The Deer Stalker.

Books Sometimes Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell's episode of Elementary was broadcast in the UK last night and although I didn't spot any direct Who references (apart from perhaps a list of deaths for various reasons) the comic book material was spot on (I was able to watch due to my Faustian pact with the devil) (a NowTV subscription).

I don't want to talk about it too much because I'm more conscious than ever of spoilers, but needless to say I didn't guess who the killer was at all, although much of the time I don't think the viewer is really supposed to.

Back in the day, the BBC Cult website housed a Sherlock Holmes fiction page which includes a short story featuring a missing adventure for the Conan Doyle original, The Deer Stalker and it's still online. Says Paul:
""I've always been fascinated with the gaps in the Sherlock Holmes stories, the stuff that we don't see about how Holmes functions as a real person. Conan Doyle, I think, realised that Holmes is one particularly attractive/ugly aspect of the male psyche made flesh, almost incapable of a complete literary life, and so suggested that Holmes 'switches off' between cases with his drugs, almost as if he really doesn't exist when one isn't reading about him."
You can read the story here.

Orphaned Black.

TV Some news you might have missed yesterday amid the Panama Papers and everything else which was happening. It looks as though BBC Three have lost the rights to Orphan Black (which is a BBC America series) to Netflix and it premieres in the UK (and the rest of the world next Friday, publishing within twenty-four hours of the UK broadcast on a weekly basis.

Yes, the same day as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (because females are strong as hell).

Basically you don't pay for the streaming service you're snookered, unless BBC Three have retained some kind of second run rights, although given the cut in budget that seems unlikely. Vodzilla has a longer version of the story. 

On the one hand I'm very excited not to have wait six months a UK appearance but the BBC fan part of me recognises with some sadness how the UK corporation has finally divested itself of its last ongoing imported US drama, albeit one which is produced by one of its international commercial arms.

Is the world really a better place now that six o'clock on BBC Two is all about Eggheads and not starships and vampire slayers?


Film In 2015 when I named Chalet Girl as my favourite film of 2011, little did I think that she'd be the female lead in a Star Wars spin-off film about the capture of the Death Star plans and yet there she is.  The trailer is peak franchise service, of course, resembling a massively budgeted fan film of the kind which crop up on or YouTube nevertheless it's entirely thrilling and I can't imagine it won't do similar business to The Force Awakens when it's released at the end of the year.

Having originated with Lord of the Rings, the baton passed to Harry Potter and then back to The Hobbit, Disney/Lucasfilm have grabbed it from Warners and are gone.  Between main series releases and anthology spin-offs, they could potentially own Christmas for years to come.  None of us could have imagined a decade ago that we'd potentially be getting a Star Wars film a year.  How could Warners have got one of their crown jewels quite so wrong?

First Folio Found.

Books A new (as in newly discovered) First Folio has been found in Bute. The BBC has the full story:
Alice Martin, Mount Stuart's head of historic collections, believes it was bought by the third Marquess of Bute, an antiquarian and collector, who died in 1900.

The trust which runs the Gothic revival house had been researching the collection of books, paintings and historic items and called in experts from Oxford University to assess the authenticity of what had been claimed as a First Folio.

Apart from its cultural value, verification makes the book extremely valuable. A copy owned by Oriel College, Oxford sold for about £3.5m in 2003.

Authenticating a copy involves a series of technical checks on, among other things, the watermarked paper and printing process.
The Descriptive Catalogue will need updating.

"moderate violence"

Film It was nice to be able to finally tweet that with some authority now that I've finally seen this unspeakable pile for myself.  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice more than lives up to its current 29% at Rotten Tomatoes and critical vitriol which surrounded its release.  Make no mistake, this is an awful, awful travesty of a film and the characters it's based on and Warner Bros should be (a) embarrassed that they thought it wouldn't be greeted with the non-welcome that it has by critics and would be a major hit on the scale of Star Wars, Jurassic World and the MARVEL films and (b) really need to think seriously about how they proceed with the rest of this series.

I'll keep this short because I'm most likely not going to say anything you haven't read or heard already.   Narrative wise, it's a mess, shooting backwards and forwards between half communicated themes, too many characters having too little screen time, story threads which falter and force the characters to be two steps behind the audience, action scenes which are generally incoherent, some startlingly inept and obvious dialogue, in Lex Luthor a deeply irritating to watch and poor executed antagonist and a general feeling, as is so often the case with franchise films of a filmmaker trying to bend someone else's mythology to their will rather than celebrating it for what it is.

Two examples of its ineptitude: Lex Luthor just sort of appears.  Lex has had screen time before in the forms of Hackman and Spacey, but this version is completely different interpretation than even appears in most comics and so you'd expect some kind of proper introduction to him, how he fits into the world.  Instead the first time we see him is when he's trying to shanghai the Kryptonian rocket ship from Man of Steel and convincing the US government to give him access.  We have zero sense of who he is, the filmmakers having decided to go with, "Pffr it's Lex Luthor, what more do you need to know?"  Quite a lot actually.

Second example:  why oh, why does the film fall once again on the old standard of damseling girl friends and family members as someone for the superhero to save?  Please stop.  It's true that a couple of MARVEL films have been guilty of this too, but there has to be another way of motivating action sequences and create threat.  The supervillain manual can't be this limited can it?  About the only times it is fair is when the tables are turned by the captor but even that's becoming old hat.  The way it's done here too doesn't feel very 12A either.  The BBFC's view on what constitutes "moderate violence, threat" has become remarkably relaxed of late.

But the overall problem is that its a single protagonist film trying to be a team film.  The story here is about Batman reacting to the fallout from Man of Steel and there's a version of this film which keeps Bruce as our viewpoint character with Superman as a remote figure until the Bat actually has to fight him and its during that fight that he realises, as he does in this film, that they're on the same side and they should be fighting together against a greater threat.  Essentially, a similar structure to Buffy's The Zeppo.

Instead, because it thinks world building is showing a bunch of stuff and because they feel like they don't want to short change the audience by giving Henry Cavill a bit more than a cameo, they create tectonic stresses in the structure of the film and end up making Bruce an antagonist who's actually philosophically on the same page as Lex in places (something which it tries but fails to completely justify) which means when he finally does change his mind and that he's actually Superman's friend it doesn't make any actually narrative sense.

All of which said, Wonder Woman is awesome.  Somehow amid all the other diarrhea swilling around the place, they get Wonder Woman right.  The casting is perfect, Gil Gadot imbued with goddess like baring and temperament and charisma, so much charisma.  When she drops in from the sky, everything suddenly falls back into place as the three of them battle the secondary antagonist and it feels like the film it's been trying to be for the previous will crushing two hours.  But if it wasn't for Wonder Woman ... Still it's a better film that Fan4stic.  Which is something I suppose.

"an unutterable joy"

Magazines Low Culture has a oral history piece about the making of the original Doctor Who Adventures and it's an unutterable joy as they describe the churn of having to fill an eventually weekly magazine with fresh material. Example:
"Natalie Barnes took over as editor in 2011, and one of her brilliant ideas was to have interviews with the monsters, posing the very trickiest questions sent in by our readers. I had to take on the persona of the Siren from The Curse of the Black Spot, which was easier said than done as she didn’t say a single word. To get around this problem, I gave her the personality of Amy Childs from The Only Way Is Essex, which had just started, and proceeded accordingly."
I bought the comic through the first year until it became too expensive mainly for the comic strips which were written by alum from the wilderness years and frequently contained references to Big Finish stories, especially when Alan Barnes was writing.  Mephistopheles Arkadian from the Gallifrey spin-off even turned up in one story.  Bonkers.

Internal pecking order.

Film The Daily Beast has an interview with Chloe Bennett who plays Skye ... sorry ... Daisy ... in MARVEL's Agents of SHIELD. It's hilariously unguarded, mainly talking about the process of trying to get work as an Asian actress in Hollywood, but the more interesting stuff, at least in terms of the internal politics of the MCU is about how the tv series fits within the world of the films. It doesn't:
"I think we’re all on the same page besides them,” Bennet says, sighing at the missed opportunity. “But they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do, and I’m really happy with our little show. We’ve been dealing with the topic of Civil War for a while now—at least, Daisy has. She’s a SHIELD agent but also a human and she’s completely torn."
Bless. Up until now there's been a sense of everything being connected and it's certainly felt that way in the past couple of seasons with the results of Hydra being revealed and the business with the helicarrier. I think "a human" is a mis-transcribing of inhuman incidentally. But it seems there films don't really have much interest in acknowledging the existence of the television series in any particular way which means it'll continue to feel slightly inessential.

It's forever been thus in comics with different creative teams ploughing forward with different storylines featuring the same characters.  The real trick here is the lack of continuity errors.  When something's established in the films it's reflected back on television and the films don't actively go out of their way to openly contradict what's being done on the small screen series.  Contrast this to the Whoniverse where no still has a fucking clue about how to reconcile Torchwood's Miracle Day.

We can all get a bit excited about what The Avengers:Infinity War films are going to look like assuming that it'll be stacked with cameos from across the MCU like some great superhero equivalent of Doctor Who's Journey's End with the SHIELD team wandering through at some point and The Defenders joining the fight the first film perhaps ending with the filmic equivalent of one of those epic splash pages with dozens of heroes fighting dozens of villains in cosmic scale.

But perhaps we should narrow our expectations a bit.  However much we want to see Mockingbird fighting alongside Black Widow or Hawkeye tipping his how towards Jessica Jones, it's probably going to be unlikely.  There's an internal pecking order even to production in the MCU and hierarchy of importance and all television may ever end up doing is reacting to whatever's happening in the films released each year.

My Favourite Film of 1952.

Film My favourite film of 1952 is Singin' in the Rain which I didn't see until late in 2000 when my old friend Louise met me from work and we travelled to Manchester to see a touring print at the Cornerhouse and I'll direct you to the 2004 entry of this series for the obituary of that great venue. Louise obviously noticed I enjoyed the film enough to buy me the BFI Classics essay for Christmas.

Which isn't to say I didn't have an awareness of the musical and don't really know why I hadn't gotten around to seeing it before then other than access and spending more time watching television programmes than films in general which seems odd now that the situation has almost totally reversed.

My first experience of the central dance sequence wasn't from seeing Gene Kelly singing and dancing in the rain. It was Paddington Bear.

In mid-March 1983, a special episode of the BBC adaptation of the character, Paddington Goes To The Movies, saw the Bear visit the cinema for the first time and on the way home recreate the dance number:

My memory was of seeing at it Christmas which would have been its second broadcast on 27th December.

Apart from the attention to detail in recreating some of Kelly's moves, what I love most about this is the fact of its existence. Even at this stage, Singin' in the Rain was a thirty year old film and was shown on television pretty often, its pre-Paddington special broadcast was in 1978.

This was not a work which was in any way part of the zeitgeist, this wasn't a desperate attempt to jump on some new pop culture phenomena. Instead the animators, as fans of the original film decided to create a homage and introduce children like me, through translation and adaptation to a piece of art which had wowed them when they were young.

Notice how it utilises the original audio whilst still retaining the style and design of the animation of the television programme, integrating the two and creating just the same magical feeling at the film itself when that moment occurs.

Plucking the Red and White Roses.

Art Each month, the Houses of Parliament selects an artwork from its collection of significance and so here's Henry Paine's Plucking the Red and White Roses which appears in the East Corridor of Parliament’s Central Lobby.

Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi of Stratford-Upon-Avon presents a video about the work and there's some contextual text:
"The oil painting was commissioned in 1907 and was completed by Henry Payne in 1910. It illustrates the Plucking of the Red and White Roses in the Old Temple Gardens. Richard Plantagenet, the Duke of York, plucks a white rose signifying the House of York and his claim upon the throne. His great rival, the Duke of Somerset, John Beaufort, plucks a red rose symbolising the House of Lancaster. They invite their fellow noblemen to make a choice as to whether they pluck a red rose or a white rose."