"Arriva bus's Click service"

Life For the past couple of weeks my foot's been aching which curtailed somewhat my important walks to work and back with all of their exercise potential. The other morning I realised why this was the case as I once again bashed the back of my heal on the underneath of my wooden bed frame as I stumbled out from under my duvet.  The other evening after walking around work all day, my right foot was hurting so much I had a pronounced limp.  I was lolloping.

Which seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out Arriva bus's Click service which launched at the end of August and is currently piloting in the South Liverpool area.  In their words "a flexible minibus service that takes multiple passengers all heading in the same direction", it's essentially a shared Uber or Lyft that starts and stops along adhoc routes governed by the onboard satnav.  You can watch the promotional video here and see the areas it covers.

As you can see, the service was originally launched in Sittingborne and has apparently had an impressive embrace according to Coach & Bus Week: "During the pilot in Kent, more than 50% of customers surveyed switched from using private cars to ArrivaClick, with 61% of users using the service a few times a week or more. 43% adopted the service for their daily commute."  I can see why.  So far it's been marvelous.

Just as I assume Uber works, the user plonks the pick-up and destination spots into a map on the app and either a pre-brooked slot or requests a pick-up there and then.  The app then works out the details of the route, tells you where you'll be picked up and tells you when the bus will arrive along with the price.  On most occasions so far this has been a ten minute wait, which is just enough time to pop into a supermarket and pick up a newspaper and whatever ever else.

The buses as you can see from the pictures are extreme comfortable, probably excessively so considering the length of the journey most people will be taking.  There are tables with cup holders (I know!) (right!), charging ports and an on-board wifi.  The blue lighting reminds me of Robert Pattinson's limousine in Cosmopolis which is expressively moody in the evening since the clocks changed and its dark outside.

It's much nicer experience than a standard bus, especially since out of the five trips I've taken so far, I've been the only passenger on four of them.  Which isn't not entirely a concern.  If this is just a pilot, Arriva are unlikely to continue if the audience doesn't increase.  But I have seen Click cars during the day with a few passengers so it might just be the time of day I've been travelling, at the tired end of rush hour.

It's cheaper than a taxi.  Trips home have been costing £2.70 which is more expensive than a standard bus (£2.30 flat fair) but compares favourably to a £5 taxi, especially now that the local fares are increasing.  The price is calculated based on time of day and remoteness of destination.  If I wanted to visit Speke from home it's £5.60 which is more expensive than the usual bus but will presumably be faster depending on the number of stops in between.

The only real problem is that the journey is at the mercy of an algorithm and I'm still trying to find the best pick-up and drop-off slots.  The first time I attempted to program a trip, the app offered a pick up point which was within a few streets of home which I had to get to within minutes and was essentially the whole journey.  Rebooking from a slightly different landmark, the nearby Subway (sandwich shop) rather than the awkward location of my work seemed to straighten things out.

Dropping off has been a bit random.  The app mapping can't quite wrap its digits around the location of our tower block so the bus has sometimes veered off course.  Fortunately all the drivers I've encountered so far have been extremely friendly and helpful and been happy to veer off whatever the satnav is telling them to simply drop me outside the main gate to the property.  This doesn't seem to be an uncommon problem; one of the drivers did refer to teething problems.

But suffice to say, I really like this service for all of the reasons I've already mentioned.  Now that my foot's better, I'm most likely to be using it on a Sunday so that I can be home in time for Doctor Who or rather a roast dinner and then Doctor Who.  My guess is the more people use the service, the more reliable it'll become.  I could imagine this replacing other transport as a safer, more viable way to travel.  Although it stops at 8pm each evening so it won't replace the night bus just yet.

"the onslaught of content"

Film Evening. I've talked before about the onslaught of content and not having time for any of it. In the streaming world that's become especially acute especially in television terms with, across the BBC, Netflix, Now tv and Amazon about half a dozen excellent looking series I know I'd love premiering every week. The backlog is mounting up with both Iron Fist and Daredevil unwatched, countless series of Homeland, that new Julia Roberts thing, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel et al, etcetera, etc.

Of course I'd have plenty of time to binge those if I didn't watch as many films but again, there are so many films around now and since that is my primary form of entertainment/worship/education something has to give. I want to watch everything, but I can't watch everything, but ... oh my ... if I do that I won't touch the piles of unwatched books and magazines and how do I choose?

In a panic this week, I created an arbitrary list of rules to bounce any or all new film releases off, the kinds of stories I tend to like anyway as a way of limiting things, streamlining. Not necessarily a rule of thumb, just a way trying to sort between the films I want to watch and those I feel like should be watching. Writing it down or rather typing it into Word was a cathartic act even if I immediately felt a bit guilty.

Reviewed in Sight and Sound and so confirmed a theatrical release in the UK.

Sci-fi / Fantasy / Horror?


Female lead?

Auteur director?


Set in Paris?

Set in Tokyo?

Set in London?

Set in Liverpool?

Set in the United States, especially New York?

Actor I like?

Costume drama?

Courtroom drama?

Detective drama?

Oscar nominated?

Documentary about the visual arts?

Documentary about journalism?

Chinese/Korean/Japanese actioner?


Any Netflix films which are reviewed well in the streaming section of Empire Magazine, mentioned as one of Mark Kermode's Cream of the Streams or everyone seems to be watching.

God, looking at that again seems limited and limiting and bound to mean I'll miss something good. Not to mention that if I keep to this the cinemas of a large chunk of the world will go unwatched.  Clearly if there's a cinematic earthquake, I'll make room for it.  It's also true that I'm trying to return to my old rule of avoiding anything which has "harrowing portrayal" in the synopsis and that seems to describe much of the content released in the UK from some countries.

Perhaps it's the times in which we live but the motivating incident in a lot of films currently seems to be the death of a parent or wife or child, usually somewhere in the grip of great poverty and/or great social or religious oppression.  I'm already basically depressed with myself and the world.  I don't need to be watching films which will make me feel even worse, at least at the moment, at least not without an element of hope amid the wretched nihilism.

How do you choose the films you watch with so much available?  How conscious are you of your likes and dislikes and could you make a similar list?  How important do you feel it is to be across at least some new cinema versus "back catalogue"?  Are there some genres you simply can't stand?  I think the comments should be open, failing that use your social media channel to send me words?  I'm genuinely interested.

The Tsuranga Conundrum.

TV There's an oddity in the credits to tonight's Doctor Who. In between the cast and the 1st assistant AD we find, "PTING [tab space] CREATED BY TIM PRICE". This sort of credit is usually reserved for a returning monster, "DALEKS [tab space] CREATED BY TERRY NATION" or "UXARUEANS [tab space] CREATED BY MALCOLME HULKE", that sort of thing. My original thought was that a spin-off monster had been elevated to the big leagues, but a glance at the Googles indicates that this is some new beastie which shares its name with a pop band and slang for teaching potty training. Tim Price was co-writer on Switch and Secret Diary of a Call Girl and is currently teaching on the MA Screen Writing at Manchester University. Did he submit a script which was heavily rewritten by Chibbers that included the Pting or was he part of the writers room, offering ideas without ultimately producing his own screenplay?

As ready made a merchandising opportunity as the Adipose, the Pting is the first monster of this series which feels like it could have returning potential.  The genetic refuse of a cross between Beep The Meep, an Alien from Alien and one of Dr. Jumba Jookiba's experiments, if anything, probably due to the budget there wasn't enough of him (or her) on screen, forever in the background as an invisible menace.  Clearly if this had been a movie, there would have been a Gremlins like scene of it munching its way through loads of random objects, gobbling anything it could get inside its apparently tiny body with its dimensionally transcendental stomach.  But its best moment is its blissed out, orgasmic little face after the bomb explodes.  There's probably a fair few similar faces tonight amongst the fans who noticed an old school 70s Silurian on the shipboard Wikipedia, in amongst the Slitheen, the Weeping Angels and whatever that thing with the giant skull head and pin stripe suit is.

The rest of the episode was a fine example of an old school base under siege adventure and another demonstration of how this version of the show is happy to simply offer us decent, base-line Doctor Who with a few laughs, some poignancy and an educational undercurrent, a show the whole family can enjoy.  Grumble about that all you want, but as I've said before, one of the problems with recent seasons is the apparent need to offer structurally challenging stories every week, which is fine when it works but can otherwise end up looking like a sphincter exploration.  Admittedly with just ten episodes this season, presenting an adventure like this can seem wasteful to some, but I bet kids loved it and that's really the point, isn't it?  We might well applaud this show for maturing these past few years, but having a Doctor in a permanent state of existential crisis can become a bit tiring.  She has to turn up at a place and inspire everyone to be the best version of themselves every now and again.

Which isn't to say the episode doesn't bat least attempt to subvert some genre and gender expectations.  Imperiled in Pregnancy has a massive entry on the TV Tropes website and in a disaster context its almost always about a woman at the end of term giving birth in difficult circumstances perhaps doubting her potential abilities as a mother, usually with male hero goofily helping her to give birth.  Here we have a man giving birth, aided by a super competent midwife, with Graham and Ryan offering their support.  This side story has already been dismissed as a pointless bit of comedy, but it's thematically essential within the context of this series which among other things is fighting against how men and women are presented in genre television, challenging us to face our own prejudices.  Although Graham and Ryan's reactions are played for laughs, it also leads to the scene in which Ryan explains his own mixed feels about his relationship with his father.

Meanwhile, its the Doctor, Yaz and the General Cicero saving the ship when in other shows the roles would most certainly be the other way around.  It's a significant moment when the police officer is left to defend the engine of the ship with Plastic Pal Ronan without any sense that she might be out of her depth or not have a plan and then be able to use her wits to capture and drop kick the Pting, referencing Siobhan Chamberlain along the way.  Similarly, it's General Cicero who's the expert pilot risking her life to save the rest of the passengers.  Perhaps some of us have become accustomed to this kind of casting and storytelling but it really is glaringly different to so much else happening in this genre were Smurfette Syndrome continues to infest the thinking of writers and directors and such moments are reserved for male protagonists.  This iteration of the show is beating the Bechtel Test without really trying.

There's been a bit of chatter already on the Twitters (which has been pretty lukewarm about opinion wise) discussing the perfunctory nature of the supporting characters and how robot Ronan in particular lacks depth and doesn't contribute to the story.  I'd argue that in Doctor Who not every character has be a functionally important part of the plot.  Sometimes they're just cannon fodder.  Sometimes they're simply local colour, there to help communicate a sense of place.  Not every character in drama has to be three dimensional.  Is that true of most of the characters in The Caves of Androzani or Midnight?  With just fifty minutes to play with, the most you can hope for is some general elements and fragments of backstory, just enough to keep us interested or cause us to empathise.  Wind down your bizarrely high expectations.

Jodie Whittaker continues to be a wonder.  In recent years the show has been a bit reticent of really presenting the extent of the Doctor's knowledge outside of that week's fiction.  Now she's in full on BBC Four presenter led documentary mode, expounding on antimatter and the miniaturizing of technology.  She's inspired and awe-struck by this reimagined warp drive and I can imagine a teenage version of me with his massive crush on the Doctor redoubling his efforts in STEM rather than coasting as I did to an E in Physics at GCSE ("So, physics. Physics, eh? Physics. Physics. Physics! Physics. Physics, physics, physics, physics, physics, physics, physics.")  But it's equally important to see the Doctor apologizing earlier for blithely attempting to put the safety of the ship's crew in danger in order to return to the TARDIS.  It's not quite braining a caveman with a rock, but it shows her to be an emotionally fallible being which causes her to be even more complex.

So yes, another meme worthy, rather joyful adventure which wouldn't be out of place as a narrated AudioGo exclusive, the very definition of the Gallifrey Base poll option "Well above average, but no masterpiece (very good/7)".  Which sounds like damning it with faint praise, but it really isn't.  It's comfort television with a lonely God, a beacon of hope at the centre, just the sort of thing you need in these times.  Watching The Last Starfighter the other night, I was struck by just how, like so much eighties adventure cinema, it lacks cynicism and ironic detachment from its subject matter, unembarrassed about what it is.  That's exactly the vibe which is shining out of Doctor Who right now and good god it's refreshing.