  But the script's satire is itself very brave in places; was this the reason it wasn't ultimately broadcast on the radio?  In the process of wrapping up the story threads begun back in Orbis, with elements such an artificial sphere containing an electronic afterlife which seem to have influenced Steven Moffat's thinking later in at least a couple of stories.  Notable casting in the form of Sanjeev Bhaskar and Stephen Moore, or Colonel Ahmed and Eldane as they would be on television later.  Can't wait to find out what happens in Bla-

My Favourite Film of 1991.

Film Right, let's talk about Star Trek.

I don't actually remember the first time I watched Star Trek. From 1969 onwards the show was in almost continuous broadcast on first BBC One then BBC Two and it's entirely feasible that like Doctor Who I was propped in front of it at some point, not least because it often shared the Saturday night timeslot.

If I have a conscious memory of watching it being broadcast it's during the mid-80s BBC Two showings, which began as the BBC Genome reminds me on the 5th September 1985 with The Changeling (having ploughed through the first season on BBC One during the winter). Magically the junction and continuity for this have been uploaded to YouTube:

This was during the soon legendary, though still vaguely primordial at this point "cult" slot and on that day was followed by an episode of The Adventure Game with Sarah Greene, Anne Miller and Richard Stilgoe as guests a fragment of which is ...

At this point I was probably more of a fan of The Adventure Game. Note this was at a time when BBC Two was off air for most of the day, which was filled with Pages from Ceefax and Star Trek's lead in was coverage of the World Chess Championship.  Full schedule here.  When the cult was in full swing, the continuity for that week's episode would be supplied over a starfield, or rather asterisk field generated on a BBC Micro.

But there were two other steps which would ultimately tip me over into becoming a fan.

By that time I was buying, or rather being bought, remaindered copies of Starburst from Speke Market (along with DWM and the like) with the title torn off the front. In amongst the news pages was the first image of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a smudgy photograph in which everyone, including the humans, looked like aliens. In these pre-web days, such things were the only source of information for such things and I seem to recall that Geordi was still being called George in the text.

Come the next year, the first batch of episodes were released by CIC into the VHS rental market and I ploughed through them in weekly trips to Video City in Garston, this being about the time when were loaned our first video player and it was still a novelty and especially since the only classic Trek tape they had was a version of The Cage which amalgamated the colour pieces from The Menagerie with black and white fragments from the original version (ala The Mind of Evil, Who folks).

Around that time I also befriended someone at the local library who loaned me the way through her collection of Star Trek novels which included everything from the original James Blish adaptations through the original publications and movie adaptation and thence the pocket books.  I read and read and read and somewhere in there became a fan, buying my own novels and lending them back to her.  I have a vivid memory of being on a camping holiday reading David Gerrold's The Galactic Whirlpool.

Then the broadcasts of Next Gen began on BBC Two and that was that.  That was my first major recording from the television project even to the point of asking a disinterested friend in school to record The Big Goodbye one week because I was away on holiday.  Much as I can see its flaws its the first season of Next Gen I know best because it's the one I watched over and over and over again.  Even Justice.  Especially Justice.  I was at that age.

From there the fan experience is pretty much what it always is.  Meet like minded people.  Talk and talk and talk about it.  Slightly different to now because then it was simply people you met at school rather than the whole of the internet, but nonetheless, nothing has changed that much.  There's video footage somewhere of the seventeen year old version of me explaining the IDIC (smirk) and reading from the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual to other friends who really didn't care.

Why Star Trek?  Why anything?  Fans with a slight whiff of embarrassment about being a fan of a thing often become philosophical when describing their favourite show (I know my type) and Star Trek with its optimistic outlook tends to offer a number of potential possibilities in this regard and still does even as that's been degraded in the post-Roddenberry incarnations, especially DS9, which have allowed Starfleet officers to have some shades of moral ambiguity.

But my own sense is that it's not that much different to Doctor Who.  The characters, the quotability, the variety of stories often subverting genre expectations, the world building with what at the time seemed like an endless supply of mythology.  Never mind the novels, my shelves were also filled with those reference books including the Okuda Chronology.  Like I said, my interest in the franchise wasn't motivated by anything much different to Doctor Who.  I probably fancied Troi a bit too.

The Undiscovered Country appeared probably about equidistantly in the middle my Trekkerdom and still not quite old enough to go to the cinema by myself and not really having any interested friends at that moment, was taken along to the then MGM Cinema at Edge Lane by my Dad (now a Cineworld after spending a few years as a Virgin Cinema) (remember them?).  This was two years before Groundhog Day for those of you taking notes.

Not really his fault but my biggest memory was missing half the signatures at the end because he was asking me if I wanted any more popcorn not having realised it was the end of the film, I don't think.  I also remember him being very tolerant of me as I explained at some length on the bus home about how the film linked in to Unification, the special double episode of The Next Generation which was available at just that time on rental tape (hired from Blockbuster on Allerton Road).

Purists would probably choose one of the installments from the central trilogy, usually The Wrath of Khan (which is why Into Darkness is little more than an extended homage at just the moment when the reboot should have been going out on its own) (though was at least worth it for the comics spin-off which spends a good three issues explaining why one of the most prominent Mexican characters of all time isn't any more)(not very successfully).

The Undiscovered Country, despite the mangled meaning of the title, has the greater depth as the characters face their biggest enemy yet.  Old age.  Yes, it doesn't stop Kirk from having a near fling with Iman, but even Spock is starting to realise that his friends won't be with him forever.  It also has the best uses of Klingons of all the films (Christopher Plummer for goodness sake) and also a complex political storyline that throws forward to the sort of thing which would be central to DS9.

Anyway, so yes, I was a Star Trek fan right through my secondary school days, through university and right into the post graduation years.  When it was appearing on VHS months before television I collected those and when money ran out I hired the episodes from Roughleys Newsagents on Aigburth Road, eagerly awaiting the moment when each new release would appear on the shelves, knowing full well I'd be the first to borrow them each time.

But somewhere during Voyager my interest began to weign.  It was a gradual process which mainly had to do with Voyager being a bit rubbish and repetitive somewhere in the fourth series and I simply stopped being able to justify spending the money on hiring each of the tapes (though I suspect the rot began to set in just after Threshold) (the only episode which Paramount itself has apparently disowned from canonicity) (one where Paris and Janeway devolve into lizards and have babies together).

Eventually I watched the whole of Enterprise and loved that, but only in the same way as most of the shows you admire but of which you're not an out and out fan, you'll watch once but not return to and don't build up a knowledge of really (see Game of Thrones of which my guess is only the true fans know all the character names, the GoT equivalent of episode stardates for Trek and production codes for Doctor Who).

By then my Whovianism had taken hold and since, although I like the new films, well, ok, love the new films and read the rather brilliant spin-off comics, I haven't watched much in the way of Trek on television since buying that taster blu-ray of the remastered Next Gen episodes.  There's so much else to watch I simply haven't had the inclination to revisit though even as I write those words, I'm checking the price of the complete TNG on BD on Amazon.  Wow, that's expensive.  Not yet then.

Falling out of love with franchises is an odd thing.  That whole process occurred before I had the internet at home and perhaps if the web had been there still fuelling my interest it might have continued especially since it wasn't through a lack of content.  Parts of the final couple series of Voyager were pretty good, I hear.  If I'd known that then via a web discussion, I might have kept the faith much as I have since the first Capaldi series, my biggest Who wobble so far.

Star Trek's now experiencing its own wilderness years with the ongoing saga across various incarnations contained in novels and comics and audios punctuated periodically by the odd movie.  The parallels with Who are spooky.  Why isn't there a television series right now?  No appetite for space show?  Potentially too expensive?  Not wanting to upstage the cinematic version?  It'll be a travesty if something isn't sorted out for the anniversary next year ...


That Day The giant screen was removed from Clayton Square recently and now there's hole in the sky between Tesco and the Clas Ohlson shop that used to be a Virgin Megastore. Of all the memories I have of standing in front of it, other than watching Nosferatu one evening, it's joining the shocked crowd watching the unfolding events this day ten years ago. Here's what I wrote then:
"I stood with the crowd in Clayton Square Liverpool at lunchtime watching the events unfold on the big screen. Some people had their mouth open, others muttered about terrorism, a group of teenagers giggled and chatted until stopping stunned as confirmatory text appeared in the middle of the BBC News broadcast. Seven explosions in London. Six tube stations and one bus. Two confirmed dead. Possible terrorist connection. I heard the teens read the text outloud in disbelief.

"My eyes flickered across the ticker at the bottom of the screen, then I saw the words I really didn't want to see 'Prime Minister leaves G8'. I'm watching his helicopter leave Gleneagles tonight and as the gravel skips away from the undercarriage I can see that the terrorists succeeded in one of their aims. To stop life in its tracks momentarily, blur the expectation of what is to come.

"There I stood in the square watching television, eager to know what was happening, scared about what it meant for all of us, instead of doing all the things I'd planned to do at lunchtime. I won't be watching the film I'd planned to tonight. I'm not in the mood. My dvd rental company Screenselect have seen fit to send me Napoleon Dynamite, and although I know it's only a title, it doesn't feel appropriate."
Here's the rest of that week. Links to relevant articles, review of Sugababes performance, asking the BBC why whether they're showing a thing and I was just beginning to read the Eighth Doctor novels. Nothing much changes around here.  We always talk about how these events change us, but unless we're directly involved, do they really?

What I remember most is how quickly the country was forced to shift from the jubilation of winning the Olympics to coping with this tragedy and that's something which is perfectly captured by Darren LinkMachineGo in his collection of photographs of Evening Standard posters which he's written about and reproduced here.  Take care.

Soup Safari #50: Lentil and Vegetable at Pudding & Pie.

Lunch. £4.49. Pudding & Pie, Wayfarers Arcade, 39-43 Wayfarers Arcade, Southport PR8 1NT. Phone: 01704 543943. Website.

With Lucie Miller: Season Two.

Audio When this second series was originally broadcast on BBC7, some months after the cd release, it was without the final two-parter which my old review of Sisters of the Flame suggests was because of content not being suitable for the tea time slot which is interesting when you consider that (a) it's an audio (b) there aren't any sex references and (c) The Skull of Sobek is much more "graphic".  Sisters would eventually turn up a whole year later at 11pm on the 31st October with the second half of the story receiving its single BBC7 appearance at 6pm on the 18th December, about six weeks later (though other Who related material was broadcast in the meantime).  After 2008, I'd pretty much decided that I was going to simply wait until I'd caught up with the novels and comics before carrying on with the audios.  Little did I know that it would take another eight years to get here.  But yes, from now onwards I'm going further than I've ever been before.

Dead London

Or #whyileftlondon It's actually an interesting choice for an opening episode, given that the Doctor and Lucie are separated for two thirds of its duration and it's a relatively complicated story (albeit that a version of it is now being played out in MARVEL's Secret Wars with New York instead of our nation's capital though for somewhat different reasons).  That said, the teaser is a stormer, writer Pat Mills capturing the Eighth Doctor at his bluff absurdist best and given the title the tone is kept relatively light throughout.  Plus this sounds like London, or at least the version of London I have in my head when I listen to the silence or Parliament Square at the end of PM on Radio 4 just before the bongs of Big Ben.  Cast includes a returning Clare Buckfield, Katarina Olsson (whose something of a rep player this season) and Aliens of London's Rupert Vansittart as the antagonist and sounding just like Ian McNeice.  Yes I did.  Again.

Max Warp

Hating fucking Top Gear as much as I do, you'll be unsurprised to know how much I enjoyed this gentle skewering of the format and especially its presenters, unflinching in its veiled criticism of especially its central figure playing up to his public image as a sexist, racist cretin. Graeme Garden, James Fleet and Duncan James (yes from BLUE) are perfect as um, Geoffrey Vantage, O'Reilley and Timbo the Ferret, Fleet in particular's tragic mimicry is flawless.  But this being a Jonathan Morris script with its Douglas Adams influences watermarked through every page, all of this takes place against the backdrop of a giant galactic war, foregrounded by a murder mystery with the Doctor in full on Ford Prefect mode as he geeks out over spaceships, much to Lucie's bewilderment.  Bits of this are laugh out loud funny and there's one key jeopardy scene (all I'll say is rodents) which is easily one of the funniest in the franchise's history.

Brave New Town

Three episodes in and this season's already a joy.  Since I don't want to spoil this episode's killer twist, stop reading now because I'm about waste a line or two providing a buffer though I'm going also not mention the elephant so I'll just assume you've gone and say what I joy it is to hear the plastic pals it's unfun to be with on audio in apparently their only appearance, but it's a killer premise which again I'm amazed the tv show hasn't appropriated (though there are elements in The Pandorica Opens of all things). Jonathan Clements's Sapphire and Steel like script is an absolute corker with loads of space for the Doctor to give big speeches, Lucie to be funny (notably in a hilarious bathroom scene) and there's the sound of the literal handgun opening in exactly the same sample utilised on tv a few years later. The guest cast includes Derek Griffiths and Adrian Dunbar (another two actors who you would have thought would have been in Who already) in their absolute element.

The Skull of Sobek

For once I probably stand behind my original review of this.  There is an uncertainty of tone in which Marc Platt doesn't seem to know if he's being deadly serious about the thing or trying for some pythonesque parody and as it oscillates wildly between the Hinchcliffe and Williams eras, somewhere in there it forgets to simply tell a good Eighth Doctor story.  Which isn't to say there are a couple of useful character beats, notably about how Lucie is starting to get used to the life (in way that's reminiscent to Jackie's warning to Rose in The Parting of the Ways) and on reflection the scene in which the Doctor falls out of the window on to someone's livelihood is funny.  But generally there's a sense of rushing through a bunch of stuff, not least Lucie's possession, which possibly needed ye olde four episode format or even a novel to deal with properly.

Grand Theft Cosmos

Another Eddie Robson special.  Of course all the way I assumed I was listening to the sequel to a Big Finish audio I hadn't got around to yet featuring some earlier incarnation like Sixth (feels very Sixth) but like Timelash (sorry) we're yet to hear that adventure should we ever.  Did anyone ever go back and write that adventure?  There's nothing in my original review I'd disagree with, though I'd entirely forgotten the trivia from Beyond The Vortex that due to scheduling Paul and Sheridan recorded on different days, the latter her whole part in about forty-five minutes.  It really doesn't show.  She is a GODDESS.  Effectively what we have here is something which tonally I think many of us assumed Time Heist or Mummy on the Orient Express would be in the Capaldi season.  Sadly not.  Project note:  the pocket universe concept seems to be exactly as imagined in the novels, notably in relation to the multiverse of Gallifreys.

The Zygon Who Fell to Earth

Another excellent adventure which would be considered one of the all time greats if it had been produced for television.  Apart from the eccentricities of the visiting Zygons, played by Malcolm Stoddard and Tim Brooke-Taylor because why the hell not, this sees Paul Magrs reigning it (it being is expected stylistic concerns) in to tell a superbly drawn domestic drama with epic implications. Well, I say rein it in, it does have a Zygon called Trevor and a Moffat loop the implications which could be huge.  Arguably it's unfortunate to have Lucie possessed again this season, but if one has an actress of this range, one does not simply have her asking the Doctor what he's going to do next.  Quite unexpectedly there's also a reference to an EDA, The Bodysnatchers, which either the writer managed to sneak in or Big Finish had already begun the softening process in regards to continuities.  This was recorded in August 2007, a whole year before The Company of Friends.

Sisters of the Flame / The Vengeance of Morbius

Romping bit of Holmesian Time Lord hokum from Nick Briggs which also now acts as an inadvertent piece of foreshadowing for Night of the Doctor.  Although I appreciate some people find Gallifreyan politics and the universe being threatened from before time (that sort of thing), generally because of the way it was treated during the JNT era, as with Neverland and Charley, Briggs orbits the whole adventure around Lucie and takes a relatively (for Doctor Who) realistic approach to how a human would react to the notably the jargon, mostly misremembering, substituting familiar objects (Harmony Hairspray thingsy).  His father having appeared in last year's Phobos, here's Samuel West giving us his Morbius, just the sort of rasping fellow you'd expect this walking science experiment to be.  The finale is just the sort of cliffhanger the television series wouldn't dare attempt (not least because it would make the months between series tricky for merchandisers).  Onward to the future!