Brave-ish Heart.

TV One of the problems with antidepressants, at least the anti-depressants which I've been prescribed is that they leave you with a generally pleasant feeling all of the time. In a week when the emotional reaction should be sadness and anger, my mouth has continued to be slightly pointing up at edges, each new twist of the metaphoric political knife making an impact on the factual storage areas of my brain rather than the emotional centres.  As the election results inevitably revealed themselves on Tuesday night (inevitable because its 2016), I was generally just numb and in subsequent days, I've found myself laughing at barefaced cheek of the everything.  I want to roar like Katy Perry but instead, I'm rolling my eyes, shaking my head and moving on to the next thing.

Another side effect, not including the grogginess, intermittent nausea, headaches and diarrhea is that it's short circuited my reaction to film and television.  Dramas which are supposed to be sad or scary barely register as such because I simply can't cry, which is a strange given that before this, tears were my favourite release.  The nearest I've come to wet face was watching Spock die in The Wrath of Khan the other week, but there's a good chance I was simply pretending or at least, feeling sad for not feeling sad enough.  You could argue this is a small price to pay for not enduring the horrors of an anxiety which have gripped me for nearly a year, only just about able to commit to being human some days, but I gave up drinking so I could be sure of my own sense of self and now this.

As a result, I'm second guessing my reaction to Class or at least this two parter.  On the one hand I'm enjoying it while it flickers away in front of me, but not to the level of caring much about the characters or becoming engrossed in the storyline.  Everything looks spectacular and shiny but some of the scenes seem to proceed far further than is required in enunciating the action, speechifying to a level of redundancy and a general sense, as with the first half, that the writer had an idea of what was supposed to happen in the episode but couldn't quite manage to calculate how to construct it within the constraints of budget and time and having to service his range of characters.  In other words, why aren't I enjoying this more?

The blossom story hits against the usual shared universe problem of having us wonder why, if this is threatening the planet, neither UNIT or Torchwood or indeed the Doctor aren't on top of it.  At a certain point I wondered if Ness was going to confront this head on and have them indeed dissipate without the kid's participation as a way of reflecting what it must be like to be in that world, with global terrors coming and going.  But on reflection that would have been undramatic within the sphere of a show which is trying for the most part to remain self contained.  It's never a threat which quite has time to establish itself though, the half-hearted body horror never really expressing how it must be affecting the wider population.

April and Ram's trip the Shadow Kin's homeworld coalesced better, partly because of the inherent retreat to a more Whovian structure of a Doctor-figure talking a companion through the world on which they've landed.  Some of the humour felt more belaboured than usual - it's inconceivable that April wouldn't know what Lord of the Rings is, even if (and I can't believe I'm saying this) it was released around the time she was born.  When they reached the Shadow King's lair, it wasn't quite clear how the battle was to be structured and there was much standing around waiting to fight, swords aloft almost as though the characters were waiting for the parallel storyline to catch up with them before heading off into the fray.

Nevertheless you can't criticise the ambition.  As with previous episodes, and as I said last week, it's packing a lot in, like an old WB show's narrative in warp speed.  On top of this the Prince's moral decision about the fate of his own kind and the interloper from Wolf Ram & Hart the "board of governors" and Quill's potential chance to remove her Behavior-Modification Circuitry whatever it inside her head which makes her enslaved to Charlie.  It's a brave choice to retreat to the sensibilities of early First Doctor and be faced with alien characters who don't especially feel like they have a duty to keep mankind safe, such things only really being a result of wanting to remain healthy themselves or protecting their immediate loved ones.

A couple elements of the writing left me a bit squinky.  Despite what I said last week about the show not having a typical white cis male character, it is disappointing this week to have the trope of a gay character threatened even if it doesn't lead to the nauseating prevalent cliche of having them die in the regendered equivalent of fridging.  Then there's having April, for all her talk of having her own strength, albeit augmented through alien intervention eventually being talked into deciding not to kill the Shadow King by her abusive father apparently having to remind her of how she only became that way due to how he treated her and her mother.  The potentially more exciting approach would have been for her to ignore his advice and kill the King anyway.  But having set up the tone of the show and the characters, Ness has to write himself out of a cover in a less than satisfactory manner.

Glancing across other reviews indicates that the general sense is that was sub-par in comparison to previous episodes, so it's quite reassuring that this isn't just the drugs talking and that I haven't missed some vital connection.  The performances remain superb overall, especially Sophie Hopkins, who lends April a real sense of awe, her eyes positively agog at what's happening to her, the power coursing through her.  Ditto Katherine Kelly, who finally revealed the anger and grief burning in Quill's soul.  But perhaps in trying to break out of the more modest ambitions of previous installments and creating something epic, the show loses some of the intimacy which could make it distinctive.  A show called Class should be spending more time at school.

Seating Arrangements.

Film Judd Nelson on how everyone chose where to sit in John Hughes's The Breakfast Club:
"As they were building that library in that school’s gym, they built a rehearsal space for us. It was really an empty room taped out with the same dimensions of the library. And they had the tables all there. And he had us sitting at the same table. All of us. And I was like, “I don’t want to sit with them.” And he was like, “What do you mean?” And I go, “I do not want to sit with them, you know?” And he goes, “Where do you want to sit?” And I knew from the script that I come in after [Anthony] Michael [Hall], so I go, “Wherever he sits, that’s the seat I want.” And he smiled and he looked at Michael, and he went, “Is that okay with you?” Michael went, “Fine.” And [Hughes] just went, “Okay.” And then Ally [Sheedy] said, “I don’t want to sit with them.” And he went, “Where do you want to sit?” And she goes, “Way in the back.” He says, “Fine.” And Emilio says, “Well, I’ll sit with Molly.” And we were like, “Yeah, of course you will.” And it had already begun. The rehearsal had already begun."

Review 2016: 216: Call for Entries.

About I've never done this before but I'm changing the theme for this year's Review 2016.

Now that we know for sure that the world is a divided, broken place, how about we do this:

How about we make a list of good things which happened in 2016?

216 of them.

How about we take the zero out of 2016 and find out what's left?

Tweet, facebook or email a single sentence. Could be something which has happened to you or something which you've enjoyed. Something about a song, a film, a book, a meal, a friend.

If you like, I'll credit you at the bottom with the number of your contribution and a link to your website/social media account of choice.

I'll post it at New Year. Have a go at giving us some hope going into 2017.


Who did Taylor Swift vote for?

Politics There's no real plan to blog the US election. But one "interesting" question is why Taylor Swift has been quiet during this election. Of all the celebrities you might expect to have been intervening it's her, especially when you consider how dominant Beyonce and Katy Perry have been.

Quarter of an hour ago, her instagram account posted the following:

A photo posted by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

She performed at the 2008 Republican convention but apparently voted for Obama

Which is probably why she hasn't revealed how she voting backed a particular side at a rally.

Unlike Perry or Beyonce, Swift's popularity probably breaks across both party lines which is difficult in such a partisan country.  Saying she's a Republican immediately alienates her Liberal fans (not to mention some of her celebrity friends).  Appearing at a Clinton rally could lead to her receiving a measure of the treatment the Dixie Chicks have received.

So for entirely understandable reasons she's kept shtum.

That means I can assume she voted for Hillary and carry on enjoying her music.

Updated 17/11/2016 She voted for Hillary. I can start listening to 1989 again guilt free.

My Favourite Film of 1921.

Film Little did I know it at the time but my first taste of Charlie Chaplin was through The Kid, a heavily influenced thirteen episode BBC children's television comedy series broadcast in 1987 as part of The Album, a Clive Doig conceived strand. Starring actor Steve Fairnie and sharing the title of of of a film released in 1921, the central character sported very Chaplinesque facial hair and attitude and as a fan site dedicated to his work explains:
"The programmes gave Fairnie the chance to shine in a new environment, drawing on his love of mime, slapstick and visual humour. The Kid himself could be categorised somewhere between Jacques Tati and Charles Chaplin, while the supporting cast were a timeless combination of goodies and baddies. The setting was an eerily unreal row of colourful terraced houses while a peculiar fluorescent pink three-wheeled car was used to get around."
They've made all thirteen episodes of the series available on YouTube and although Chaplin is only a small part of the mix, as is his film The Kid, I know now why, on seeing his films later, they seemed so familiar in tone.

Star Trek Human Longevity Theory.

TV As an apology for inferiority of tonight's distracted Class review, here's a special bonus post about Star Trek instead.

One of the elements of Star Trek going forward has been the longevity of some of the characters, who seem to have lived or are living way past the expected norms.

Human longevity has already increased due to medical advances and to be sure that would presumably continue into the 22nd, 23rd and 24th centuries. Apart from McCoy reaching 137, Picard is still in fine fettle in Nemesis at the age of 74 giving no indication of retirement. Despite being half-human, Spock Prime managed 162. His father Sarek went at 203. Between Encounter at Farpoint and Nemesis, Riker's only supposed to have aged fifteen years.

Only some of which can be explained by medical advances.

Here's my theory.

Warp travel.

The theory goes, traveling beyond the speed of light would mean an astronaut would stop aging, time continuing around them, as demonstrated to great effect in Interstellar.

Imagine what travelling at warp speed does.

What if, during the various spurts of warp speed star ship crews experience, time stops inside the ship? What if, as a result, they stop aging during those periods which has a cumulative effect on their longevity?

Of course it doesn't quite work. Time passes within the confines of the ship and chronologically matches whatever's happening outside. In the speed of light theory, the traveler doesn't notice that time has passed on the outside of the ship.

But it's possible there's some technological compensation for that which can't take into account human biology.

Still, the upshot would be the longer you spend travelling in space at warp speed, the longer you'll live.

Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart.

TV Sorry if I'm a bit distracted. As I write, the FBI Director has published another letter admitting that contrary to the buzz surrounding his correspondence from a week ago, his assessment is that the agency's attitude to Hillary Clinton hasn't changed since their original judgement in June. That although she used poor judgement in setting up the private email server, that she didn't commit a crime. Well, thanks a bunch mate. On the upside it's before election day so the voters can factor it in and it won't be hanging over her should she win on the 9th. On the downside we don't know what damage it's done in relation to early voting and the overall trend in the polls. Would they have been in this state if the original letter hadn't been released anyway? We'll never know.  I can't believe this is the agency of Mulder and Scully, of Cooper, of Starling, Dunham and Canton Everett Delaware III.

If only my passion in following the US election was mirrored in this week's Class.  Reaching the mid-point of any series leads to an assessment of what the show means to you and if it's been worth your time.  To an extent this is unfair in the UK, because a mid-point for most series is just four episodes in.  Watching Star Trek: The Next Generation recently reminds me that their episode four (assuming you follow Encounter At Farpoint's production codes) is the racist Code of Honor in a show which didn't become the well loved series we think of until its third series.  But Class is part of the ongoing Doctor Who production schedule, so it's not coming from a standing start as we might consider the first series of the revival or the 2010 series.  Like Torchwood and SJA, it's a reflection of something which already exists.

So far, I've been relative to very positive, but this fourth installment doesn't quite hang together.  As Buffy discovered it's always narratively "dangerous" when you divide yourself between two antagonists in one episode especially when they're as potent as this.  Both Alice's affliction and the man-eating blossoms are strong enough to carry their own episode, but stuffing them together and then spreading the lot across two episodes is risky and I'm not sure it quite worked.  They're integrated well enough with characters commenting on one while dealing with the other, but as TNG often discovered when ramming together unconnected A and B plots (typically something like the Enterprise discovering a cosmic anomaly while Data discovers something about humanity in his own time), you run the risk of not giving either the attention they deserve.

There's an especially difficult period in the middle when the action cross cuts between April and Ram's post-coital embarrassment, Quill and the new Head Mistress's summit and Charlie's revelations to Matteusz in the school yard (along with Tanya's scolding) and the pacing slows to a crawl, all three scenes feeling much longer than they possibly need to be.  Nothing seems to be accomplished my throwing between the three and I wonder if more could have been accomplished by presenting them sequentially since there isn't much to thematically connect them.  This kind of micro-criticism is born of trying to work out exactly why I didn't enjoy this as much as I probably should.  It's fine.  It's not Torchwood, but it feels less cohesive than SJA.  But all of the shows which it claims to mimic had off episodes so it shouldn't be unexpected.

Which isn't to say I wasn't hooting in places.  The copulation connection between April and the Shadow Kin king was unexpectedly hilarious, notably when he asked his potential consort for a cuddle, although I agree with Clint Hassell in retrospect that it does undercut the emotional undercurrent of the human coupling.  The scenes between aliens bespoke of similar moment in times past when the Ice Warriors, Zygons or some other fibre glass or rubber creatures would discuss their plans, guest actors trying desperately to give their character some individuality despite essentially wearing the same costume.  Every now and then it wasn't entirely clear which of this beasties was talking, partly because of the blurring imagery and low lighting choice which while probably gladdening Mat Irvine, made it difficult on occasion to see what was actually going on in this interstella Mordor.  I hadn't realised he'd murdered his potential mate until he spoke to her prone body.

Plus as a fan of a particular type of action film, I can't say I'm not taken with April's sword wielding antics, especially given Sophie Hopkins's multi-layered performance, oscillating between tentative femininity and full on Amazonian goddess.  But as has been seen previously, the strength has always been there, the actions of April's father forced that upon her.  Her predicament has simply magnified.  That stops the writer from the potential criticism that the only reason she's become cable of all this is through absorbing a man's power.  As we've already discussed, all of the characters work against their stereotype but it's also true that there isn't a standard white, cis, male figure, there hasn't been an effort to pander to that particular age group.  Not many US shows in this genre have been capable of that.  If all of the characters keep gaining special powers, this is threatening to turn into posh Misfits.

So perhaps my unease is simply the usual business related to having to write about the first part of a story.  Gen of Deek offers the alternative that it's almost as though we've skipped through a bunch of episodes to get here, that this has all the hallmarks of a series finale and we're only at episode four, "there should have been at least one misguided comedy romp, a crossover ep, a guest star vehicle of dubious merit, and a handful of filler episodes" and I'd concur with that too.  If the joint heart story is resolved next week, are we to assume that the final run will be about discovering who Wolfram & ... sorry the Board of Governors are and whether Charlie is in fact an embedded antagonist ala Willow in s6 of Buffy?  If he does decide to try and resurrect his people via humanity, what about all the Zygons?  Will they be inhabited too?