TV Having booked this weekend away from work due to my birthday happening on Monday and wanting to treat myself, theoretically I could have tuned into this third episode of Class as soon as it was posted to the iPlayer at 10am this morning. But Class doesn’t feel like a “daytime” show. Much like its parent series, there’s something to be said for waiting for the darkness and watching when you’re slightly tired and more susceptible to whatever suspense it’s about to deliver. Plus if I had watched this morning, I’d have immediately wanted to review the thing and there goes half the day. Sometimes routines are good and Saturday evenings often don’t feel the same unless I’m chiding myself for three hours about my lack of vocabulary.

Nightvisiting repaid my patience and anticipation with its twilight atmosphere, surreal suburban imagery and emotional depth. Surely inspired by Buffy’s Conversations with Dead People, this relatively stand alone instalment is narratively more straightforward than previous weeks, more engaged with providing extra dimension to its characters. Plus it’s the first episode not related to something happening within the school and although that might be for budgetary and scheduling reasons, it does demonstrate the show doesn’t feel tied to Coal Hill Academy as a locale. Many shows have standing sets that are consequently pressed into service because they exist. Class is designed to be rather more flexible.

As suspected too, Class is also going to have to work hard to find a different identity to The Sarah Jane Adventures. That earlier series also dealt with grief and parental disappointment on numerous occasions and although it presumably wouldn’t have played out in tense almost real time and would have had a PG certificate, a version of the central concept of the episode could have existed in that series, albeit perhaps affecting someone other than the regulars. A fair few of those stories eventually ended up cross cutting a stand off against a visiting alien with Rani and Clyde chasing through the streets searching for clues or their friends or both. Functionally, what is Mrs Quill, but Sarah Jane and Mr Smith rolled into one?

The Lankin are in the phyla of Doctor Who monster designed around the requirements of the emotional core of a story rather than a special effect, although in this case, the accompanying visuals and body horror were suitably horrific. The kind of gestalt being which might rock up in an Eighth Doctor novel in that period when the text was like a poetic word fountain even if the human mind couldn’t quite conceive what was being described (eg, Lawrence Miles). Emotion feeders are a staple of the genre, and often using loved ones against the hero and as was seen in Doctor Who’s Last Christmas, grief is a particularly potent tool. With its heartbreaking opening montage, the episode succeeded in drawing us into Tanya’s pain.

It shows how strong Ness’s writing is that she doesn’t become the victim. There’s another version of this episode where she unequivocally succumbs to the Lankin’s offer and it’s the thrashing about in her front garden, which ultimately saves her. But the big theme of the episode is turning anger into a strength, April against her father for his weakness making her stronger, Matteusz transforming his parent’s misunderstanding of who he is into love for Charlie, Mrs. Quill’s rage against her sister motivating her to help humanity this time, Ram’s general annoyance at his new situation leading him to listening for once. If the show’s successful, there’ll soon be a YouTube edit soundtracked by Katy Perry’s Roar.

The performances are top notch, especially Sophie Hopkins who is more than capable of holding a close-up and underplaying the emotional when required.  Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is just creepy as the manifestation of her Dad, with his Chameleon-like blinks and body language demonstrating physical restraint, of being attached and held back back the larger entity.  But once again lets worship at the fetishy boots of Katherine Kelly, mesmerizingly striding through the thing (or at least striding with as much as her character's reluctance will allow) and taking full account of the humour potential of Mrs Quill's exile, cynically coping with the domesticity and humanity the Doctor's landed her with.  It's the kind of role which could be played too big, but for all her boggly eye rolling, it's contained, compelling.

If there’s some mild consternation it's in how the only two available kids in the group are developing a romantic interest and although such things are not an unrealistic result of intense situations, in some ways having April and Ram remaining platonic feels like it would have been stronger. Which isn’t to say that the writer isn’t applying some quite logic bits of character business like April needing a break due to her heart problems and Ram still retaining some of his irascibility, not quite used to embracing the version of himself that bullied Charlie in the first episode. Plus it is notable that April makes the first move, holds his hand, kisses him, as if to demonstrate just how emboldened she is.

But overall this is well directed with some good laughs and scares and a sense of achieving what it’s setting out to do. Would I be watching if it wasn’t a Doctor Who spin-off? I’d like to think so although I’m putting everything off at the moment due to ploughing through the whole of Star Trek (twenty-one seasons to go) which makes this impossible to really gauge. Plus I was a huge fan of Spooks: Code 9 which shows I’ll watch anything designed for this demographic. Reviews have been notably positive across the board and although a couple of have suggested this is the best yet, I’d argue they’ve all been equally good. If the strike rate remains this high we’ll be clamouring for Ness to take over the main series once Chibnall leaves.


Technology Twitter's announcement of the closure of Vine doesn't really impact me. I never did use the service properly. But here are my two attempts at posting something creative.

Vine wasn't ever really used for animation in this way as far as I could see, perhaps because of the inability to control the length of each frame.

I wish I could remember which documentary this appeared in. Oh my.

Where you lead, I will follow. To Netflix.

TV Find above the final official trailer for the Gilmore Girls revival which just looks astonishing. Some of the line readings are all over the place and there's bound to be a certain amount of patience required as wait for the actors to get a handle of their characters but damn. Six hours won't be enough. It won't be enough. Theory about Melissa McCarthy. She filmed a whole bunch of scenes on her work days so she's threaded through the whole thing. We'll see.

Meet the Perennials

Life Recently, no actually not that recently, I've become quite aware that I'm not a standard forty-one year old and that if anything I'm still the same person I was ten years ago, same mind set, same approach to everything pretty much, like I've been in stasis for ten years. If I feel older, it's because of a greater number of aches and pains. But mentally, I remain attached to the new things, pretty much, especially online. Now there's a word to describe me, us.

"We are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages. We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against our growing edge and know how to hustle. We comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic. Perennials are also vectors who have a wide appeal and spread ideas and commerce faster than any single generation."
Having just missed out on Generation's X and Y, it's nice to finally have a category [via].


Shakespeare In the past, I've written about how the uncertainty surrounding Shakespeare's authorship of some plays has led me to deciding upon my own personal canon of about forty odd plays. Essentially if there seems to be decent evidence that the playwright had his hand in, the play's added to the list.

Imagine my surprise over the weekend when publication of a New Oxford Shakespeare was reported in the media with news of the inclusion of the 1602 rewrites of The Spanish Tragedy and Arden of Faversham.

The latter has been published as apocrypha before but this is the first time, I think, that it's been included within the main body of the rest of his work, albeit as a collaboration with an anonymous writer.

The eye-catching other decision is to list the Henry VI plays as a collaboration with Christopher Marlowe, something which has oft been suspected but again, this is the first time it's been marked for co-authorship.  See also All's Well That Ends Well, which adds Thomas Middleton's name.

How much of this is true depends on whether you agree with the data mining methodology of comparing the texts to corpuses of data about how these writers utilised language in the plays which are well established as theirs.

My own theory is that there might even be other plays floating around, currently listed as anonymous, which might well also be his work as well as others.  Despite his genius, there has to be work which pre-dates what we know to be his earliest plays.  No one, not even him, can start there.

Does co-authorship diminish his status?  Possibly, yes, maybe, no?  To an extent, he's been elevated above his peers to an unfair degree.  Each of this collaborators had equally rich careers which are barely performed or studied to the same degree.

So really it serves to bring them to the fore.  I'd love to see a BBC season about Shakespeare's peers, without whom he wouldn't be the playwright he became.  Has Middlton's A Chaste Maid in Cheapside ever been recorded?

My Favourite Film of 1923.

Film Is Harold Lloyd's Safety Last and my first viewing although I can't completely confirm this because it happened (comparatively) so long ago in the 1980s, when his silents were repeated as a series on BBC Two in the early evening in a specially prepared television version.

For years, I've had the theme song at the back of my mind and sure enough, through the magical internet, here it is:

And even more remarkably, here it is with a glimpse of the BBC Two logo beforehand, along with a chunk of one of the programmes:

Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy was originally the title for a 1962 compilation film arranged by Lloyd himself, which as the Wikipedia explains was well received by audiences, but less so by critics, presumably because at that time a lot of the material was otherwise unavailable and the preference would have been to see the films in their original state. This New York Times review is especially disparaging.

Then in 1974, the title was appropriated for a television series with a similar aim, but longer clips, written by Peter Durston (of which the web has nothing) and produced by Bob Hoag (of which there are half a dozen listed on the imdb).  Other than that there's scant information about the origins of the series, other than an uncited explanation from the Wikipedia that they were result of the films being leased to TimeLife in 1974.

Except, of course at the BBC Genome, where you can find synopses for all of the episodes and their TXes.

The first run of nine episodes can be seen here.  Just to complicate things, although the opening episode indicates its a series of ten, only nine seem to have been broadcast with Flash Gordon filling the Friday slot in the week of the last episode.

Then the show returned in October 1980 with another run of episodes which seems to mix the original broadcasts with new episodes and the repeats continued right through the eighties, with the final repeat happening on 4th September 1987.

After that, although his films were shown sporadically it was in complete versions ending with Back In The Woods on a Friday lunchtime in 1990.  Since then only near complete showing was as part of an episode of Paul Merton's Silent Heroes which includes Never Weaken.

My memory of the show is dim, it was, as I say, a very long time ago, but it would have been my first taste of silent cinema, however hacked about they were.  Without labouring the point, is the world really a better place having repeats of Antiques Roadshow and the like in this timeslot now?

Hooray for Harold Lloyd.

The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo.

TV Second episodes of any new show are always trouble with a capital T. Now that all the characters have been introduced as well as the concept, the writers then have to find something to do and more specifically something which is as much like the opening episode to keep things familiar whilst simultaneously offering a road map for what the show is ultimately going to be. Many show runners often propose that programmes don’t really find their feet until the sixth episode. Doctor Who only really entered the public imagination when the Daleks arrived on screen six episodes into the first series.  Buffy’s sixth episode was Angel (assuming you think of Welcome to the Hellmouth and The Harvest as a single unit).

Class doesn’t necessarily have that luxury. Who and Buffy enjoyed much longer seasons so it has to set out its stall pretty quickly and The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo is as successful as it can be under the accelerated circumstances. Plot wise it’s very early Buffy, drawing on elements of Teacher’s Pet, Reptile Boy and if you squint I, Robot … You Jane not to mention The X-Files’s Never Again. Oddly enough this is the first appearance of a living tattoo in Doctor Who’s mythology (judging by the TARDIS Datacore). But the execution is generally unlike those shows with a deep cut of reality spliced through it which indicates that although it’ll also be utilising the metaphoric supernatural, it’s with a more depthful sense of characterisation.

Unlike similar shows, especially Who’s own spin-offs, our heroes are not really heroes. For the most part in these kinds of series, once the protagonists receive their calling they suddenly become very efficient in their new vocation even if only a week or two has passed since their first interaction with whatever it is as a requirement of the format. By SJA’s second story, Clyde and Luke were already chasing Slitheen around their school. But in Class, the Doctor having haphazardly gifted them their mission, these kids have absolutely no idea what they’re supposed to do about it. They don’t have plans, they’re not strategic, they don’t think things through. They find themselves investigating but they don’t really know what that entails. All of which makes this feels fresh, makes it feel “real”.

They’re gripped by constant uncertainty and events are having a cumulative effect. Unlike the main series in which a companion has to affect a rather blasé attitude to death for the format to work, here it hurts. Ram’s PTSD cuts deep as this figure who’s spent his short life in control, on the football pitch and in his personal life finds himself having to fight to regain some semblance of the person he is. But he’s no warrior despite his actions in the opening episode. Another series might have had our heroes attacking the giant lizard thing or finding some method of combating it. Here they win because Ram suicidally risks what seems to him to be a pointless life ultimately turning his loss of control in on itself. That’s a huge choice in writing terms.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t moves to put some narrative furniture in place. Tanya’s attempting to hack into UNIT, a back door which could become this show’s “Huggy Bear” or Sunnydale High School Library or Mr. Smith unless writer Patrick Ness turns that on its head and it does nothing of the sort (and isn’t it interesting that she even knows what UNIT is?). Mrs. Quill’s mission is slowly dawning on her although it’s perfectly clear she’s no mentor, content instead to work in parallel to whatever else is going on. Alice is showing signs of becoming a kind of reluctant leader. As an aside, does she actually have no heart? What’s keeping her alive? Like Ram’s leg, how’s that going to work medically going forward? Such things are not easy to hide, even considering the cuts to the NHS.

But there’s no particular drive to rush into anything, building the friendship between this group of more interest than artificially introducing such genre tropes. As in reality, the characters change subtly depending on who they’re speaking to and the motive. I’ve already seen criticism of the “they don’t talk like normal teenagers” variety but even though supposedly most realistic of dramas, with tons of improvisation and gritty camera work, fictional characters never do. Plus it stereotypes teenagers, many of whom are just as witty, grounded and intellectually vital as this lot even if it’s on a slightly less heightened level than in Class. Not all them are, true, but neither are adults as recent election campaigns have demonstrated. I’d trust the Coal Hill Academy crew to vote more than most of the current electorate.

This second episode also offers even more grist for the mill in story terms as we’re introduced to the concept of The Governors. In The Day of the Doctor, the sign for Coal Hill Secondary School identifies the Chairman of the Governors as one I. Chesterton although this sure has to be some other group? Katherine Kelly really is marvellous as Mrs Quill with just the right amount of wacky energy. In close ups she’s utterly compelling; her piercing eyes constantly appraising the scenery, suspicious of everything. We still don’t really know her motives. To continue my comparison with Spike from yesterday, if Quill’s somehow “unchipped” would she stick around to continue the work or fuck off out of it? My guess is she’ll do just that, leaping into the bunghole of time at the earliest opportunity.

So yes, another success which is going to make it all the harder to write about. Miracle Day might have been a complete mess but it’s always easier to be an amusing dumpster arsonist when you hate something. I can well remember my disappointment when Torchwood’s television adventures kept missing the target, when every decent episode was followed by some shocking panto. Class doesn’t feel like it’s capable of that, in that I can’t imagine what a rubbish episode of Class would look like. But then Torchwood had a very good opening, pretty good follow up and then fell down the cracks in the pavement outside Ianto’s shrine, so episode three will be the clincher? Can the show maintain this momentum? Tune in next week to find out. Or whatever it’s called when you stream something on the iPlayer …