Fingertip.

Life  Despite having every intention of writing here this week, my ability to type has been seriously curtailed due to being unable to use the forefinger on my right hand, the digit I use for pretty much everything.

Last Saturday I received a new mandolin grater and in my glee to try it out, didn't consider the hazards of slicing through a tomato and accidentally removed the skin from the top of my finger.

Blood everywhere, general panic.

So for a week, my pinky has been dosing pain whenever I've accidentally prodded it against anything. 

But the body has incredible healing properties and now it's all closed up and I'm just waiting for the top layer of the skin to sort itself out.

Although I'd be lying if for a few moments right at the beginning, I didn't think it was as bad as this person went through.

Picard again. Picardigan.

TV One of the most fascinating elements of watching all of Star Trek in stardate chronological order the other year was realising that Star Trek: Nemesis isn't the final filmed work on the "prime" Trekverse. That goes instead to the first of the Kelvin Star Trek films and the few seconds just before Spock enters the anomaly which leads to him ending up in the past of the branching reality caused by the emergence of the Romulan ship and destruction of the Kelvin.

Not any more.  News was that the Picard series would be set many years after his time on the Enterprise, but in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the current Trek overseer Alex Kurtzman clarifies that it'll chart his course after the destruction of Romulus in that same film and the catastrophic effect it has to that part of the galaxy.  When Kurtzman et al have said the past that they're about finding gaps within the established canon, they really weren't joking.

In the run up to the release of the film, IDW published Countdown, a prequel comic which explained in long form the events mentioned in the Kelvin Trek the origins of Nero and how Picard and a reconstituted Data were involved in Spock's mission.  The film's co-writer Roberto Orci says that it's canonical unless a future film contradicts it.  Let's see if the new Picard series will and the extent to which is refers to the events of the film from the Primeverse side.

Here's my best guess.  Picard's been acting as an ambassador between the Federation and what's left of the Romulan Empire continuing Spock's efforts dating back to, as the article explains, the Unification two-parter but that something else huge happens which throws the whole business into disarray.  The mandate appears to be to not simply do more TNG but with different people so it has has a different flavour.  How exciting.

Resolutions.



Life For years new years resolutions have been something other people break and so your writer has tended to avoid them. Already plagued by guilt for no particular reason, the last thing someone like me requires is something to actually feel guilty about. But 2019 feels different, the end of a decade, transitional. Since I'm unlikely to make any big life decisions any time soon, unless they're forced up on me, I've decided to make a list of items, of small things I'd like to do and create a set of rules which will help guide me there.

Some of them are frivolous. Some of them are about saving money. Some of them about about changing me. But it feels prudent to type them up here, in public, or as public as this blog is these days, so that there's less incentive for me not to follow them. Then at the close of the year, I can look back at them and see how many I was able to adhere to. The statements are pointedly self-centered and first person and probably has a tone closer to a manifesto or set of commandments. That can't be helped and neither can the fact you'll probably think me a lunatic. You'd be half right.

I want to be healthier and lose weight.

- No chocolate
- No sweets
- No biscuits
- No cake
- No bread
- No cheese
- In fact as little dairy as possible
- Eat more fruit and veg
- Eat smaller portions
- More exercise

[As it says. I've indulged a bit recently and for various reasons been snacking between meals. I do not want to re-consume the five stone lost during my pre-op crash diet in 2013 but equally I don't want to have another crash diet. I've tried but it just fucks with my anxiety. I'll take this gentler approach instead and see where it takes me.]

I want to be more respectful to food.

- No sauces or condiments unless they're integral to the dish.

[No gravy or cheese sauce or pickles or ketchup or horseradish or any of that.  As one chef said on social media the other day, I'm paraphrase and I don't remember who, there's nothing worse than cooking a beef burger to perfection, sourced using some of the best meat available and then having the customer smother it in cheap ketchup that kills the flavour.]

I want to keep my film collection static.

- Do not buy any new or second hand region 2/B dvds or blu-rays this year unless they're MCU, Doctor Who, Star Wars or Network releases or Shakespeare.

[Even after a clear out of off-air dvd-r recordings with what is now shocking picture quality, I still have a couple of thousand films in my collection and with the various streaming services and Cinema Paradiso, it's morally and financially untenable for me to keep adding to them which is all too tempting now the price of dvds has crashed in charity shops and at CEX.  The caveats are mostly obvious.  Network don't licence their films to CP so its worth grabbing them if they're cheap.  I'd also say that region one dvds are excluded, especially if its a film which hasn't been theatrically released here.  I'm trying to reduce the fodder.]

I want to reduce my Big Finish backlog to zero.

- Listen to Big Finish during the walk to and from work.

[All of those £2.99 digital purchases add up.  I'm also behind with the McGanns which is unforgivable.]

I want to keep my book collection static.

- No more new books unless they're Doctor Who TARGET novelisations or on audio.

[After having a sort out this afternoon, I now have about eighth shelves worth of books to read and precious little time to catch up on them.  So yes, cold turkey on buying the printed word.  TARGETs are excluded because I'm collecting them ready for a project.  Since I don't have enough time to sit down and read books too often, I'll try to listen to them instead.  Once I've caught up on Big Finish, I have all seventy-two hours of Stephen Fry narrating Sherlock Holmes to keep me busy.]

Embrace the whole of the Sugababes.

- Listen through the albums and re-appraise Sweet 7.

[After years of having a purists approach to the Sugababes, I was listening to About You Now from the Change album and realised that I've been rather foolish in demoting anything recorded after Siobhan left.  Although there'll be nothing to replace the sweet, soul sound of the original line up, every album after is filled with absolute bangers, and the group didn't reach number one until Freak Like Me anyway.  If you love something, you have to embrace all of it and so just as the Shalka Doctor is as valid as the Third, so Get Sexy should sit right along with Run For Cover.] 

If I think of anything else, I'll add them here.

Doctor Um?



TV Here we are then at the close of another year of Doctor Who. If you've been following my reviews over the past few months, you'll know that having enjoyed this past series, I've sometimes sounded a bit forced. Partly its because after having been writing these amateur texts for the past thirteen years it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a new way of expressing myself and sometimes having to force myself to have an opinion even if it's a shrug emoji.

But there's also been something niggling at the back of my nod about why this hasn't quite gelled sometimes in a way that was obvious even in the odd episode of the otherwise horrendous series eight.  During series eight, I grokked pretty quickly what I didn't like about its portrayal of the Doctor, but with series eleven, because I've been genuinely positive overall about the thing, it isn't until now I've been able to articulate what isn't quite working.

Some caveats.  The following is not a blame game or anger for the sake of it directed at anyone in the cast or indeed the writers.  There's obviously a particular approach which has been taken with the series, so some of this probably due to personal taste.  Everything which follows comes from a place of love.  It's a bit like those moments when The Daily Show with Jon Stewart would do a piece about Obama when they thought something had gone amiss.

The nub of the problem is this.  Much of what we understand about the Thirteenth Doctor is from Jodie's portrayal.  If you try to dispassionately listen the text she's been given and the character she's playing it's largely in the realm of the so-called generic Doctor who often turns up in spin-off fiction when a writer, usually someone who isn't a fan, tells the story of a kind of quirky magician who really doesn't have a relationship to the incarnation which is supposed to striding across the pages.

The most obvious examples of this can be found in Eighth Doctor material either from the period in the novels when his character was only just in the process of formation amongst writers who only had the TV Movie as their source material, or in later years when those who don't seem to be steeped his deep multi-media history have been commissioned to write a story for him.  Alex Scarrow's Spore is a decent example of this.

Now I appreciate that to some extent as Terrance Dicks has said, the Doctor doesn't change and its about what the actors bring to it, and Jodie brings a tremendous amount.  But every version of the Doctor, even in the writing, has a specific interior life or set of behaviors which the audience can relish or not and this shifts over time depending on the writers (the Tom of season twelve is a very different figure to Tom in season eighteen).

But there are numerous choices which are working against her, which stop her burning as brightly as she should, which take the edge off her individuality, which stop us from becoming entirely involved with her story.  Essentially this boils down to the companions and lack of returning elements outside of the core premise related stuff which can't not be part of the adventures.  There's a reason why the Third Doctor was given his TARDIS back so soon.

Initially I enjoyed having multiple companions in the TARDIS, the fam, because it allows for multiple points of view on a story from varying experiences.  They're all compelling characters well played, even taking into account how underwritten Yaz so often is.  Even in the two episodes which are notionally supposed to be about her and her family, the story material shifts pretty sharply to other concerns.

On the one hand can you can compare this to the original TARDIS team and gang who accompanied the Fifth Doctor.  Except stories were told across a far longer duration which meant that there was plenty of time to service all the characters for the most part (poor Nyssa) and give the Doctor a fair shake of the action.  Plus having more companions increased the storyline's direct connection to the Doctor and increased the stakes.

The problem with having this many characters in a much smaller episode duration is that its rare that every character has something meaningful to do and also that the number of supporting characters decreases which potentially lessens the sense of place.  Again this isn't true of all stories - the historical pieces in particular are very well drawn.  But watch how many subplots are between companions rather than a companion and a day player.

The knock on effect of this is to give the Doctor less to do.  Notice how often the story elements which are usually the Doctor's responsibility are handed off to the other characters reducing her "moments of charm".  Graham is utilised as the voice of experience even though she's at least a couple of millennia older than him.  On numerous occasions Yaz or Ryan are off investigating whilst the Doctor is stuck in a room somewhere doing science or investigation.

It's only when Jodie is alone and interacting with a stranger, usually an antagonist, that she really glows because she's finally allowed to be the focus of the scene, its not about the other characters reacting to her behaviour.  The Dalek in Resolution.  The Frog in It Takes You Away.  Finding and entering the TARDIS for the first time in The Ghost Monument.  Finally she's granted a close up of more than a couple of seconds that isn't about her pulling a face.

Quite often the direction of the scenes leads to plenty of reverse of shots of the companion's reacting to whatever the Doctor is doing which is seen in glimpses rather than staying on her work.  On one hand this means that when the camera does stop and really looks at her she's captivating, but it also leads to becoming almost an afterthought within the blocking of some scenes when she should be the star attraction.

Unlike Star Trek, Doctor Who is not an ensemble show.  For the most part.  Although at times the companion has offered the audience's viewpoint into the adventure, the Doctor should always be the centre of attention and the stories should always be within his orbit, because otherwise what's the point?  The least successful stories are always those in which a ton of action occurs across multiple scenes and then the Doctor arrives and fixes things.  The Time Lord should be in the thick of it.

If I had a preference, it would be for the series to continue with Yaz as the main companion - Graham and Ryan feel like their story's been told.  Their story arc is ultimately disconnected from the Doctor and often feels like Chibbers returning to a place of safety because he's otherwise overwhelmed by the business of writing Doctor Who.  It should be the Doctor who steps up and offers the healing wisdom, be the fixed voice of calm not just tossing out insults.

The grand gesture in series eleven was that none of the episodes would feature a returning monster in order to give a new audience a jumping in point and they don't feel like they have to have a Doctor Who fan site on hand to understand any of it.  For the most part, giving Thirteenth her own adversaries works well even if, again because of the sheer amount of regular cast members, these antagonists only really exist in relation to the TARDIS team's reaction to them.

Except its usually returning elements which help to define a new incarnation and one of the more exciting results of having a different actor in the role is in seeing how they embrace these kisses to the past.  This also includes how a new production team absorbs them into the new way of doing this things and how they'll bring their own version of what has already been established.  The Cybermen are in a constant state of flux.

Sometimes a companion is carried over.  Third and Fourth both had very different relationships with Sarah Jane, just as Eleventh and Twelfth both approach Clara in a completely different manner.  As well as reformatting the series, having UNIT in the Third Doctor's first story offered a glimpse into the dandy's opinion of the military in comparison to the clown.  Chibbers apparently doesn't want us to see how Thirteenth, Kate and the Osgoods would react to one another.

But monsters are equally important.  Again with the Cybermen, but notice how it allows Second in Tomb to enunciate just how different his approach to intervention is to his predecessor.  When RTD reintroduced the Daleks in 2005, he did it half way through the series because it offered the chance for another wave of publicity and arguably the Ninth Doctor didn't really come into his own until he was staring down the lens of his mortal enemy.

Imagine if Resolution had been broadcast mid-series with a heavy publicity campaign telling us the Daleks were back but not quite as we remember them.  People would tune in out of curiosity to see if the relaunch was better than the iDaleks and also to see how Jodie's Doctor dealt with their return.  Much as happened back then, they would have seen her in a stand off against her foe in some of her strongest moments so far.

Like I said, all of this comes from a position of love and it has to be said I do love the Thirteenth Doctor.  I just wish she was given more to do, narratively treated better.  She should be the centre of attention but as I also said Chibbers seems more comfortable writing other things almost as though he's so afraid of cocking up this awesome responsibility.  So he's presenting story arcs which could be an element of any series which just happen to be playing across the TARDIS's travels.

Making the show now seems like its become a real ordeal between having to deal with potentially international buyers, licensees and tons of scrutiny from all sides, fans to media.  Plus, in cutting the duration of the series down by two more episodes, there's even less chance to catch lightening in a bottle or articulating what it is that you're trying to achieve.  Let's see if lessons have been learnt when series twelve is broadcast.  Whenever that might be.

Buying Audible audiobooks on the cheap.

Books Or rather, cheaper.

I noticed this over Christmas when buying some of the 99p offers. They'd include the ability to add narration so that the reader and swap between text on screen and having the book read to them - which turns out to be the actual, complete audio book.

Here's an example.

The Kindle version of Doctor Who: The Day She Saved the Doctor: Four Stories from the TARDIS is currently £3.49.

You can currently add Audible narration to your purchase for just £2.99 which is £6.48.

The audiobook alone is £12.24 outside of an Audible subscription. So that's a saving of £5.76.

Obviously the savings vary. The current no 1 in the Kindle chart is The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson at £9.99. Extra audible narration read by the likes of Dennis Quaid (who played Clinton himself in The Special Relationship) is £7.99, so £17.98. The audiobook is
£19.24 so about £2.50 cheaper.

These audio books all appear in the Audible app and downloadable.

Obviously, whether you want to spend that much money on something you don't physically own is up to you but that's true of all legal digital media.

Regeneration of the Author.



Books Lindsay Ellis's latest video essay is about Barthe's Death of the Author and the relevance it has to some modern texts, especially John Green's The Fault In Our Stars. Barthe posited that one should only approach a text on the basis of what's in the text rather than the author's intent or any paratext, that such things are irrelevant.  As Lindsay points out that would be fine if we lived in a perfect world were every writer had the same opportunities and could reach the same public and be accepted writing about any subject matter, but that simply isn't the case.

She notably doesn't mention how this works in shared, multi-author universes in which no single voice controls the entire output.  You would think that spin-off fiction for the great franchises would demonstrate the death of the author in that it features a group of authors working towards a much larger grand narrative - except that isn't the case.  Back when I was reading Star Trek novels, I knew that something by Diane Duane or Peter David or The Reeves-Stevens would be different experiences, in terms of wordage, subject matter and view on the franchise.

It's also particularly true of Doctor Who, which is essentially an anthology series with a single protagonist (for the most part) and regular supporting characters.  Setting the RTD v Moffat v Chibbers comparisons to one side, even regular spin-off writers have a particular style.  Paul Magrs, Johnny Morris, Lawrence Miles, Steve Lyons, Jac Raynor and Eddie Robson among many others others all have different interests and I'd say that there are some writers whose work I always go out of my way to read or listen to no matter which era they're working on.

What was especially interesting was when authors who'd become synonymous with a particular era went on to write for the revival tie-ins.  Would a casual reader appreciate what Paul Magrs is doing in Sick Building or Lance Parkin in The Eyeless and how that compares to some of the more down the line, less experimental works?  I don't know.  But as Ellis shows in the video, its impossible to view a text in and of itself.  There will always be patterns, expectations and assumption on the part of the reader generated by their perception of the creator.

Resolution.



TV Happy New Year! Right, let's get the UNIT dating controversy over with first, the controversy being that there isn't one. According the TARDIS Datacore, the version which exists in the 2040s on Earth-5556 is a shadow of its former self and Alice O'Donnell is a UNIT fan girl in Under The Lake which also suggests that UNIT is still in operation.  Apart from that everything we know about the organisation across media happens before the 1st January 2019 so Chibbers has a pretty free hand in what he wants to do with it, which in this case is to have it on ice presumably as an explanation for why Kate Stewart and the two Osgoods don't appear in this story.

There are a few knotty implications to this.  Who monitors the fifty odd thousand Zygons still living on Earth?  Are there still two Osgoods?  What about the Black Archive?  How does Torchwood factor into this, or C19?  It's shared universe syndrome, add a bit of continuity here watch a morass of mythology seep out at the other end.  The Doctors haven't always phoned UNIT when they've been in the vicinity of some alien threat (especially when the Brig's in Geneva) so Chibbers must be making a point about something here - or setting up a story line for the next series whenever that's being broadcast or indeed a future Big Finish boxed set.

Next of all, how about no one recognising a Dalek despite multiple invasions over the past decade or so?  The implication has been that either because of the cracks or rebooting the universe or some other Moffat fueled merriment (or the Faction Paradox) that Earth is once again a bit surprised about the existence of aliens, thereby sorting out the Van Stattan continuity error amongst other things.  Time has been rewritten and so forth.  It is interesting that throughout this series, humans have in general been less phased about the existence of alien life in general.  Perhaps its a mutable thing, oscillating depending upon the needs of the story.

What are my resolutions?  As I suggested yesternight, lose some more weight and be disciplined about it.  Otherwise, try to catch up on my Who backlog, across audios and novels and blu-ray releases.  I'm trying to have a daily dose of Doctor Who of which tonight's episode will probably be the only example broadcast on television.  Soonish I'll hopefully have something near a complete run of TARGETs and I'm planning a blogging project around that, my other resolution being to stop neglecting this place so much, to post at least something every day.  Yes, I know, I've said that before.

All of which skimming around the surface suggests I'm stalling in my opinion of Revolution, I'm really not.  With a couple of reservations that was a barnstorming hour of Doctor Who with Jodie's Time Lord bursting with such energy her hair seemed to grow and shorten depending on whether she was in the TARDIS or not.  Finally we got to hear her say the big mythology words like Dalek and Skaro and sound like she exists within a wider continuity or context.  As has always been the case with each incarnation, you finally get a feel for the characterisation when the Doctors face their biggest foe and here's Thirteenth fighting against a desperate situation with brio and optimism.

Pitting her against a single Dalek is a good move because it allows for a more focused stand off as per Ninth in Dalek or Twelfth when he entered Into The Dalek.  Unlike those occasions, this was not about the squid fighting their programming, this recon organism, wants nothing other than conquest and is unable to even comprehend benevolence.  However impressive it is to see thousands of CGI pepperpots flying through space, sheer numbers can't make up for watching the calculated a single example lean in to its sadistic nature and embrace its internal superiority.  Under Nick Briggs's vocal control, there are few things scarier than hearing one of these things laugh.

In a nice bookend to the start of the season, we also see the Dalek utilising local materials to fashion its casing.  This hybrid between captured parts and refashioned materials is somehow even scarier than the revived Who's metallic design and also more in keeping with the antagonists orgins than the iDaleks from 2010 (yes, the new paradigm was nearly eight years ago folks and we're still getting over it).  The fact that this sucker is home made will hopefully inspire kids to hash their own together using bits knowing that it doesn't have to look perfect to be canonical.  Meanwhile, collectors of the Doctor Who Figurine Collection have another variation for the shelf.

The episode began well with the three sections of a thing being separated so as not for another terrible thing to happen.  Arguably this is exactly the sort of mcguffin RTD was taking the piss out of in The Last of the Time Lords (something he enjoyed so much he repeated it a year later in Journey's End), making it part of this cross continental, multi-generational effort gave it enough heft that it provided the epic introduction a seasonal episode probably requires especially since it then focuses the rest of the episode back in Sheffield.  You could imagine a prose version of this turning up as a prologue in a wilderness years novel.

Much less successful is the emotional B-plot between Ryan and his Dad.  This isn't a criticism of the performers - Tosin's the strongest he's been all season here and Daniel Adegboyega (who previously played a guard on Torchwood's Miracle Day) gives Aaron a real sense of regret.  It's just that the catastrophic Dad figure has become something of a trope in the Who revival era, with Rose, Martha and Clyde and innumerable supporting characters in between having had to deal with paternal toxicity.  The comparison with Clyde from SJA is especially galling -- the character beats are incredibly similar right down to having the father being possessed by the alien of the week.

All of this also drew away from the A-story and I'd guess that most viewers would have preferred some more of the Doctor doing stuff than one of these too long scenes between Ryan, Aaron and Graham however well performed.  The idea's presumably to tie-in with the episode title, but this stuff simply didn't feel connected enough to the main plot and in my acronym for having humble opinion, Doctor Who's at its strongest with the various plot elements are motivated by the overall story.  The US production model tends be a bit more relaxed in this regard because of the amount of durational real estate which has to be filled.  Doctor Who (ironically) has less time for it.

The love story between the two archaeologists felt stronger because of this, so compelling in fact that I didn't notice the episode didn't have a title sequence until ten minutes in.  Having such a long opening introductory scene is a very classic Who approach and a very welcome change from the latter end of the Moffat era when secondary characters tended to be an after thought.  It's a real credit to Chibbers that he manages to keep their story relevant throughout the hour even after the number of companion like characters who need servicing has doubled.  I'll admit that part of me wishes they'd left in the TARDIS instead.

This was by far the strongest Sheffield set episode of the series and just behind It Takes You Away in terms of quality.  As with most episodes, it'll be worth rewatching just for the dialogue some of which is positively iconic and if not that education.  Clock Jodie's glee in explaining how the microwave parts roast the Dalek and making the scientific jargon sound convincing.  With some of the pressure off being the flagship broadcast on Christmas Day, it seemed happier to simply be the proper season finale which The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos could never be and clearly wasn't supposed to.